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Kate Olivia [Ophelia] Sessions

a short biography from the 1922 book:
City of San Diego and San Diego County: The Birthplace of California (Volume II)

by Clarence Alan McGrew
page 82 & 83 Go to the book


Kate O. Sessions chose a very unusual profession for a woman in 1885. Her love of nature, of gardening and flowers caused her to abandon teaching and take up the propagation of plants as a commercial nurseryman. She is founder and proprietor of the noted Sessions Gardens in San Diego, a source of some of the finest exotic and native varieties of flowers and plants in Southern California. Miss Sessions is a native daughter, born at San Francisco. Her father. Josiah Sessions, was a pioneer of 1851, Kate being his only daughter. She acquired her early education in the public schools of Oakland and graduated from the California State University in 1881. Following her graduation she taught four and a half years, and a year and a half of that time she taught in the High School of San Diego. Six years ago she served two years as the supervisor of the agricultural work in the city schools, giving it a new lease of life, with which it has continued to flourish.
K. O. Sessions

Through an accidental opportunity she was able to begin her business of raising plants and flowers in 1885 at Coronado, where she remained five years. Then the City of San Diego gave her a lease on the northwest corner of the City Park, where she was located for twelve years, growing the plants and cut flowers for her retail florist shop which she conducted for twenty years on Fifth Street near C.

The nursery in the park occupied about ten acres, and being in the City Park it helped no doubt to stimulate the need for the real Balboa Park, which in 1903 was begun and Miss Sessions moved to the hay fields of the present Mission Hills section. The successful growth of her plants in that locality hastened the development of that neighborhood, and four years later the street car system laid its tracks to her nursery gate. Taking a keen interest in this rapidly growing section she planned unique features of street improvements and developed them. She encouraged the use of the canons and the irregular lots. Early in her work she became impressed with the need for growing beautiful and unusual plants that would reach the height of perfection under this wonderful climate. Experience has taught her the special requirements for the semi-tropical plants that brings success and not failure to the new garden, for the Southern California climate and the San Diego seashore climate are very individual.

The semi-tropical flourish when moved after April 1st, as the warm' weather is coming and the soil becomes warmer each week and month the hardy and decidous plants are moved to their best advantage during the cooler or the winter season when the plant is most dormant.

Miss Sessions' ambition for more varied and beautiful plants has brought to San Diego a large variety and many of the best specimens were first planted by her and especially the many vines and choicer palms. She planned for and personally planted the twentv-eight Cocos Plumosa palms in the park in front of the U. S. Grant Hotel on January 28, 1897.

The nursery at Lewis and Stephens streets has been there eighteen years, but the growth of that section has reduced her holdings to practically a sales yard only. To develop a more permanent nursery to meet the requirements of this growing city. She has developed a very beautifully situated tract of land on the hills of Pacific Beach. She anticipates that the locality will become the flower growing section for the city and her lands have been partially subdivided into acre lots for she realizes the need of more room for the more beautiful gardens that San Diego will no doubt wish to develop as the city continues to grow and the people realize more and more the great possibilities for plant life in this favored locality with such a very even temperature.

Kate O. Sessions, "Floriculture In San Diego" in Pacific States Floral Congress Papers (1901)

Kate O. Sessions, "Color Planting for Pacific Coast Gardens" in The Garden Magazine (1921)

Kate O. Sessions, "Seen Through the Trunks of Windy Pines" in The Garden Magazine (1921)

Kate O. Sessions, "Notes on Planting" in The West American Scientist (1889-1891)

Kate Ophelia Sessions, 5'-7" tall, 115 pounds, drinks vinegar, favors woman's rights, and 1881 class essayist at the University of California.


"Western Personalities, the Lady of the Christmas Flower" in Sunset (1912)

short biographical entry in "American Women: The Official Who's Who Among The Women of The Nation" (1935)

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CREDIT LINE: From the biography of _______ written by ________ in
the Dictionary of Unitarian and Universalist Biography, an on-line resource of the Unitarian Universalist History & Heritage Society.