The Bloom’n Times
by Alida Aldrich
An award-winning, published landscape designer, with over two decades of experience, Alida is well known for designing new gardens as well as restoring landmark gardens throughout Montecito and Santa Barbara. In the spring, Alida will be teaching a course in the Principles of Landscape Design through Santa Barbara City College.
THE RITES OF SPRING
Photo by Daryl Metzger, courtesy of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
Spring seems to be everybody’s favorite season. Temperatures start to rise. Daylight Savings Time begins, and the Vernal Equinox (March 21st) brings us more healthy, natural Vitamin D. Wildlife keeps its watchful eyes on their newborns, Leaves appear on deciduous trees, absorbing the carbon dioxide, and spring flowers and bulbs start to bloom everywhere!
If you don’t already have one, it’s time to buy The Sunset Western Garden Book, the must-have’ reference book for The Santa Barbara garden enthusiasts and professionals. After 25-plus years in the industry, I still refer to it for answers.
If you’re looking for a different, garden-related book, pick-up The Devil In The White City by Erik Larson. This non-fiction murder mystery centers on the 1893 Worlds Fair in Chicago and goes into fascinating detail about how Fredrick Law Olmstead helped engineer and supervise the plantings of some 600 acres on the fairgrounds. Today, Olmstead is recognized as the farther of American landscape architecture, who not only laid out the World’s Fair but designed New York City’s Central Park.
I turn to his ideas and philosophies to guide me whenever I begin a new project.
Principles of Landscape Design
If you’re a true garden hobbyist (or would like to be), I’ll be teaching a course on The Essential Principles of Landscape Design thru SB city College (online via Zoom), beginning May 22 for five weeks – two hours each week.
In early April, you can find out more specifics by going to:
Prepare for Drought.
Summer will surely follow spring – and bring its own seasonal offerings.
Due to the small amount of rain we received last fall and winter, experts predict that that we’ll have a serious drought this summer. We need to prepare our gardens now for the summer season. Accessing enough affordable water has become a problem in our region. In general, irrigating our landscapes and gardens is a major use of residential water in Santa Barbara, with green lawns being the most thirsty plant of all.
I’d like to propose a soul-saving alternative to some of the lawns or planting beds in your garden: a pollinator garden! As you may have read – populations of birds, bees and butterflies have been nearly decimated by man’s use of chemical pesticides and loss of natural habitats. There are specific plants that these delicate, winged creatures need and desire, plants that are drought tolerant, and well-suited to our Native and Mediterranean climate zone. These three different species thrive on many of the same plants. Of course, milkweed is a favorite of the butterflies, while the bees and the birds (especially hummingbirds) like to visit and collect pollen from salvia, penstemon, cosmos and lavender. There are a lot of other flowering plants they love too. Just search on the web for ‘pollinator plants.’
If space is a concern, then pots are the answer. A pollinator garden can be a
do-good family project, which will pay you back with hours of viewing pleasure.
You can find many other native, pollinator-friendly plants on a stroll thru our esteemed Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. In the past, the gr=garden has held an annual Spring Native Plant Sale, but this year consider combining a nature walk there with a buying trip. For the more adventurous, drive over to Figueroa Mountain in Santa Ynez. You should be a spectacular display of wildflowers this spring.
There’s another concern looming this summer: the potential for fires. Those of you with properties on the hillsides can find excellent information about to create defensible space zones around your home; choose fire resistant plants, and ember-resistant building materials at www.montecitofire.com.
Doomsday tales aside, fate has brought us to this extraordinary spot on the planet. Treat yourself by getting out and about on these glorious days.
Some Seasonal Tips:
- It’s time to fertilize the entire garden. I use a general-purpose fertilizer mix 10-10-10 (Nitrogen-Phosphorous-Potassium). You may have specific plants that require a more complex mix as well;
- Plant your herbs and vegetables now for fresh, yummy dishes in the summer;
- Update your time on your automated irrigation system.
Later, I’ll write about how to tackle your garden maintenance patrol.
Call for a complimentary consultation:
IN APPRECIATION OF WINTER
Ahhhh…. winter has just arrived (December 21st). More time for bundling-up, hot soups, warm fires and lit candles. Winter in Santa Barbara brings on crystal clear days and nights. It’s as if you could touch Santa Cruz Island. And the stargazing in winter is outstanding – look for Orion’s Belt in the S/W sky.
Last fall I talked about some of the natural virtues of living in Santa Barbara. There are more noteworthy factoids to appreciate in our unique locale: Santa Barbara is in one of only five Mediterranean Climate Zones on the planet (along with the Mediterranean Basin, Southwestern Australia, Central Chile and the Western Cape of South Africa). I’ve visited Cape Town, and it you’d think you were in SB. There are Jacaranda trees and Bougainvillea vines blooming everywhere! Stellenbosch (their wine country outside Cape Town) looks just like our Santa Ynez Valley. There’s actually a Mediterranean Plant Palette specifically suited for these five zones.
Another SB bonus: Because of the proximity of our mountains to the ocean – we’re considered to be in perfect Feng Shui harmony, lucky us.
Everything that happens in a garden takes place in slow time. Flowers, shrubs and trees simply get on with growing at their own pace. A number of plants and trees including roses, stone fruit trees, and hydrangeas go deciduous in winter – they require this down time. There’s still plenty to enjoy now though. Study the bare, architectural structure of our Japanese Maple, Birch, Liquidambar, and Sycamore trees. They’re every bit as impressive now as when they leaf-out.
Winter is the season to quietly take stock of your garden’s strengths and weaknesses – design-wise. I view the discipline of Landscape Design just as culturally valuable as Literature, the Performing Arts, and the Visual Arts. If you’d begin to see yourself as an artist - and your garden as an opportunity to create, you’ll come to understand that not only is the concept of ‘form follows function’ essential - but you’ll learn to appreciate that the artistic value of color, texture, light, form, movement, contrast, perspective, scent and touch - all have a distinct place in a thoughtfully designed garden.
You might consider the areas in your garden as rooms with ceilings, floors, walls, doorways and focal points. You have a distinct style of your own – trust your intuition on this, as it’s simply decorating for heaven’s sake.
I found 2020 to have been a long, hard slog - for all of us. We deserve to spoil ourselves now. Think about your garden in terms of wants and needs. When you get bored with the ‘needs-part,’ go for it! Have you always wanted a – rose garden – water feature – pergola with an outdoor kitchen – garden sculpture – hammock – sundial – hot tub – fire pit – vegetable and herb garden? My sister has one of those tower herb/veggie gardens, and swears by it. She’s a marvelous cook to begin with, but she says the freshness of her hand picked bounty makes a big difference to her dishes. There’s no harm in daydreaming about this stuff. Also, it’s planning for future – something positive to look forward to in 2021.
Agave layered in snow is a sign that winter is officially upon us.
As a special gift, Cymbidium orchids (and other orchid varieties) are in bloom now. There are a few excellent greenhouses in Carp. At the very least, treat yourself to a bunch of fresh cut flowers now and again.
Some Winter Garden Tips:
Check your irrigation system for clogged lines, heads or emitters. Be sure gutters are clear - and drainage systems are working properly before more winter/spring rain. Now is the time to fertilize your citrus trees.
Last chance to buy and plant bare root roses (my new favorite rose is Sugar Moon. A luscious white rose, with an incredible scent). La Sumida Nursery, in Goleta, has a vast selection of roses. Don’t forget, your existing roses will benefit from a deep pruning now.
In the Spring Column, we’ll need talk about the ‘elephant in the garden.’
Call for a complimentary consultation.
A Winter Garden Scene:
We Specialize in creating artistic - yet sustainable, cost effective gardens - with special attention paid to native and drought sensitive plantings.
We provide Conceptual Landscape Plans, Complete Working Drawings and Installation Oversight. Principal Designer, Alida Aldrich, is a local seasoned professional with an "A" team of reliable artisans.
Call For A Complimentary Consultation:
Fall Garden Reminders:
~ Fall is a great time for garden clean-up, as well as thinning trees to prevent future breakage from winter winds.
~ Be vigilant regarding your garden’s watering. Cool nights and shorter days will lower water needs, but Santa Ana winds can easily dry out your plants.
~ Check out bulbs at your local nursery for winter and spring blooms. Paperwhites are an easy and charming addition to the winter garden.
~ Try overseeding warm-season grasses with cool-season grass seed.
~ Fall is the best time to plant in Southern California, especially California Natives. Visit our Botanical Garden to shop native plants.
Need Help on Your Garden Design and Direction?
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Artwork by Maria Velasquez, Chrysanthemum mortifolium
~ Summer (Waterlily):
To see plants suited to our region, a stroll through Alice Keck Park or our Botanic Garden is a pleasant way to spend an afternoon while gathering inspiration.
Don’t forget seasonal feeding and putting down mulch – both are very important for a healthy, vibrant garden.
Summer is the time for outdoor entertaining! Is your garden ready for company?
~ SPRING (sweet pea):
Due to all the rain we’ve had, its important to feed now. A healthy garden is better able to fight off pests and diseases.
Maybe this spring you’ll grow a few of your favorite herbs and vegetables.
Roses! Roses! Roses! Now you can see the actual flower color on the bush – local nurseries have roses in containers waiting to be planted in your sunny garden plot.
An inviting garden will call to you to come outdoors to spend time enjoying the peace and beauty it offers.
Create a special haven for yourself. Let your imagination soar! Remember, change can be good.
~ WINTER (African violet):
Last chance to plant your bare-root roses and stone fruit trees!
There’s still time for winter annuals such as pansies, snapdragons, primrose, stock and violas.
Now’s the time for dahlia, gladiolus, tuberous begonia, and tuberose bulbs.
Pure of heart will set out seeds for beets, carrots, chives, lettuces, and other seedlings in the cabbage family.
Winter is a good time to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of your garden.