The third day of our road trip began in Santa Barbara – a place that we are both very familiar with. However, our goal for this day was to do a combination of things; some which we had done before while also taking part in some new experiences.
The first outing on our itinerary was to visit the Santa Barbara Mission, which is also known as the “Queen of the California Missions.”
As you can see, it is quite large and very beautiful. But, before entering the mission, the rose garden that lay across the street was in full bloom and was calling to me. For those who have been reading this blog for a while, you have undoubtedly seen me writing about the rose garden.
The rose beds were encircled by large expanses of grass, where you can see dogs chasing after the balls, frisbees being thrown and picnic blankets set out.
In April, all the roses were at the peak bloom, and the air was perfumed with their fragrance.
This bed was created with three different roses with different heights.
I’m sorry that I can’t tell you what each type of roses these are, because they weren’t labeled.
My mother liked the multi-colored roses best, like the Mardi Gras, pictured above.
After getting our fill with lovely roses, we walked up toward the mission.
The sounds of water from the Moorish Fountain along with the scents of the roses and the beauty of the mission building itself is the reason that I make a stop here every time I am in Santa Barbara.
The mission was built in 1786, and it is still a working church. All of the 21 California Missions were built to help convert the native Americans to Christianity. The history of these missions is well know to every child in California as it is an integral part of the state’s history.
For our visit today, we decided to take the self-guided tour.
This is the ‘lavanderia’, which was built in 1808 by the Chumash Indians of the Santa Barbara mission village. It is the wash basin where the Indian women did the laundry. The clothes were washed in the basin and then scrubbed and laid out to dry along the sloped sides.
At the end of the lavanderia is the head of a mountain lion that was carved by a Chumash Indian. It is thought to the be the oldest, public stone sculpture in California.
A flowering Dasylirion quadrangulatum.
The interior courtyard was filled with areas of grass, majestic palm trees, flowering perennials and a smattering of succulents.
Walking through the courtyard garden, you experience a feeling of serenity and the stresses of the day just melted away – so what if I had to submit a lengthy magazine article in less than 24 hours to my editor?
The cemetery was filled with old graves from the late 1700’s all the way to the early 1900’s. The Indian girl from the book, “Island of the Blue Dolphins”, who was found on the islands just off the coast of California, is buried on the mission grounds in an unmarked grave.
This shaded pathway ran along the side of the cemetery.
In the center of the grassy area, was a huge Moreton Bay fig tree from Australia, that was planted in 1890.
After leaving the outdoor areas, we walked through the church just as a wedding was almost ready to start.
As we walked out, I was reminded about why I love to visit this special place.
Have you ever visited a California Mission? There are 21 located along the California coast from San Diego to San Francisco. I’ve seen several, and will visit a few others on this trip, which I’ll share with you.
Now for the second part of our day…
Casa del Herrero is an historic mansion located in Montecito, which is a small town located next to Santa Barbara.
This Spanish Colonial style home was built in 1925 and is still largely the same, indoors and outdoors making it a wonderful example of the style of the 1920’s period.
A purple trumpet vine crawls up the side of the front entry.
This was the home of the Steedman family who came from St. Louis. They made the decision to build their second home in Santa Barbara (Montecito). Mr. Steedman was a engineering graduate of Harvard and owned a munitions plant that was instrumental during WW I.
After retiring, he began silversmithing and working with other metals, earning him the name “the blacksmith”. His workshop is filled with countless tools, meticulously arranged. There areseveral of his inventions still in the workshop that he had patented.
Bright red geraniums hang from the window, peeking through the rejas (decorative iron work covering the window).
Tours of the estate are by reservation only and small groups are led by docents at a pre-arranged time. The tour begins in the home where no photography is allowed. Then it moves to the garden and finally the workshop. As you can probably guess, I was mostly interested in seeing the garden.
Numerous examples of creative metal work could be seen both inside and outside the house.
The tour begins in the house. Photographs were allowed outside but not indoors. I did really like the windows, which were covered with decorative metal iron, which is characteristic of the Spanish Colonial Revival style. Another feature of this style is that window aren’t symmetrical – they are asymmetrical and occur wherever a window is needed for light or to open up a view.
The style of Santa Barbara (and Montecito) is the Spanish Colonial Revival style and I was very excited to see some great architectural examples as well as in the landscape design.
This view from the downstairs of the house shows a brightly-colored Spanish tiles. The refreshing sound of water made me yearn to go outside.
At this point, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the inside tour.
When it was time to go outdoors, I tried to stay toward the front, without being obnoxious so that I could get pictures of the garden without people turning up in them – I think that I mostly succeeded 😉
This slightly raised area is backed by a ‘foot fountain’ where you can cool off your feet in the shallow basin – I’d love something like that in my garden, wouldn’t you?
In this area of the garden, plants with white blooms were added at the request of the owners. They liked to take a strolls at night and without outdoor lights, could still see where they were walking due to the way white blooms appear to ‘glow’ at night.
White bearded iris
Calla (Arum) lilies
Here is the rose garden, which was filled with tree roses enclosed in sharply pruned boxwood shrubs. Not really my style, but they were nice.
This other section of the garden starts with a unique water feature.
As with all Spanish Colonial Revival design, there are Moorish influences as is shown with this eight-pointed star-shaped fountain.
From an upper window, you can see how the star fits into the larger landscape. I loved this part of the garden as your eye looks beyond the star toward what lies beyond.
A grassy space lined with star jasmine, trained as shrubs lead toward another water fountain and a gate at the very end.
It is so fun discovering what lies beyond as you walk closer.
I don’t know about you, but I really want to know what lies beyond the little gate.
Standing at the gate, you see an area that has been allowed to remain natural except for the Spanish tiled structure. Evidently, the grandchildren of the originally owners would have campouts in this area and the servants would haul out cots, sheets and blankets for the kids. I know that my kids would love to have done something like this.
Adding to the intrigue of this more natural area is a huge dragon tree (Dracaena draco), which adds intrigue and interest to this area.
Semi-circular steps lead you back up toward to the back of the house.
A shady seating area is covered with lovely tiles. I think that this would be a really great option for a decorative patio.
Continuing toward the house, a narrow water feature runs down a few steps before draining into a basin covered in blue and yellow tiles.
Like most estates of the time, Casa del Herrero had a kitchen garden as well as an orchard.
Near the workshop, was a ‘runnel’, which ran along the wall. This is another feature found in Spanish Colonial style. They are often made from clay tiles and help channel rain water from the roof to a basin where it can be stored until needed – it’s like a Spanish version of a rain barrel.
We ended the garden part of the tour at the colorful potting bench of Mrs. Steedman. It was covered in Spanish tiles and the bottom wooden portion was actually a ‘lazy Susan’ as it could be turned, revealing a shelf containing gardening implements.
The tour lasted exactly 90 minutes and was very educational and interesting. I was inspired by many different elements in the gardens as well.
If you would like a chance to visit this special place, you can find out more information here.
After a busy day, we headed back up to my aunt’s house in Santa Barbara and had a lovely dinner with my aunt, uncle and cousin, who stopped by to see us.
All in all, a great day!Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a author, horticulturist, 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."