In the 1920s Mr. and Mrs. Anson Blake purchased 22 acres north of Berkeley to accommodate their home and that of Anson’s brother Edwin. The garden was the focal feature of the property, with architect Walter Bliss instructed to select a building site that would protect delicate plants from western marine exposure. The first garden plans were drawn by Mrs. Blake and her sister Mabel Symmes, one of the first students in the University of California, Berkeley Department of Landscape Architecture. The garden was divided into sections each with distinct topography and microclimates, woven together loosely with paths. During forty years of residence the Blakes collected hundreds of plant species locally and from around the world.
With Edwin Blake’s death in the 1950s the garden was reduced to 10.6 acres. After Mrs. Blake’s death in 1962 the garden passed to the University, for use by the Department of Landscape Architecture. Landscape architect and professor Geraldine Knight Scott was tasked with revitalizing the garden, which had declined over time. Scott drafted the long-term redevelopment plan and, working with architect Ron Brocchini, altered the grounds when Blake Garden became the official residence of the University President in 1967. The garden remains a valuable teaching resource for the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning as a living laboratory of almost 1500 plant species and a guide for surveying, plant identification, plant design, and spatial relationships.