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GARDEN EVENTS : 3 Programs Guide You With Greening of Your Garden : Tours and a symposium will cover all kinds of planting, as well as an upper-class neighborhood of well-groomed yards.


For the green-thumbed, the greenback-enriched or those just green with envy over their neighbor's yards, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden and Horticulture magazine are offering a variety of botanical distractions this weekend.

The events are a bit pricey, but the level of horticultural expertise is unsurpassed.

On Friday, it's an all-day bus trip in search of "Perennials in the Wild," some of which are happy together inside the gates of the sprawling and usually unapproachable Vandenberg Air Force Base.

At a UC Santa Barbara symposium Saturday, an all-star lineup of golden-tongued green thumbs will discuss "The Art of the Mixed Border."

On Sunday, two bus tours will survey rich people's gardens in Montecito.

Carol Bornstein, director of horticulture at the Botanic Garden, will lead the Friday tour. Plants such as dudleya, dendromecon, golden yarrow, ceanothus, mimulus, penstemon, salvia and sand verbena will provide reason to bring that camera.

"There are still quite a few flowers, since, as you know, it's been a very cool spring," said Bornstein. "There are some plants that are unique to that area, but mainly, it's an opportunity you don't often get [to see flowers] with someone who knows the plants. You can see how nature uses these plants in the wild, which helps you to use native plants in your own landscaping. We expect a lot of the people on the tour will be gardeners."

After the Air Force mission, it's on to one of the real missions, La Purisima Mission in Lompoc, a site with plants that are perhaps older than some of the tour takers.

"This is the most reconstructed of the missions," Bornstein said, "and you will get to see a slice of history and also a bunch of native plants that were planted a long time ago and have persisted with little or no care--all interspersed between some truly beautiful buildings. Then, time permitting, we'll go to Sage Hill off Paradise Road where there is a really nice nature trail."

The Saturday event at UCSB's Broida Hall will be an all-day symposium dealing with a mixed border, "a kind of a garden style where you have woody and herbaceous perennials that are usually planted in long rows or in island beds designed to offer a colorful display throughout the growing season, which in Southern California, is twelve months," Bornstein said. "It will teach people the appropriate garden style using native plants that save water."

If a weed is just a plant out of place, then you'll find out what goes where, and when, from a number of well-known plant people including Shirley Kerins, president of Southern California Horticultural Society and noted Northern California garden designer Sarah Hammond.

Since most plants are varying shades of green, Hammond's discourse on "Silver and Simplicity" may be of interest to the color conscious. The "silver" does not refer to the price of the seminar nor to the common dusty miller.

"No, I don't even like dusty millers, so I won't be talking about those," Hammond said, "but I will be showing slides of silver and gray plants and how to use them, a few of which will be species of artemisia and ompholodes, which sort of looks like a white annual forget-me-not."

Native plants, and especially plants tolerant to drought, are especially relevant to our climate of cool, wet winters and warm, dry summers. Only a few spots on Earth have such weather: the Mediterranean, Chile, western Australia and parts of South Africa. And few of those spots face such relentless growth pressures and attendant water shortages as we do, a topic discussed in "The Art of the Water-Wise Border" by Owen Dell, Santa Barbara landscape architect and designer.

"I will be giving a slide lecture of pretty gardens, and I'll be bragging about my work," Dell said. "The underlying theme, I suppose, is what landscaping is, and how to use it right. Although water is not a hot issue now, it will be again, and I'll discuss the use of water-conscious plants that don't need a lot of water.

"I'll talk about what we now call 'sustainable landscapes' that basically take care of themselves. Since the drought in 1988-'89, a number of local nurseries have been introducing a tremendous number of new plant varieties, some of which are natives."

Suffice to say, the plants Dell recommends are not the 30 or 40 basic landscape plants used on about every commercial job during the last 20 years, nor will he be quoted soon in any sod grower's brochure.

"Some plants I like to use include the coast live oak, toyons, a number of sages, our own Matilija poppy, ceanothus, penstemons and a lot of grasses, which are becoming very trendy now. Some of the grasses are not native and become invasive, so I recommend using native grasses because if they go out of control, that's good.

"We're seeing fewer front lawns now because they are consumptive, useless and sterile, and they cause a lot of pollution problems because they must be sprayed and mowed. A lot of them are becoming mixed borders."

The Sunday expedition will entail two separate tours of Montecito, where gardens, gardening and gardeners are affordable. Each excursion will visit four theme gardens.


* FYI: The events cost between $79 and $119, with better deals available for starving students. For reservations and more information, call the Botanic Garden at 682-4726.

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