Robert Cowden, 1915-2003

Robert Cowden. Author's photograph

Robert Cowden. Author’s photograph

Bob Cowden . . . just hearing his name invokes images of a dapper gentleman with a charming smile; a man whose eloquence captivated listeners and readers alike; a passionate horticulturist, a highly respected rosarian, and a man with an infectious laugh that brightened a room as well as our hearts.

In 1968, Bob was the founding chairman for The Gardens at Heather Farm, and served as president in 1969-70. In 2003, he was still actively involved, serving as a board member and the newsletter editor—thirty-five years of vision, hard work, and consummate accomplishments. The premier garden within The Gardens’s six-acre development is the Cowden Rose Garden, dedicated in June 1999 to honor Bob’s contributions. Today, this majestic garden features more than 1,000 rose bushes and 150 cultivars. When interviewed about the roses, Bob summarily counted each and every bush. That was Bob’s way: thorough and prompt. He did what needed to be done, yet never lost sight of the bigger picture and of the beauty and splendor of life. A rose bud with promise, a full blossom in its glory, and the divine pleasure of music—Bob viewed the world as an artist and yet embraced his visions with pragmatic commitment.

Bob’s vision for The Gardens has benefited thousands. It is estimated that between every-day garden visitors, children participating in formal programs, elderly and disabled utilizing the raised therapy planting beds, and the thousands that have exchanged marriage vows in the Cowden Rose Garden, 750,000 people have been touched by Bob and his vision. One must merely look upon The Gardens and especially the rose garden in flower to embrace the very essence of Bob Cowden. His spirit was truly lovely and so is his legacy—forever manifested in The Garden at Heather Farm.

Bob was a gifted writer and combined his love of writing and flowers in numerous articles that he wrote for Pacific Horticulture and other magazines. For many years, he was a contributor to the Sunset Western Garden Book, and he taught several ornamental horticulture classes at Diablo Valley College.

Bob was a member of numerous organizations including California Horticultural Society, The Ruth Bancroft Garden, California Native Plants Society, and American Rose Society, and was a member-at-large of the Garden Club of America. He was also a regular contributor to the Friends of Pacific Horticulture.