Garden Secrets

Creative ideas for landscape design & outdoor living
garden paths, montecito meadow, crushed limestone path, custom built pond with fountain from Eye of Day GDC, drought tolerant meadow,

Garden Paths-The Secret To The Perfect Garden

Gravel Garden Paths

Garden paths are the key to the perfect garden. Gardens are meant to be experienced, enjoyed, lived-in. Sure, they are beautiful to look at, but nothing compares to strolling through your garden picking flowers, inhaling the spicy aroma of Bay Laurel or Lavender, harvesting fruit from your backyard orchard or sitting in a cozy nook reading a book or just getting away from the hectic demands of a busy life. Whether you want a passage to a secret garden or a walkway wide enough to accommodate a wheelbarrow, pathways are a practical and affordable addition to any landscape. As you will see, materials used to construct patios or paths are as varied as the costs. A simple mulch path to a Flagstone patio and everything in between the choices and combination are endless.

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Marigolds aka tagetes or calendula come in annual or perennial varieties. The only way to know the difference is to use the latin name

What Everyone Needs to Know About Marigolds


The common name Marigold refers to a variety of different plants; Tagetes and Calendua are both called Marigolds. But it gets confusing. The North American native marigold (Tagetes) is known as African Marigold, French Marigold and Aztec Marigold. The European native (Calendula) goes by the name of Pot Marigold, Common Marigold, English Marigold and Scottish Marigold. There is a perennial known as “Mexican Marigold”(Tagetes lemmonii) that is currently popular in California low-water gardens. Yikes! My head is spinning! Want to sort it all out? Read on my friends, read on.

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stacked stone wall surrounds a drought tolerant garden filled with blooming perennials Mexican sage, Santa Barbara daisy, Iceberg roses, bay, jacaranda

Garden Transformation-Walled Garden

Garden transformations come in all shapes and sizes. This one may be small in scale, but huge in change and beauty. The challenge was to transform this typical front yard into an oasis reminiscent of the English country side. And because we are in Santa Barbara it also needed to be drought tolerant. See how we accomplished total garden transformation.

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Lotus in bloom at Ganna Walska's Lotusland in Montecito CA perfect garden getaway Santa Barbara style

Garden Getaway Santa Barbara Style

We live in one of the most beautiful regions on earth, Santa Barbara. If you love garden design and architecture, Santa Barbara and Montecito are the ultimate playground. Come with us as we visit some of our special spots; places we go for inspiration or just to breathe. It’s a Garden Getaway Santa Barbara Style.

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Santa Barbara Fiesta Parade

Garden Party Santa Barbara Style-Viva La Fiesta!

Garden Party Santa Barbara Style!

With Old Spanish Days right around the corner, Fiesta parties aren’t far behind. A Santa Barbara tradition for 92 years, Fiesta is a city-wide party where locals and visitors alike take to the streets, watch the parades and best of all, there are lots of Fiesta parties. As any seasoned Santa Barbara Local will tell you, Fiesta season is Garden Party Season. Don’t have a perfect garden? These 6 simple steps will get your garden ready to party in Santa Barbara Style-Viva La Fiesta!

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Meandering pathways made for easy access to all areas including across the creek, where we made various sitting areas and created a “walk through the woods”. We left the meadow to nature, changing as it does with the seasons, from lush green of winter and spring to the golden of summer.

Garden Transformations-The Earth is Our Canvas

We specialize in garden transformations.  My husband, Chris Cullen, is a pretty creative guy and I suppose I am too. We use the earth as our canvas to create living works of art. I thought it would be fun to add Chris’ voice to the blog and give his view on what we actually do as designers and landscapers. We transform “yards” into gardens and if you want to know how we do this, read on.

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Historic Montecito cottage landscape design with gravel patio, french stone fountain, Mayten and Japanese privet trees, bearded iris, camelia sasanqua, azalea

Landscape Design Idea-Cottage Garden

This property started out as a blank slate consisting of lawn and plants that had been clipped into unnatural shapes. Nothing had been done to the landscape for at least 30 years.

The new landscape was designed to be unique to the location and the client. I wish I had before photos of the front, but here is one of the back. See if you can tell if it is the same place.

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American Flag palomino horses in Independence Day parade Santa Barbara

George Washington, Independence & Gardening

Happy Independence Day!

I like to begin this day listening to the Annual Reading of the Declaration of Independence on NPR’s Morning Edition. Getting back to the basics of how and why our country came to be is inspiring and refreshing (especially if you spend any time listening to the current news).

The founders of our country were an incredible group of men who literally risked their lives to form the only country on Earth founded on freedom. Freedom of speech, freedom for all races and religions and freedom from oppression.

While Thomas Jefferson is a well known gardener and extraordinary statesman, George Washington was all that and an extraordinary man as well. Did you know that George Washington was the only Founding Father to free his slaves.? He was also credited with introducing the mule to America. However, one of George Washington’s most important contributions was how he treated prisoners during the Revolutionary War.

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tuscan drought tolerant formal garden with fountain, gravel, lavender, Mexican sage, Cleveland sage, Tuscan blue rosemay

Formal Tuscan Garden with a Twist

This Tuscan garden in Montecito needed a make-over. Since the drought most people have allowed their lawns to die and this property was no different. But, we love a challenge and this project was a perfect place to flex our creative muscle. The Tuscan/Mediterranean-style house and central fountain set a formal tone so that is the direction we decided to go. But what defines a formal garden? Does it have to be all boxwood hedges and topiary? We don’t think so. When you see the before and after photos you’ll see what I mean.

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