Dotter, J. 1994. Cultivating people-plant relationships in the community and cultural heritage gardens of San Jose, California, 1977-1992. In: Joel Flagler and Raymond P. Poincelot, eds., People-Plant Relationships: Setting Research Priorities, A National Symposium (proceedings), Hayworth Press, Inc., Binghamton, NY 13904-1580.

This paper documents important people-plant relationships to be found in San Jose's ethnically diverse Community and Cultural Heritage Gardens. Unpublished University research, local magazine articles and newspaper stories are cited which show how partnerships with grassroots community groups have contributed to the garden programs sustainability. Preliminary findings, with investigative surveys, suggest that more use could be made of the non-English speaking gardeners who are skilled horticulturalists.

Several case studies show how cooperative development of San Jose gardens produces the results identified by the California Council for Community Gardening in 1977 which stated: Community gardening improves the quality of life for all people by: beautifying neighborhoods; stimulating social inter-action; producing nutritious food; encouraging self-reliance, conserving resources; and creating opportunities for recreation and education.

Examples drawn from the San Jose urban gardening experience document local community pride and horticultural accomplishment. A comparison is made of San Jose's largest and oldest community garden (Mi Tierra) with 90% Hispanic plotholders, and a smaller garden (Wallenberg) entirely Caucasian.

The Cultural Heritage Garden program is recognized nationally as a new urban gardening program. San Jose's success with it's Japanese and Chinese Cultural gardens provided the basis for program expansion to include partnerships with the Vietnamese, Mexican and Filipino communities. A serious effort to have an Indo-American cultural garden is underway. Results of networking between these projects has unified various factions within each group, as well as created a new sense of belonging to the larger community. Interviews with selected horticulturists and community leaders detail this type of development.

This paper raises familiar questions and long-standing problems, connected with the operation and maintenance of user-developed gardens. Recommendations are made for the effective management of public gardens with volunteers. San Jose Community Gardens are contrasted with other Parks Division maintained public landscapes. This research paper closes with suggested methods for starting similar programs elsewhere.