East Valley

Montecito Estate Restoration: The Landscape Design Challenge

This historic Montecito estate built in the 1920's has a garden originally designed by Florence Yoch, a landscape architect of renown who also designed the set of the film Gone With The Wind. Margie Grace was brought in to restore the design's original intent, and to refresh and modernize the plantings, using plants that are historically accurate wherever possible.

Site Challenges

Gardens age and need continual maintenance, and this Montecito Estate is no exception. The estate had been segmented into multiple properties mid-century, so there were some loose ends where property lines had become awkward. A "steps to nowhere" feature remained in the truncated portion of the garden left on the estate.

The Starting Line-up

In addition to the site's challenges, the hardscape had deteriorated over time. A new irrigation system was needed, and evidence of modern technology (wires, electricity boxes, motors) had to be concealed. A descendent of Yoch, James Yoch, visited and weighed in with his suggestions for the garden's restoration.

Design Approach

Margie transformed the "steps to nowhere" into a decorative archeological artifact leading to a charming secret garden with a bench. Adjacent to the tea house, Grace designed a new open-air pergola that matches the teahouse architecture, providing sufficient seating for family and friends.

On the south side of the house, there was once a magnificent, unobstructed panoramic view of the coastline and Channel Islands. The roofline of a recently built house on the adjacent property encroached on the view. Margie's solution was to terrace the area, install an arbor to screen the house that was poking into the view while preserving the remaining portion of the view for the homeowners. Climbing Iceberg Rose arches are underpinned by a decomposed granite walk and help punctuate the magnificent mountain scenery beyond.

The Garden's Features:

  • The finished restoration is a modernized, highly usable garden for an active young family that still honors and celebrates Yoch's original vision.
  • A chicken run with an architecturally appropriate coop is soon to come in the coastline lookout area.
  • The urns with juniper bonsai plantings from Florence Yoch's original design were revived and sculpted.
  • Bear's Breeches grows under native oaks, punctuating the strong lines of Yoch's original stonework and providing a cool, shaded corner for respite. Throughout, color and plants harking back to simpler times abound. Florence Yoch would be pleased!