Santa Barbara · Montecito · Ojai · Malibu · Ventura · Pasadena
Mountain Drive
Montecito, California
"This steep hillside property had many challenges: fire exposure, drainage, and rocky terrain. While addressing these issues, our client wanted a profusion of year round color that integrated the garden with the Mediterranean architecture of the home." Leland Walmsley


Carved into the hill of this secluded 6 acre estate is an impressive Italianate villa. From almost anywhere are breathtaking views of the Santa Barbara coastline all the way to Malibu.

The inherent splendor includes a meandering, year round creek and sycamore filled canyon teaming with wildlife.

Essential to the overall design was to support and punctuate these elements.

This area is very fire prone with millions of dollars worth of ancient oaks showing evidence of fire from events past.

Foremost, creating defensible space with complementary plantings to minimize fire exposure was addressed in a very “invisible” manner so as to look very naturalistic to the entire design.

The drainage challenge created an opportunity to design in a series of bioswales using natives that mimick the look of naturally occurring creeks. Now erosion is greatly minimized with a pleasing ribbon-like effect flanking the long and winding driveway leading up to the house.

Drought tolerant Australian and South African plants accent and work well with the natives and succulents we brought in; together, these evoke a fresh and blooming Mediterranean feel.

Sustainability Highlights

  • Use of neighbor’s unwanted rocks. Cost = free + consistent with local native look. (Used for benches, paths and part of the pool.)
  • Irrigation is well water, not chlorinated city water – better for plants.
  • Because the drainage transitions to local watersheds, we were sure to institute the use of non-toxics – herbicides, fertilizers, soil amendments, etc.
  • Zoned ‘smart’ irrigation for precise watering
  • Use of succulents, natives, and South African plants with low water needs and pest and disease resistance
  • Liberal use of mulch for weed control, retains soil moisture to reduce the drying effect of the sundowner winds, reduces maintenance costs, and revitalizes the soil as it breaks down.
  • “Warm” LED low wattage lighting uses 1/10 the energy of traditional lighting & compliant with “Dark Skies Initiative” (light pollution)
  • Addressing fire zone issues and creating “defensible space” helps lessen the risk of fire damage and its spread while aiding first responders for access and safety.
  • Local vendors, contractors and craftsmen employed