• Reference Library
  • Master Gardener Hotline
  • Bay Area Public Gardens
  • Nursery Partners

Horticulture Reference Library

The Elizabeth F. Gamble Horticultural Library is a non-circulating reference library for use on-site by the public, volunteers, and horticultural staff. We are thrilled to share it with you!

To use: The collection is available in the Gamble Garden Main House during open hours 9am-2pm. Click below to access library titles through our online catalog. You may search the catalog via your laptop or iPhone at the library; or, search it from home before you visit.

Type in search words for author, title or subject and click the appropriate button. If you are not sure of the exact title or subject, type in a word or two and search both files. Press a highlighted (blue) title to see the Item’s detail page which might give more searching ideas.

Note: the catalog is not forgiving of misspellings and the search help button does not apply to Gamble.

Books are arranged in the library by an alphabetical call number system, a common classification used in colleges and specialized libraries, which is sorted by letter first and then by number. For example, QL464 comes before SB419 which is followed by SB450.

We welcome your comments and feedback on our new catalog!

Search Catalog


Air Plants: the Curious World of Tillandsias by Zenaida Sengo. Timber Press, 2014. To find it in the library, look for: SB 413 T52 Sen

This is possibly the only book written about these trendy, easy-care plants. Air plants don’t need soil, so you can dangle or perch them anywhere (in shells, rocks, driftwood, a crystal sherbet container) that fit in your office or home. They do need minimal care. There are many varieties with lots of display opportunities. It’s all covered here, with lovely photos.

Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley Regions by Arthur M. Shapiro and Timothy D. Manolis. University of California Press, 2007. To find it in the library, look for: QL551 SHA

Filling a gap in the library’s collection, this butterfly book is the definitive resource for the beginning and experienced butterfly watcher by one of the nation’s best known professional lepidopterists. Thorough information on all the butterfly species found in this region is covered, including the spectacularly named California Tortoiseshell, West Coast Lady, Red Admiral and Golden Hairstreak.

The Indestructible Houseplant: 200 beautiful plants that everyone can grow by Tovah Martin. Timber Press, 2015 To find it in the library, look for: SB 419 MAR

Hooray! The book jacket screams: “Hundreds of houseplants you can’t kill.” The key? Pick the right plants. Included in this title are tough but beautiful plants that can thrive in less-than-ideal conditions. You can also learn to pot, repot, water, fertilize these plants as well as tips on how to display the plants.

The Vegetable Gardener’s Guide to Perma-Culture: Creating an Edible Ecosystem by Christopher Shein with Julie Thompson.Timber Press, 2013. To find in the library, look for: S494.5 SHE

Take your organize gardening to the next level by learning the low-maintenance secrets of permaculture, that is, how to live in harmony with nature to create a bountiful and sustainable harvest. Shein, who teaches these gardening methods at Merritt College in Oakland, describes how to build a thriving ecosystem with the least possible expenditure of time, effort and use of the earth’s resources. The author has started dozens of community, school and market gardens in the East Bay.

Weeds of North America by Richard Dickman and France Royer. University of Chicago Press, 2014. To find it: SB613 DIC

This is a handy, easy-to-use guide with quick identifications, descriptions and color photos of the all-powerful weed at every stage of growth. Helpful for both the Gamble Garden staff and the home gardener, it is an essential and reliable reference to understand the science and management programs of the weed. Entries include vital information on seed viability and germination requirements.

Master Gardener Hotline

Hotline and Weekly Plant Clinic February through November

Master Gardener Hotline and Weekly Plant Clinic February through November.

The Master Gardener Program of the University of California Cooperative Extension, Santa Clara County operates a Hotline and Plant Clinic at Gamble Garden. Be sure to take advantage of this wonderful service.

Master Gardeners will answer your home gardening questions by phone Fridays, February to November, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., or you can visit them in the Library at Gamble Garden. The phone number is (650) 329-1356 x205.

In addition, Master Gardeners staff a walk-in Plant Clinic at Gamble Garden on the second Saturday of each month, February through November, from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m.

Mission of the Master Gardener Program

The objectives of this volunteer organization are to support the educational activities of the University of California Cooperative Extension and to operate for scientific and educational purposes, promoting horticultural education and service to the community and providing continuing horticulture enrichment for members. For more information about this valuable organization, visit their web site Master Gardeners Online.

UC Master Gardener Handbook

Save 10% on any UC ANR books ordered online, including the excellent California Master Gardener Handbook, by using our promotion code PRCLA43. A portion of online sales that use our promotion code benefits the UC Master Gardener of Santa Clara County program.

Read more about the California Master Gardener Handbook and other favorite reference books.

Becoming a UC Master Gardener

Interested in becoming a UC Master Gardener in Santa Clara County?

We accept new volunteer applications every two years in even numbered years, then conduct training which leads to certification in the first half of the following year. Go to Becoming a UC Master Gardener – http://mgsantaclara.ucanr.edu/contact-us/becoming-a-master-gardener/ – in January of even numbered years for information about how to apply.

Bay Area Public Gardens

The San Francisco Bay Area is rich with horticultural treasures. The following are some other public gardens worth visiting. Gamble Garden is a member of the American Public Gardens Association. Visit their web site for more information about other gardens worldwide.


The iris bed at Gamble Garden features Dykes Memorial Medal Winners from 1927 to 1968.  The Dykes Memorial Medal is awarded annually by the American Iris Society to the best iris originated and introduced in the United States or Canada.  In some years there was not a winner.  Miss Gamble would have had these medal winners in her garden as well as many others that she admired as the tall bearded iris was her favorite flower.

William Dykes was an iris breeder of the early 20th century.  While working as a schoolmaster he became one of the world’s leading authorities on irises.  He was a botanist, horticulturist, author and plant breeder, and had a deep knowledge of irises.  The British Iris Society honored him with the creation of the Dykes Medal.

Iris rhizomes need lifting every three to five years, as they become crowded and will flower less.  Lift the rhizomes after flowering, when they start making good root growth, between July and September.  Any old pieces can be snapped off and discarded.  Keep pieces about 7” long, joined to the leaves and do not trim the roots.  They then can be replanted back in prepared soil, or potted up in good soil and compost.

This summer the garden volunteers have been lifting the rhizomes from our very special collection of Dykes Medal winners, replanting them, and saving some by potting them up for sale.

The following Dykes Medal winner irises are for sale:

‘The Red Douglas’ 1941 wine red
‘Great Lakes’ 1942 light blue
‘Prairie Sunset’ 1943 apricot peach
‘Spun Gold’ 1944 yellow
‘Chivalry’ 1947 purple
‘Ola Kala’ 1948 deep yellow
‘Helen McGregor’ 1949 pale blue
‘Blue Rhythum’ 1950 cornflower blue
‘Cherie’ 1951 light pink
‘Argus Pheasant’ 1952 light apricot, brown
‘Truly Yours’ 1953 yellow white
‘Mary Randall’ 1954 deep rose pink
‘Sable Night’ 1955 deep purple
‘First Violet’ 1956 light violet
‘Violet Harmony’ 1957 violet
‘Blue Sapphire’ 1958 pale blue
‘Swan Ballet’ 1959 white
‘Eleanor’s Pride’ 1961 powder blue
‘Whole Cloth’ 1962 white, light violet