Mother of Flowers Theodosia Shepherd's Biography

Launches With New Ventura Garden - Sat May 10
by Margaux Hession
May 4, 2014

On Saturday, May 10, from 2:00 – 5:00 p.m, a commemorative garden celebration honoring Theodosia Burr Shepherd, “The Flower Wizard of California,” will take place at the community gardens on the corner of Chestnut and Poli Streets in Ventura, California. This is the original site of the home and farm where Theodosia, the first woman in America to hybridize flowers, founded California’s seed industry with her world-renowned seed and bulb business.

The gardens are currently maintained by the non-profit C.O.L.O.R (Community Organized for Liberty Opportunity and Respect), which is a regional LGBT+ Straight alliance whose mission is to build and serve a community in which all people have the liberty to dream and the opportunity to realize their dreams while earning and maintaining respect. Their community gardening effort has provided more than two tons of organically grown produce for local food banks and they can be found here on Facebook.

The historic garden event, hosted by Theodosia’s descendants Paul and Shanti Mayberry, in collaboration with John Wilner, President of C.O.L.O.R., will also launch Theodosia’s biography, “Theodosia, The Flower Wizard of California”, written by her daughter Myrtle in 1946.

The much-anticipated biography, edited by award-winning author Matthew J Pallamary uses both story and photographs to capture the life of the pioneer feminist. The book is available here on as well as the event. Ten percent of the event’s book sales will support the community garden and their local food banks.

A new gazebo, entry arbor, flower beds, bench, historical signage and photos will be added to the gardens to pay tribute to Theodosia while creating a peaceful garden sanctuary for Ventura locals and tourists. Shanti Mayberry will speak at 3:00 p.m. about Theodosia and her 1880s visions for flowers, equality and human rights.

Although C.O.L.O.R. volunteers maintain the gardens, funding is still needed for water, fencing, irrigation and ongoing costs. Both organizational and individual sponsorships are available through name recognition plaques, visible in the bustling heart of downtown Ventura.

Revered by many as "the female Luther Burbank," Theodosia Burr Shepherd hybridized flowers in Ventura while Burbank created new vegetables and fruits in Santa Rosa. An article in the Pittsburgh Gazette proclaimed: “The Woman Wizard, Mrs. Theodosia Burr Shepherd, is to the world of flowers all that Luther Burbank is to the vegetable kingdom.”

Theodosia sent her seeds and bulbs all over America and abroad, to England and Europe, even as far as Australia and Algiers. Her extraordinary gardens in Ventura were full of her exotic creations and drew many notable visitors; among them the famous seed man W. Atlee Burpee, suffragettes Julia Ward Howe, and Susan B. Anthony. It was said that her gardens “put Ventura on the map.”

Theodosia birthed many new flowers including new varieties of chrysanthemums, nasturtiums, poppies, geraniums, cosmos, calla lilies, cannas, dahlias, pansies, petunias, zinnias, fuchsias, azaleas, heliotrope, the heavenly blue morning glory, and the golden oriole rose, to name a few.

Along with C.O.L.O.R., other event supporters include the Ventura Botanical Gardens, The Begonia Society, Ventura PRIDE (a project of the C.O.L.O.R. organization), Green Thumb Nursery, Ventura Historical Society, Ventura City Parks & Recreation Department, and the Ventura Garden Club.

For more information on sponsorship opportunities, please contact John Wilner at John (at) Wilner (dot) biz and for interviews, speaking engagements with the family and/or the author, please email Shanti Mayberry at docshanti (at) yahoo (dot) com. Theodosia's descendants Paul and Shanti Mayberry reside in Del Mar, California. Award-Winning Author and Editor Matthew J Pallamary is originally from Dorchester, Massachusetts, outside Boston, and currently resides in San Diego, CA.

Margaux Hession Creative is a Marketing, Promotions & Copywriting Company located in Santa Barbara County, California.

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