After the Blake property was designated to go to the university, H. Leland Vaughan, the chair of the Landscape Architecture Department appointed Mai Arbegast as acting director (1957-1960). She oversaw a process of extensive surveying, mapping, photographing and cataloging of the plants at Blake Garden. Arbegast also initiated the relocation of a greenhouse to Blake that was designated for removal from Berkeley's main campus. She produced plan sketches of several potential sites for the relocated greenhouse as well as for a new head house for the garden staff's administrative tasks and a paved service area. These improvements were not installed until after Professor Robert Raabe, a plant pathologist, became director of Blake Garden (1961-1962). Arbegast had introduced Professor Raabe to the garden and occasionally invited him to lecture about plant propagation to her classes. Raabe held a half-time appointment in the Landscape Architecture Department while maintaining a position in the Biology Department. Following the agreement with the Blakes in 1957, the university hired Walter Vodden, who had earned a horticulture degree from the City College of San Francisco, to manage the garden. Vodden gave direction to the daily on-site support of the property, and Raabe brought a decidedly scientific approach to the garden. In addition to implementing Arbegast's plans for a greenhouse, Raabe established weather stations to correlate environmental conditions with plant cultivation requirements.
These transition years were marked by the strong horticultural science perspective that Arbegast and Raabe brought to Blake Garden. With the aid of its large plant collection, the garden became a well-used science laboratory that allowed students to gain a broad understanding of plant identification, growing conditions and gardening techniques.
While Anita Blake and Mabel Symmes were still living in the house, both Vodden and Arbegast deferred the garden design and maintenance decisions to their wishes. Raabe recalls that, "Mrs. Blake wouldn't let you take out any plants and each plant meant something special to her.” Mabel Symmes reportedly supervised every cut during the annual rose pruning. Arbegast remembers that "it was a jungle when I was there, you couldn't see very far because everything was kind of crowded in." Although few changes were made to the garden between 1957 and 1962, Arbegast, with the support of students, identified each tree and shrub as well as many of the perennials within the extensive plant collection and carefully recorded each plant's scientific name and location. With the deaths of Anita Blake and Mabel Symmes in 1962, the LAEP Department began to consider long-range plans for the house and garden, including design modifications that could support new uses.