Hues of green and purple surround the white Edwardian house on Waverley Street. The serene oasis of flowers that makes up Gamble Gardens sits enveloped by the bustling of North Palo Alto.
At the age of 92, Elizabeth Frances Gamble turned her property over to the City of Palo Alto in 1981; in 1985, it was opened to the public.
According to Gamble Gardens historical records, the Palo Alto City Council debated over what was to be done with the land. The Garden Club of Palo Alto succeeded in leading a campaign to encourage restoration of the buildings and garden on the Gamble property, with the goal of saving the plants and trees that Gamble had chosen during her lifetime.
“Elizabeth [Frances] Gamble was a fabulous gardener with a strong interest in irises and other specific plants,” says Steve Staiger, Palo Alto historian. “She provided flowers to her church and local hospitals, as well as leaving flowers outside her gate for neighbors to take home. Her gift of the house and gardens to the City was conditioned on it being used for a public benefit.”
With the persistent and gracious spirit of Elizabeth Gamble to serve as an inspiration, the garden continues to give back to the Palo Alto community through its “Giving Tuesday” fundraiser, which will take place on Nov. 29.
It’s a resource to everyone in Palo Alto.”
Sarah Cornwell, executive director of Gamble Gardens
“It’s a day to take a break from the rush of holiday shopping and give to others,” says Executive Director of Gamble Gardens Sarah Cornwell. “For this Giving Tuesday, Gamble Garden is raising $5,000 for elementary education like its Roots and Shoots program.”
Roots and Shoots was a program created to get young elementary school students involved in the community. Roots and Shoots coordinator, Andrea Gara says that Elizabeth Frances Gamble stipulated that the property had to be used for programs that people of all generations could enjoy.
“Overtime it evolved and it became a much more intensive gardening program, and then the volunteers started cooking with the kids,” Gara says. “Now, what we do is donate most of the produce to food pantries in the area … So, we try to tell them that they’re carrying on the legacy of Mrs. Gamble by doing something and giving back to the community in this garden.”
When creating programs like Roots and Shoots, the volunteers at the garden hope to continue maintaining Elizabeth Frances Gamble’s gift to Palo Alto. For the past 30 years, the property has carried a special significance for the city.
“For some residents, it’s a daily part of their walk, a destination for a Sunday bike ride with their family,” Cornwell says. “Couples have been married in the garden or celebrated a special event. Hundreds of volunteers have worked in the garden and house over the last 30 years, donating thousands of hours. It’s a resource to everyone in Palo Alto.”