In celebration of my 46th year in business I decided to dedicate a series of columns to my clients, you could say this is a memoir of Montecito from years past. Focusing on a particular period of time and particular patrons I hope that you, the reader, will gain insight into the Montecito of my youth and some of the “characters” inhabiting my recollections. I may have learned the basics of landscaping in college, but my clients, especially the early ones, helped me find my way. Though many of them are no longer with us, they all remain fondly ensconced in my memory and their teachings are still being employed in my gardens today.
Where to begin when talking about Hastings Harcourt (or “H” as he was known to those who were in his employ)? He was one of my early mentors and if you don’t remember him, he’s worth a “Google”. A man who knew how to think in futures, he told me that when he purchased the “Upper Village” in Montecito for $5000.00 an acre everyone thought he was crazy for spending so much.
“H” dreamed big and lived big, he raced Ferraris in the 1950’s and in 1968 Harcourt partnered with Monty Roberts to build a Thoroughbred breeding ranch named Flag is Up Farms, spending plenty of time in the winner’s circle at various race tracks as a result.
When I worked for Mr. Harcourt he was developing an area known as Court Place (which was originally part of the Gladwin estate). He wanted each property to be distinctive so each of the houses were built in a different style and the landscape had to conform to that home’s unique design. There was a lot more detail and personalized attention given these landscapes than your standard “spec” house. I suggested that we might leave a little room for the purchaser’s input. “H” put me in my place with, “We don’t know who is going to buy these places so I feel it is my civic responsibility to impose my own good taste on them while I still own them”.
The Harcourt good taste is in evidence throughout Montecito and it is our good fortune as a community and mine personally that he settled in our village.
In an interview published in Sports Illustrated dated June 1971 Hastings Harcourt is quoted as saying “I had $500 a month and had to scrounge for the other $500.” “At the time, in 1943, I thought I’d just pick out the best place to live and let it go on from there.”
Thanks “H” for contributing to the unique rural ambience of Montecito you are greatly missed.