Last weekend, our family loaded our suitcases into the car and headed out to Southern California to visit my second-oldest daughter, Rachele, who is stationed there at a Navy base.


I was excited to see Rachele, but also to visit that part of California since it is near where I grew up and also where I met my husband while attending college.


On Saturday morning, we left our younger kids with Rachele and ventured up into the hills outside of Santa Barbara in order to visit our college.



Westmont College is located on side of the mountains in the small town of Montecito.

Most people haven’t heard of Westmont.  It is a small Christian, liberal arts college with an enrollment of 1,200.


The college is set among beautiful gardens that echo the Spanish/Mediterranean style.


Believe it or not, I was not interested in the gardens or plants when I attended Westmont.  I was more focused on having fun, dating and passing my classes.  At the time, I was decidedly “undecided” in what I wanted to major in.




I spent 2 years at Westmont before I got married and moved to Arizona.


Now, whenever I am visiting Santa Barbara, I like to take time to visit the beautiful gardens of my former alma mater.


I’d love to take you on a little tour of my favorite spots and share some memories…




This is the main administration building, which used to be the mansion that stood on this estate.


This is where my husband and I met.  We both had part-time jobs in adjoining offices and I thought he was awfully cute and nice.

My favorite part of the building was the courtyard outside with its fountain.


I love the detail of the water fountain.


Years ago, I posed for this photo with my friend, Mary by the same fountain.

I love the look of stone finials, don’t you?


It may have been the end of December, but there were still blooms to be seen like this pink azalea and the hibiscus, below…


I couldn’t help but think of those whose gardens are frozen and/or covered in snow right now.  The Mediterranean climate is truly wonderful – this area rarely experiences temps below freezing.


An old bougainvillea grew up among the stair railing.


I can only imagine how old this bougainvillea is.


I love garden gates, don’t you?


Especially when you notice the detail.

While the converted mansion and its surroundings were beautiful, the college has its share of plain, boring dormitories.


This was my freshmen dorm where I lived on the third floor.  The dormitory looked much the same as when I attended except that there were video cameras and electronic door locks with card readers.

While the dorm wasn’t too impressive, the view from my room was…


I could see the ocean and the Channel Islands from my window.


Up above the dorm, on the mountainside was an old tea garden that was part of a large estate.  Students would climb up and explore the ruins.


As we left the dorm, we walked along the path lined with Simplicity roses toward a building where I must admit that I did NOT spend much time…




This is the large boulder located by the library.  Students could be found sitting on top studying or catching some rays.


There was a Chaparral Sage (Salvia clevelandii) flowering next to the boulder.  This shrub can be grown in the desert, if given some afternoon shade.


I hope you have enjoyed the tour so far.  


Next time, I will show you the small chapel nestled within the trees, a small pond, a stunning garden filled with flowers and the area that was burned in a large wildfire a couple of years ago.

Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a horticulturist, certified arborist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."

4 replies
  1. RobinL
    RobinL says:

    Such a charming story, and a beautiful campus! I also met my husband at college, and we love to go there on visits to see how it has grown and changed.

    Reply

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