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The Annual Louisa Beck Guest Lectures feature a special program by a highly regarded individual in the horticultural field. This program is funded by a generous distribution from the estate of Louisa Beck, a senior research scientist with NASA Ames Research Center, who died in 2004 of cancer at the age of 52.
She received both The Presidential Rank and NASA Honor Award for Exceptional Achievement and the Ames Honor Award for Excellence in the category of Scientist/Researcher. She was a vigorous, animated, lively woman who had a strong affinity for plants and gardens.

Louisa R. Beck (1952-2004)

Louisa had a strong affinity for plants and gardens. Her home in Willow Glen had a large garden with one of the immense willow trees the neighborhood was named for. She loved the tree for the shade it provided and the perches for birds. In addition to the willow, a Japanese maple and large pond and waterfall formed the bones of the garden. 

She preferred to hand-water the beds, giving her lots of time to observe subtle events that others would have missed. Praying mantises bred in the garden and she was delighted whenever she would detect an adult or one of their egg cases. She once grew a dish-sized sunflower and took photographs of it daily to chart the progress of finches consumption of the seeds. A metal screen created airy walls and a ceiling to enclose the deck (and keep her two declawed cats safe yet free to enjoy the fresh air) and she like to grow gourds that would hang down from the top of the enclosure.

She and her friends thoroughly enjoyed attending native plant sales as well as cactus and succulent events. Plants in the garden where she grew up in Mill Valley, such as Billbergia nutans, remained special in her heart although several other commonly grown garden plants from that era were not held in much regard. Plants she had a particular fondness for and grew at home included Philadelphus californicus, Salvia "Bee's Bliss", S. canariensis, S. "Indigo spires", S. uliginosa, S. semiatrata, S. carduacea, Anemone "Honorine Jobert", Aristolochia californica, Melianthus major, Asclepias sp., and Cuphea llavea among many others. 

She had a unique collection of cacti from a period when she lived in Tuscon, Arizona. She grew the southwest native Proboscidea louisianica and would hang a dried seed pod of this plant in interesting places including the dash of her 1972 Volkswagon beetle. In fact, one might consider the pod to be Louisa's emblem.


2023  Rob Badger and Nita WinterA 27 Year Wildflower Journey: The Making of Beauty and the Beast:                   California Wildflowers and Climate Change

2022  Lynne Truli, Beautiful California Diversity: The Biodiversity Crisis and what We Can Do About It. 

2021   Abra Lee, Culture and Gardening , "Lift Ev'ry Voice!"

2020  Cynthia Sandberg, Tomato Mastery: Best Practice for Productivity and Healthy Plants  

2018    Pamela Berstler, Rehydrating US: The Watershed Landscape Approach

2017    Corey Barnes, Seed Collection in Sichuan Province

2016    Chris Woods, The Spell of the Sensuous

2015    Jeffrey de Jong, Historical Influences of Gardening

2014    William MacNamara & Peter Raven, Asian Flora

2013    Nicholas Stadden, Too Much is Not Enough

2012    Annie Hayes, So You Want a Fabulous Spring Garden?

2011     Bart O'Brian, Re-imagining the California Lawn

2010    Katherine Greenberg, Evolution of a Native Garden

2009   Bill McNamara, Humans Moving Plants around the World

2008    Judith Larner Lowry, Landscaping Ideas of Jays

2007    Carol Bornstein, Perennial Borders for California Gardens

2006    Nevin Smith, Life on the Wild Side: Exploring the California Outback

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