Editor's Note

Back to the Garden

By Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer

Photo by Michael Moore


nice, wet winter was just what Ventura County needed. A decent infusion for our water table. Enough moisture for vegetation to grow on charred hillsides. The scent of rain instead of smoke in the air. It feels like a fresh, clean start. My thanks to the atmospheric river.

Winter’s chill is starting to lift, too, and with grass and flowers popping up all over, cabin fever is giving way to spring fever — which is why this season’s Home and Garden issue is a little heavier on the “garden” this time around. We just couldn’t help ourselves; the outdoors are calling.

The beautiful landscape of Ojai’s east end has been the chief inspiration for Ross Anderson and Patricia Teague Anderson (Nesting). In creating their smart, modern, self-described “shack,” Ross, a renowned architect, followed his own credo: “Buy the biggest piece of property [you] can afford and build the smallest house [you] can.” The design is so intelligent that it feels much larger than its footprint . . . but the real emphasis is on its 1.25 acres. And there are so many ways to enjoy that land: a bocce ball court, a pool, an outdoor stone fireplace, a table long enough to seat 30 or more people and beautiful yet drought-resistant plants all around.

Some of us look for ways to get back to the land. Horticulturalist Jo O’Connell (Cover Story) never really left it. The Sydney transplant has spent a lifetime tending to growing things, and she brought her love for plants (and her country’s endemic flora) to California, opening up the gorgeous growing grounds of Australian Native Plants in Casitas Springs. Australia, like California, is plagued by frequent droughts and raging wildfires, and those acacias, banksia and mat-rushes have a way of weathering such difficult conditions — making them a great choice for local landscapes. It’s a good thing, too, because the Thomas Fire raged through her property. Nurturing her stricken plants back to health, she has wisdom to share about survival, re-emergence and being prepared.

The call of the wild took us beyond our county borders as well, as we explored some of the most glorious botanical gardens found in Southern California (About Town). With vibrant blooms, sparkling fountains and artful accents all around, these are open-air Wonderlands for which many a garden lover would happily fall down a rabbit hole. But fear not — a short drive, a hat and some good walking shoes are all that are required.

Southern California was lucky to get so much precipitation this year. No, it isn’t going to end the drought, but it is fueling a splendid spring . . . and now is the time to enjoy it. Gather ye rosebuds, stop to smell the flowers, seize the day — pick your cliché and head out into the garden of earthly delights that awaits.


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