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Specializing in colorful, water-conserving gardens

Specializing in colorful, water-conserving gardens


We offer complete landscape design and garden coaching services for Santa Barbara and Goleta, with an emphasis on the many colorful, water-conserving plants that thrive in our mild, Mediterranean climate.

Whatever your preferred style -- from spare to overflowing, traditional to modern, filled with flowers or focused on foliage -- we are committed to creating gardens that attract wildlife, save water and contribute to a healthy environment.

You can view Joan sharing her design philosophy on a new episode of Santa Barbara City TV's Garden Wise program, "Lawn Be Gone: What to Do Next." Then contact us to design an outdoor living space that’s just right for you.

What we do

garden design

We specialize in designing colorful, water-conserving landscapes in Santa Barbara and Goleta that make the most of the many beautiful Mediterranean and California native plant species that thrive in our temperate climate. Our Philosophy: Whether you are tending the tiniest patio or the grandest estate, gardening is one of life's greatest pleasures. No matter what your space, daily dose of sunlight or soil type, scores of beautiful Mediterranean and California native plants can fill your garden with months of long-lasting blooms. Many also offer attractive foliage in shades of green, silver, red, bronze and blue, providing a captivating interplay of color, contrast and texture. Our designs typically include trees, shrubs and perennials that are well suited to our seasonal cycle of warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters. These proven performers require little supplemental irrigation. They shrug off pests and diseases naturally, without heavy doses of chemicals. They are child and pet friendly. And they support wildlife -- especially birds and butterflies. We work with nature at every step. That approach extends to the vegetable garden as well. Diversity of plantings, rich, loamy soil, beneficial insects, companion planting and composting all contribute to harvests that are delicious, healthy and beautiful on the table. Whether you desire a wild, Mediterranean meadow, an informal, jumbled cottage-style garden, a quaint, kitchen garden or a soothing swath of greenery, we will design an inviting outdoor living space that's just right for you. At Santa Barbara Garden Design, we pride ourselves on tailoring each garden to the needs and aesthetics of each client. Just like our clients, no two gardens are alike. Yet they will all grow and flourish, providing beautiful spaces for years to come. Here's How We Work: We first meet with you to find out what you hope to achieve, and to assess your existing landscape. Then we measure the site and draw preliminary hardscape plans and planting plans. When we present the preliminary plans, we provide samples or photos of each and every material and plant. Once you've signed off on the preliminary plans, we prepare detailed final plans. We want to make sure that your new garden suits your lifestyle and needs, and becomes a favorite place for you and your family to relax and enjoy. You may put the project out to bid to landscape contractors, have a gardener install the design or complete the installation yourself. In addition, you may arrange for us to monitor the progress of the installation, and to return on a quarterly, semi-annual or annual basis to provide advice about maintenance. How Much Will It Cost?: While it's difficult to estimate the cost without seeing a property, front or back yard designs typically start at a couple thousand dollars, then go on up, depending on the scope and complexity of the project. Installation costs vary widely as well. A general rule of thumb is that landscaping a front or back yard, or a substantial area in any property, is similar to the cost of installing a new kitchen. A basic landscape may cost about 5% of the value of the home; a nicer landscape may cost about 10% of the value of the home; and a high-end landscape may cost 15% or more of the value of the home. Given the extreme housing prices in our area, those percentages may be a little high. But they're a good place to start. Other Services: We also offer garden consultations. We will spend several hours with you to help you understand how to maintain and maximize the beauty of your garden. If you wish, we will follow up with a written report. And if we design your garden, you may buy plants directly from us. We will gather the best specimens possible, then deliver and set them out for you on planting day. Please contact us for details.


garden coaching

Are you looking for a little expert gardening advice? Perhaps you'd like to start an organic vegetable garden, learn how to prune your roses or style your patio with just the right pots and plants. Maybe you're curious about natives or waver-conserving plants, or want to add structure to your garden, but you're not ready for a comprehensive design. With Santa Barbara Garden Design's garden coaching service, Joan will provide hands-on training and help you develop your skills throughout your garden. Whether you'd like to learn about succulents, create a dramatic focal point, start a compost pile, build a raised bed or just want answers to a million and one questions, Joan will guide you. She'll even take you shopping at local wholesale nurseries to find the perfect plant, or to garden boutiques to find the ideal bench, fountain, arbor or ornament. Along the way, you'll learn how to tend your garden using environmentally sound techniques that conserve water, limit the use of chemicals, and attract and sustain birds, beneficial insects, butterflies and other wildlife. At Santa Barbara Garden Design, we pack a lot into our two-hour coaching sessions. They're a great way to learn how to dive into a new project or tune up your garden. They're also a thoughtful house-warming gift for a new homeowner.


garden writing

Joan has written freelance articles about gardening for 25 years. She writes Edible Garden columns for Edible Santa Barbara and Central Coast Farm and Ranch, posts In the Garden features on her blog and contributes to Fine Gardening, and Montecito Magazine. She has been a regular contributor to Woman's Day's gardening publications and has written for Horticulture, Flower and Garden, Landscape Architecture, House Beautiful, San Jose Mercury News and Los Angeles Times. She formerly wrote gardening articles for the Santa Maria Times, Santa Ynez Valley News, Lompoc Record, Times-Press-Recorder, South Coast Beacon and Santa Barbara News-Press. She has also written for Santa Barbara Magazine and contributed content to websites for the National Education Association and All-America Rose Selections. She often provides photographs for her articles as well, and contributed several photos to "Reimagining the California Lawn," published by Cachuma Press. Joan earned a masters degree in journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and a bachelors degree in fiction writing from Denison University. She has been a member of Garden Writers Association for more than two decades and regularly attends GWA's national symposiums to expand her knowledge about plants, gardening and landscape design. An avowed plant nut, Joan follows the seasons as she shares her observations, experiences, tips and hand-on techniques in her various freelance writing projects. Featured Publications


In The Garden

In the Garden with Joan On her In the Garden blog, Joan provides practical advice about designing, planting and caring for gardens throughout Santa Barbara, the Central Coast and the state of California.


In the Garden

Edible Gardening with Children: Summer Playtime in the Garden
Posted by Joan on June 26, 2015

School’s out and there’s no better time to enlist your kids to grow fresh edibles. Many summer crops grow fast and yield bounty that children like to eat. Start your kids playing in the dirt early, and they’ll develop an appreciation for home-grown food and healthy habits for life. If you don’t have children, gather your neighbors’ kids instead. Or simply vow to rediscover your inner child by taking time to view your garden with wide-eyed wonder, kneeling down to breathe in the scents and to inspect your […]


Water Conservation and the Drought: Local Landscape Experts Meet to Discuss Ways to Cut Water Use
Posted by Joan on March 7, 2014

They’re not hitting the panic button yet. But there is an increasing sense of urgency on the part of local water agencies to get out the word that the drought is serious and that people need to start using significantly less water. Earlier this week, water purveyors met at Chase Palm Park Center with about 30 landscape architects, designers, irrigation specialists, master gardeners and other landscape pros to talk about the drought and explore ways to capture the public’s attention. “Obviously we had a lot of rain in […]


How to Keep Your Trees Healthy During the Drought
Posted by Joan on February 7, 2014

Make like rain and start irrigating your trees. The two gentle waves of rain that fell this week have been wonderful for washing off dust, freshening the air and moistening the soil. But they only put a dent in a water deficit that’s been building for the past few years. 2013 was one of our driest years on record and both Gov. Jerry Brown and Santa Barbara County have declared a drought emergency. So why suggest upping your irrigation if we’ve had a little rain, plus we’re in […]