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June 8, 2017



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Home & Garden Inside

Aloes in Wonderl And nd

Building Tiny loTusland lanTerns urBan gardening Backyard composTing VolunTeer planTs WaBi-saBi Welcome and BotAnic GArden’s WAter-Wise WAYs

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OuR ExPAnDED sHOWROOm in the new Santa BarBara deSign diStrict coming faLL 2017




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Home & Garden

n our second annual Home & Garden issue, we take a look at sustainability. From soils to shelters, foodstuffs to flora, we talk to regional farmers, gardeners, and home designers who show us how to save water, heal ecosystems, and find that natural balance between green and good-looking. You’ll learn how to


And WorkinG With the seAsons in


make your own compost, fireproof your property, plant California natives, and explore the Japanese principle of wabi-sabi. Whether you’re a green thumb or a greenhorn, we hope this pullout encourages you to dig in this summer and in seasons beyond in a more sustainable way.

Home & Garden | june 8, 2017 |

caitlin fitch photos

Aloe cAn you go?


loe, aloe as far as the eye can see. There’s aloe that dramatically droops and aloe that prominently points, aloe that’s green and aloe that’s red — and only a single one is Aloe vera. In our first-ever Show Us Your Garden reader contest for best garden, sponsored by Knapp Nursery, we picked Tom Cole’s garden for its exceptional drought resistance — he waters once a month; with some areas, he doesn’t water at all — and wondrous aesthetic appeal, strangely beautiful enough to befit a Dr. Seuss tale. Intermixed with towering Euphorbias and studded succulents, the garden displays a huge variety of shapes and colors for such a limited species spectrum. “I like a lush look,” says Cole, a garden designer. So strong is his knowledge of aloe that he is a renowned expert on the inside plant, with a book (Aloes of Uganda: PlAnt Wonderl WonderlAnd A Field Guide)) and his discovery of What makes them good for gardening? four new aloe They propagate easily and the fact species (one that I can leave my garden for a named after his month and travel 40 percent of late brother, Luke). the year and not worry about I asked Cole a few ques- watering. And you could come here every month of the tions about his aloe garden. year, and it will be different; they flower in different seasons. How did you get into aloes? I see Are there any tricks to growing aloes? For aloes or any succuthem in their habitat. I travel a lents, you need to know what they’re going to do. Lots of lot in Africa and Madagascar, gardeners amass plants for form and color, but you need to helping communities with know how it’s going to grow. It’s like a dog: Do you want a food security and rebuilding big bruiser or a little yappy one? from war. I first collected seed How about design recommendations? Plant something you of Aloe excelsa 20 years ago appreciate looking at. I love them purely aesthetically. I like in Mozambique. I’m an acci- aloes with presence, like my favorite, the Aloe marlothii. dental botanist, and S.B. is the They’re good foundation plants, and then I paint with sucperfect climate for them. culents. — Richie DeMaria

chloë bee ciccati

tom cole’s

on the cover: An aloe in Tom Cole’s garden. Photo by Caitlin Fitch.


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Home & Garden | june 8, 2017


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No view is promised. Views may also be altered by subsequent development, construction and landscaping growth. Square footage/acreage shown is only an estimate and actual square footage/acreage will differ. Buyer should rely on his or her own evaluation of useable area. Plans to build out this neighborhood as proposed are subject to change without notice. The estimated completion date of the community clubhouse and pool is summer 2017. The date of actual completion could substantially differ from the estimated date. Prices, plans and terms are effective on the date of publication and subject to change without notice. Depictions of homes or other features are artist conceptions. Hardscape, landscape and other items shown may be decorator suggestions that are not included in the purchase price and availability may vary. CalAtlantic Group, Inc. California Real Estate License No. 01138346. 6/17

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f you want something, just make it!” goes the personal mantra of Santa Barbara architect Alex Wyndham. Those seven words encompass the designer’s creative spunk that launched his architectural career and continues to bring his whimsical designs to life. Wyndham opened his practice a mere six months ago, though he is anything but a novice. While he designs buildings of all sizes, Wyndham ventured into tiny architecture in 2009, after building the Hawk House, a seven-by-nine-foot cabaña with a breathtaking panoramic ocean view. The redwood bark walls and wildflower-covered roof embody his design philosophy: “The design of the building should relate really closely to the site and the environment around it … buildings should enhance the ecosystems around them,” he says. Unlike most architects, Wyndham began his career with a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies. After graduating from UCSB, Wyndham worked as an ecologist, studying how organisms interact with their respective environments. But Wyndham wanted more. “I’ve always been creative and have always liked to draw,” he explains. Wyndham went on to complete his master’s in architecture at the University of Oregon. Soon after, the sunlit continent of Australia beckoned him. “I basically got a oneway ticket there and spent three months looking around, interviewing … then got a job in Sydney,” he says. For one year, he worked alongside another architect while taking advantage of the “good surf” offered by brisk Australian waters. This wasn’t the first time Wyndham lived abroad. The travel bug bit him at a young age when he and his family moved from Los Angeles to Uruguay, a rural country in South America. The humble farm he called home lacked running water and electricity but boasted acres of land large enough to hold Snowball, his “big, fat white horse.” “We’d cruise down to the creek, and I’d ride bareback on [her]. That was always really fun,” Wyndham describes. Fast-forward to April 2016, where the talented architect built the tiny house for a couple featured in the hit TV show Tiny House Nation. The tiny house includes the same amenities of a regular-sized home but is built on an 8-by-20-foot trailer with 12-foothigh ceilings. “It was crazy … I was able to build the thing in nine days,” he says. In another display of swiftness, Wyndham designed and built the Hen House in just one week. This fanciful coop stores more than just chickens — the steel roof seconds as an irrigation system to capture rain. This ingenuity makes Wyndham’s designs hard to beat. “I like to be creative and make the things I envision,” he says. Considering Wyndham’s brilliant mind, there is no project too big, nor too tiny. See — Naomi Zaldate

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he story behind every great garden is very often a story of immigration—a story of both the people and the plants, working and growing together with the soil. So goes the story behind Lotusland’s Japanese garden and the wonderful ishidōrō stone lanterns that line its ivied paths. Madame Ganna Walska, the Polish émigré and visionary behind Lotusland’s 37-acre botanical wonderland, first began planning this new garden in the 1960s, two decades after the end of World War II, when our country’s relationship with its former enemy had begun to warm again. But it was during the war years that Madame Walska began acquiring ishi-dōrō lanterns, some tossed out of Montecito gardens in an obscure show of patriotic fervor. With about 30 Japanese stone lanterns in her collection, Walska turned to her landscape designer, Frank Fujii, the son of Japanese parents who had originally come to this country in 1917. Together they began to collaborate on creating a traditional Japanese garden. Though Lotusland would have never blossomed if not for Walska’s wondrous vision, it was Fujii’s work in this and other gardens that made Lotusland the gem it is today. As a child, Fujii and his family endured internment at the WWII Gila River camp in Arizona, where Japanese nationals and Americans of Japanese descent lived out the war. After their release, his family moved back to Santa Barbara, where Fujii reintegrated into the world, earning his contractor’s license in the 1950s. He built a few Japanese-style gardens in the area, including the Buddhist church on Montecito Street, and eventually began working at Lotusland. He crafted the Japanese garden according to the principles of natural harmony and balance, principles reflected in the ishi-dōrō themselves. Some of the designs are ancient. Buddhist monks, for example, first developed the Goju-no-to, or five-story pagoda, way back in the Asuka period of 600 ce. Their stories are written in the stone and on small placards that sit at their base. Those who knew Fujii say he was a very quiet, very respectful man who never got mad, took great care of Walska’s botanical world, and mentored young gardeners in the bonsai style of Japanese pruning — and he was a great Ping-Pong player to boot. Though the Japanese garden will be under ADA renovations until fall 2018, you can still sense Fujii’s spirit as you walk alongside the lanterns. Visit them and see how tumultuous chapters of history can grow new periods of peace. —Richie DeMaria

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Home & Garden | june 8, 2017 |

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Say, “Santa Barbara garden,” and you’re more likely to evoke images of roses, succulents, and native plants than a micro-farm. But the city has a thriving urban-agriculture scene, with heritage chickens scratching in backyards, hydroponic towers overflowing with greens, and weathered raised beds replacing lawns on residential streets. Locals like to experiment with heirloom varieties and new practices, and the results run the gamut from manicured landscape to manufactured wilderness. Here, we’ve profiled some community fixtures and hidden treasures.

FAirview gArdens

sustAinABle Food Production


airview Gardens in Goleta has long been an urban-farming mainstay in the area. Its Center for Urban Agriculture offers gardening programs and camps, designed to teach kids about the process of growing and harvesting food. (A bonus: Kelly Campbell, Fairview’s education director, says that kids are much more willing to try a new vegetable when they’ve grown it themselves.) Apprentices living and working on the land learn sustainable production methods while developing business plans for mushroom production, microgreens, or homemade-jam enterprises. And Lacey Baldiviez, Fairview Gardens’ new director, has ideas of her own. Through volunteer days for adults, beginning in June, she wants locals to participate in farmwork, learning the importance of sustainable food production and healthy soil along the way. The farm itself is employing new methods, moving away from the traditional practices of tilling and planting individual crops in neat rows. Walk around the fields, and you’ll see densely planted rows with a mixture of crops. “We’ve allowed plants from previous seasons to bolt and go to seed” next to new plants, says Baldiviez. Pests are more likely to take residence on vulnerable older plants, and pollinators will be attracted by the old crop and stay to pollinate the new. “People want to see it perfect,” Baldiviez says, referring to the farm landscape, but that’s not necessarily the best thing for the soil. Tilling, which buries leftover crops and turns the ground over for planting, is increasingly seen as a harmful practice, disturbing the soil’s structure and destroying beneficial organisms such as earthworms and microbes. At Fairview, “the weeds hold the soil in place, so we only weed as need be, to get the ground ready,” Baldiviez says. And when weeds die, the nutrition they’ve used returns to the soil for new crops to absorb.

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and pineapple tomatillos, there’s still plenty to leave in a basket hanging on the fence for passersby. The garden is a magnet for neighborhood families, giving Baird and Berry a sense of community: “It’s cool for the kids,” Baird says, explaining that many nearby parents grew up around farms. “They bring the kids by to give them some of that nostalgia.” When the couple first rented the house, the nearby lot was empty. “We couldn’t just not use the yard,” Berry says. Asked how they’d feel about leaving the garden, neither seems perturbed. According to Baird, “It’s good practice in letting go.”

leslie thomas

leslie ThomAs

ediBle l AndscAPe


hile many food gardeners will tell you that they grow what they eat, Leslie Thomas finds creative ways to eat what she grows. She originally began planting brassicas along the side of her San Roque house because her doctor recommended them to counter her hyperthyroidism. “I had to learn how to make vegetables more interesting,” she recounts. Gardening stuck, and now her backyard is a terraced, edible landscape with 12 varieties of grapevines, apples, citrus, cabbages, and edible flowers. Hydroponic tower gardens filled with greens stand on the back patio. Overabundant harvests require some creativity: “I do a lot of hacks,” says Thomas, who has taught a number of area cooking classes that concentrated on vegetable-rich and healthy dishes. “I don’t have formal training, so for me, there are no rules.” From her garden, she makes homemade wine, Sriracha, jam, and fruit roll-ups (the last two flavored

‘… for me, there are no rules.’ subtly with homegrown ghost peppers); she infuses butter with edible flowers and hides cauliflower in chocolate cake. As for the rest of Thomas’s bounty, many of her meals are eaten straight out of the garden. She entertains frequently — she recently held a grape de-stemming party to help her deal with the prolific grapevine output — and, as she puts it, “I’m a big believer in the barter system.” 

ellie smiTh

dirt therAPY


llie smith, a retired nurse who lives on a boat with her husband, calls the time she spends in the family’s raised beds her “dirt therapy.” “When you live on a boat, you need to connect with the earth,” says Smith, who has grown food in the mountains and the desert, experimenting to develop a system that works for each unique climate. She’s patient: She has coaxed plants out of arid ground in Joshua Tree —“We started off with rocky, sandy desert soil” — and from among the boulders in rough mountain soil near the San Bernardino National Forest. The two large raised beds in her current garden on the Westside — originally built and planted by Smith’s fatherin-law, next to the home he built for his family — are densely planted with tomatoes, strawberries, golden poppies, and squash. Olallieberry bushes and citrus trees ‘When you live on a boat, line the yard. you need to connect Smith says that different with the earth.’ plants like particular spots in the garden, and they’re not afraid to seek out more favorable territory: She points to the oregano and strawberry plants, which have migrated over time in search of more sun.“You’ve got to be really relaxed about it,” she says, smiling. Tomatoes and broccoli — notorious enemies in the garden — grow contentedly side by side, and in one bed, a pumpkin is decomposing. (As it composts, it will provide nutrients to the seeds inside.) In a café-esque touch, Smith writes the season’s offerings on a large slate rescued from an old schoolhouse.

Home & Garden | june 8, 2017 |

alk along the fence of Serena Berry and Kalon Baird’s quarter-acre Eastside garden, and you might find yourself face-to-face with an unofficial neighborhood mascot: Rex, a majestic, bluefaced turkey, hoping for some affection. “Everyone feels a special connection with the turkey,” Berry says with a laugh. “They’re always explaining their personal relationship with him.” Rex’s predecessor, Agave, was a meat turkey who accompanied Berry and Baird on trips to the beach. His life, and his intimate exposure to slaughter and consumption, are commemorated in a YouTube tribute. “It’s a rite of passage,” Baird explains. “We wanted people to see where their food comes from.” (Rex isn’t intended for a similar fate.) The garden itself is a found-object paradise, with fences hammered together out of plant-nursery pallets, screens made of driftwood, and succulents growing in a salvaged gold toilet. Tomatoes and arugula fill the raised beds, and chickens peck at the ground. While the couple eats eggs and greens from the garden ‘We wanted people to see where for breakfast, and Berry makes salsa their food comes from.’ from the tomatoes

serena berrY

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hen Larry Saltzman and Linda Buzzell-Saltzman moved into their Samarkand house 25 years ago, they started off by planting a few fruit trees. “One day, two people showed up who were heavily into permaculture and said, ‘Oh, you’re on your way to a food forest,’ ” Saltzman recalls. Permaculture gardens are designed to develop into selfsustaining ecosystems and focus on perennials — unlike traditional vegetable gardening, which requires planting, soil cultivation, and active management throughout the year.“You set up the site, set up rainwater harvesting. But it’s all designed to trigger off natural succession, where the garden develops a life of its own.” Saltzman and Buzzell-Saltzman’s food forest — originally an ancient Maya innovation — is designed to mimic a natural forest ecosystem, where plants build symbiotic relationships and grow in multiple layers, from canopy to ground cover and into the roots. On a third of an acre, they currently have about 125 fruit trees, including stone fruit, guava, pear, and citrus trees. They grow prickly pears, chaya (a leafy green also called Maya tree spinach), Surinam cherries, and pur‘… on your way to a food forest.’ ple tree collards. Despite its ancient origins, the forest still requires improvisation: Saltzman explains that there’s not much advice available for gardening in a Mediterranean climate like Santa Barbara’s. He’s learned to ignore conventional wisdom about plant spacing and chill hours, preferring to confer with fellow gardeners in similar climates. Permaculture “becomes about letting go of control. It’s a very non -Western idea.”  B

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Home & Garden | june 8, 2017 |

ith a few food scraps, a bit of brown waste, and a handful of worms, you, too, can become a backyard alchemist and turn this mish-mash of otherwise trash into “black gold” for the betterment of your garden — and the world. That’s not an exaggeration. Composting diverts literally tons of trash from landfills. Here in Santa Barbara, organic materials compose roughly 37 percent of our waste stream, and keeping things like yard trimmings, stale bread, and coffee grounds out of our dump saves space and cuts down on the release of methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than CO2 when it comes to global warming. Luckily for us, the Santa Barbara County government makes composting as easy as pie — a dark, rich, crumbly pie. Its backyard composting program has been around since the 1990s — much longer than those in other communities — and is headed by Sam Dickinson, who regularly hosts free public workshops and private how-tos for schools, church groups, and the like. His department also sells high-quality compost bins at half price, and on its website,, there is a quick-hit list of directions, recommendations, and resources. Mostly, people want to make compost to nourish their garden and plants. But more and more often, Dickinson said, he’s hearing from folks who want mainly to reduce their environmental impact. “I think that’s awesome,” he said. “It’s great the public is really catching onto that message.” If you make compost but have nowhere to put it, give it to a friend or neighbor, said Dickinson. They’ll thank you for it. DIY bins can be constructed with chicken wire or scrap wood. You can even just throw waste in a pile and cover it with a tarp. Ideally, the compost area should be at least three feet wide by three feet deep by three feet tall and be placed on an unpaved, flat, shady spot near a water source. Apartment dwellers can vermicompost with worms and plastic bins. Here are the general ingredients for a happy and healthy compost bin:

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In some of my gardens, I have welcomed volunteer seedlings from bedding plants such as lobelia, violas, alyssum, marigold, calendula, and false freesia (Freesia laxa), to name a few—especially when those plants have gone to seed and are yet to be deadheaded to remove spent flowers. Perennials such as milkweed (Asclepias curassavica), ruby grass (Melinis nerviglumis), sweet violet, rose campion (Lychnis coronaria), columbine, wild strawberry, Mediterranean spurge (Euphorbia characias), and lion’s tail (Leonotis leonurus) have shown up uninvited yet appreciated in gardens that I’ve cared for, as well. I’m always happy to see tomato seedlings show up unannounced when I’ve top-dressed my gareuPhorBiA chArAciAs den with homemade compost. None of these above mentioned plant-lets are especially invasive even when they appear in wholesale numbers. Most are easy to remove by selective weeding if they’re blocking a path or crowding out more desirable plants.

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adly, I remember only two things from my studies back in the day at the University of Arizona. The first, from my bug class, is that moths and butterflies belong to the insect order Lepidoptera. The other—which I thought flippant at the time— was told to us by my plant identification instructor on our first day of class: “Weeds are merely plants growing in the wrong places.” Although these are indeed impressive facts, they have never proved to impress at parties, gatherings, or other social situations and are difficult to incorporate into a conversation around the hummus and brie. However, when I’m at work in the dirt, I do often ponder the second one. melinis nerViGlumis Sometimes, what at first look like weeds coming up all over my garden turn out to be volunteer seedlings from existing or neighboring plants. This seems to be more of an occurrence when we have fall and winter rains or if I use overhead watering such as sprinklers instead of drip irrigation. But nonetheless, I try to remind myself to take a second look before yanking them out.

On the other hand, sometimes volunteers are not wanted in our landscapes, especially when they scatter seed and germinate in such large numbers that they escape from our gardens and crowd out native species. Fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum) for example, was and is sometimes still available for sale but is dangerously invasive in our area. All one has to do is take a drive up Foothill Road near Ontare Road in Santa Barbara to see how enthusiastically this ornamental grass reseeds and spreads. A trip to the nursery will almost always yield a suitable and attractive substitute for an invasive species.“Evergreen” fountain grass (Pennisetum ‘Fairy Tales’) is like “regular” fountain grass’s polite and well-behaved cousin. It doesn’t make a pest of itself and never, ever shows up uninvited. —Randy Arnowitz

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re you a gardener seeking to cut down on water bills, conserve precious reservoir water, and beautify your home? Consider visiting the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden’s (SBBG) new Water-Wise Home Garden, a drought-resistant plant panoply of colorful California natives. The garden surrounds the original caretaker’s cottage, a Sears Roebuck kit house constructed in 1926, adjacent SBBG’s nursery, where many of the plants on display may be taken home to make your own water-wise showpiece. SBBG staff researched 90 years of growing history to come up with the plants on display, said Flannery Hill, SBBG’s marketing and membership manager. A group of

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dr. steVe WindhAGer staff nurserymen and staff, including SBBG Horticulturist Bruce Reed and Executive Director Dr. Steve Windhager, consulted with area gardeners to come up with an “Easy 8”— a set of natives that play well with other plants (aesthetically and spatially) and are widely adaptable to a variety of Californian climates. It’s not a no-water garden, but it’s certainly a less-water garden. “We’re trying to convince people that you can have beauty and attract wildlife and save water without some of the challenges of other natives,” Hill said. Natives have other advantages, too, like attracting native pollinators. “We all want to move away from pesticides, and wildlife provides natural pest management,” she said. The more your garden resembles

Bruce reed a native ecosystem, the more it takes care of itself. “Lizards and birds eat the aphids and white flies. They work in concert. They’re a benefit to your vegetables.” Hill recommends putting your native plants in a rain-garden landscape — that is, a basin or series of basins designed to capture and filter rain from hard surfaces like driveways and roofs. Shape a sort of stream or depression en route to and through your garden, where it will drain rainwater into your soil instead of a gutter. As another water-wise step, the demonstration garden also boasts a storm-water collection tank, an effective way of conserving during the sometimes-scorching summer months. Lastly, growing native plants benefits local ecosystems by reducing the incidence of invasive species. Even plants from Northern California “have an infinitesimally [lower] chance of becoming a weed,” she said. She encourages gardeners to steer away from the usual showpieces and strive for specimens that are from our home state. “They’re a slice of California; they’re different; they’re unique — they’re ours.” —Richie DeMaria

Home & Garden | june 8, 2017 |

ine rings on a wooden table,” Julie Pointer Adams says, describing the concept of wabi-sabi, of the beautiful imperfections that inspired her recent book, Wabi-Sabi Welcome. My inner perfectionist immediately cringes at the thought of tarnished furniture finish. It is no secret that many of us like to keep our surfaces pristine, especially when it comes to inviting others into our homes. We spend hours preparing, cleaning, hoping to efface the traces of everyday life that have naturally left their unwelcome marks. But Adams understands the mind of the perfectionist perhaps better than most, which is why she felt compelled to write Wabi-Sabi Welcome, a radical reimagining of the way we conceive of “perfection” when it comes to hosting events, decorating our homes, and designing our lifestyles. For Adams, it is precisely our fear of those wine rings, of imperfections, that holds us back. She continues: “Wabi-sabi is not just an aesthetic. It is not just about that imperfect, used quality. It is also more generally a way of life and thinking about things. It’s about finding beauty everywhere you go, not just how we do in the Western world.” In her book, Adams invites us on a journey to experience the many facets of beauty in hosting and in living. She takes us on an intimate tour to discover the humility and hospitality inside Japanese abodes, the minimalism and pragmatism of the Danish home, the warmth of the Californian lifestyle, the rustic living in France, and the sensory and sensual appeal of Italian life. By the time we’ve ventured through the pages of Wabi-Sabi Welcome, it’s difficult to remember why we ever imagined only a single ideal in the art of hosting and living. “Even though wabi-sabi is a Japanese concept,” Adams explains, “it does transcend that culture, and people everywhere practice it. Different cultures exercise it in different ways. I wanted to share this idea, this aesthetic that can be active in everything for all people everywhere.” Adams stumbled upon the concept of wabi-sabi following a traumatic event that would forever change her relationship to objects and her general outlook on life. When her family’s home burned down, all that remained were her relationships —no things. “Losing everything that has importance to you is so dramatic,” she says.“I realized I don’t actually have control over everything in my life. Because of that experience, I had to reconfigure in my mind how I think about things. I love things, but they are not the most important. They’re more about making people feel welcome. It’s better to let people into the messiness of your life instead of waiting for stuff to get perfect and missing out.” Julie Pointer Adams will celebrate the release of Wabi-Sabi Welcome and kick off her book tour on Tuesday, June 13, at the Mission Rose Garden (420 Plaza Rubio). For more info, see — Olivia Nemec

wATer-wise wAys

paul wellman file photos





Santa Babara Independent Home and Garden Guide, 06/08/17  

Special Section, Home and Garden Guide

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