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Horticulturally Ever After

He Runs a Nursery, She Designs Gardens and, Together, Their Love of Plants Grows

July 19, 1998|SUSAN HEEGER

Two people meet at a garden party. After losing touch, they reconnect at a lecture--on xeriscape. When they marry, they visit gardens for their honeymoon. When they settle down, it's on the grounds of a nursery. How does a couple so in love get a break from the object of their affections?

"We don't," says Heide Baldwin. "Over dinner, we have to talk about plants!"

One of Santa Barbara's most respected landscape architects, Heide is married to Randy Baldwin, part-owner and general manager of one of the Southland's most prominent nurseries, San Marcos Growers. He seeks out and grows some of the most interesting flora for California landscapes; she puts it in gardens that represent some of our region's best design.

The Baldwins came to their metiers indirectly. Heide grew up in Palos Verdes and studied painting and architecture before deciding on landscape architecture, which, she says, incorporates the best of both. In 1982, after getting a degree from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, she began work for a series of designers, including the legendary Isabelle Greene. In 1989, a year before her marriage, she opened her own residential design firm.

Randy, who hails from Pasadena, had early passions for photography and environmental studies, his major at UC Santa Barbara. But before graduating, he took a class in field botany that left him "awed by California flora." In 1981, he went to work for San Marcos, a fledgling wholesale nursery specializing in unusual trees. Under Baldwin, the nursery has expanded to include native and Mediterranean plants, with some of the largest selections of flax, phlomis, ornamental grasses and sedges in the United States. Aquatic plants, cannas and bamboos are other specialties, and so, Randy jokes, are "kid-proof plants." In 1995, the Baldwins, who live in a cottage adjoining the nursery, had their first child, Laura, now 21/2. Their second is due in December.

Despite these new developments, they never forget what brought them together in the first place. Often, Heide says, they seek each other's opinions: "I tell him what plants gardeners want, and he tells me what the plants want."

"Sometimes," Randy adds, "she even listens to my advice!"


Though San Marcos Growers is a wholesale operation, gardeners can visit its Web site at for information on the plants they carry, many of which can be ordered through retail nurseries.

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