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Landscape Design

Landscape Design in Santa Barbara

Professional landscaping tips for Santa Barbara County

  • The plants shown here are thriving because the soil was carefully prepared before planting to provide the best possible environment.
  • The plants surrounding this bocce court are watered with an efficient drip irrigation system hidden beneath the mulch.
  • These plants are spaced far enough apart to allow for future growth.
  • An outdoor kitchen, no matter the size, is a must-have in Santa Barbara’s agreeable climate.
  • Fire pits are also popular outdoor living additions.
  • The materials used for this driveway nicely complement the home’s architecture.
  • Decomposed granite paths are popular in Santa Barbara.
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Santa Barbara is an area known for its beauty and style. Take a stroll down State Street, and you’ll see traditional Spanish-style architecture, people lounging on benches or enjoying a meal outdoors, tall trees lining the sidewalk, numerous fashionable boutiques and of course the ocean. It’s no wonder the area is also on the cutting edge of landscape design trends.

For more than forty years, Down to Earth Landscapes, Inc. has been helping homeowners in Santa Barbara and along the central coast design, install and maintain superior landscapes. Led by Bruce Koehler, the company prides itself on creating exceptional outdoor living spaces that combine aesthetics and sustainability. Below are Bruce’s tips for Santa Barbara homeowners who are ready to start a landscaping project.


  • Do get to know your soil.
    In Santa Barbara there are four types of soil: Monterey shale, clay, sand and sandy loam. Each of these comes with its benefits and downfalls. For example, sandy soil drains quickly, which is good for plants like succulents, but it is also extremely vulnerable to wind and water erosion. To start your landscape off well, you should have the soil tested and amended according to its type.
  • Do install water efficient irrigation.
    Water is like gold in Santa Barbara, use it wisely. We recommend water-wise irrigation systems that are designed to reduce wasteful runoff, while still providing enough water to keep plants healthy. Recently, technical advancements have been made that can help you cut back on water use. Devices are available that measure rain and sense moisture and turn your sprinklers on or off depending on the circumstances.
  • Do light your landscape.
    Because evenings are so pleasant in Santa Barbara, many homeowners like to spend time outdoors after dark. Installing quality landscape lighting addresses two issues: safety and ambiance. For safety you need to light paths, steps and other high traffic areas. For ambiance you should light elements such as fountains or specimen trees and plants. Moonlighting is a popular mood-setting technique we use where fixtures are installed high in trees to provide light that is filtered through the branches.
  • Do hire a licensed landscape contractor.
    To be licensed as a landscaping contractor in the state of California certain professional requirements must be met. The licensing system helps protect homeowners and keeps contractors honest. A licensed company takes on the liability for the work, while an unlicensed one leaves the liability with the homeowners. Additionally, our customers appreciate our ability to obtain building permits on their behalf. This is a service that an unlicensed contractor cannot provide.


  • Don’t hire a gardener to install your landscape.
    Many homeowners in Santa Barbara hire a gardener to do the work of a contractor because the price is so much more reasonable. However, there is a difference between someone who knows how to maintain your lawn and planters and someone who is trained in hardscape and lighting installation and has extensive horticultural knowledge. We often get called out to properties where hardscapes, lighting and plants were installed improperly and need to be repaired or redone entirely. In such cases the homeowner ends up paying for the work twice.
  • Don’t over plant.
    Many Santa Barbarans want their property to be instantly lush. As a result, they select plants that are too big and place them too close together. While this planting design approach leads to a garden that looks great for the first few months, eventually the plants will outgrow their available space, become crowded and possibly even need to be pulled out. The key to having a lush garden is preparation and patience. When plants are installed correctly in healthy soil you will begin to see them filling in, blooming and possibly even producing fruit within six months to a year.
  • Don’t forget an outdoor kitchen.
    Since we are right on the coast, we have the ideal climate for outdoor entertaining. An outdoor kitchen is the perfect addition for those who want to spend time outdoors with friends and family. You can have just a simple barbeque and counter installed or you can opt for a fully loaded design with options such as sideburners, warming drawers, wine coolers and more.
  • Don’t skimp on landscape materials.
    Hand-selecting materials for your landscape will ensure that what you get is high-quality. The first thing to consider when picking materials is the architecture of your home. Your patios, walls and other elements should tie in with the exterior of your home and look as if they have always been there. We frequently use natural stone because it complements the Santa Barbara environment. Cherokee Creek flagstone and Santa Barbara sandstone are two types we like. Decomposed granite is also a popular choice for paths.

Down to Earth Landscapes
Santa Barbara, CA

Contributing Author:

Sarah Hutchinson, contributing writer for Landscaping Network

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