This Way to the Orchid Trail

Orchid Trail, American Riviera MediaOrchids are an exotic and fascinating species, with a lavishly colorful array of flowers in bloom in Santa Barbara County. Along with being the home of the renowned Santa Barbara International Orchid Show (scheduled to be back in-person for the 76th annual festivities on March 11-13, 2022), the region between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean has seeded an industry that produces more orchids than any other part of the country. This stretch of the American Riviera is known as the Santa Barbara County Orchid Trail, and there is no better way to traverse the region and discover it for yourself.

Cal-Orchid Inc. Orchid Trail, American Riviera Media

James and Lauris Rose have owned this boutique nursery since 1987, and its diverse inventory reflects their keen eye for the unusual. “We have an insatiable desire to improve on what people generally see in the marketplace,” says Lauris. Known for their unique line of Epidendrum hybrids, particularly the Reed-Stem Epidendrum hybrids, Cal-Orchid’s breeding program focuses on “taking something that’s average and making it very special is a passion for us.” she says.

1251 Orchid Drive, Santa Barbara, 805/967-1312, www.calorchid.com

Gallup & Stribling Orchids

A premier supplier of orchids to the world for more than 60 years, Gallup & Stribling’s home farm occupies close to 50 acres in Carpinteria. Now owned by the Van Wingerden family, who emigrated from Holland to the Central Coast in the 1960s to bring generations of farming knowledge to the area’s cut flower industry, Owner Case Van Wingerden says they have diversified their holdings over the years to include orchids and cannabis, as well as a variety of fresh produce that is available for sale on-site. “Gallup is probably the last commercial Cymbidium orchid grower left in the county.” he says. They also offer a wide selection of Phalaenopsis (the biggest selling orchid in the country) as well as Galilea Orchids and Lady Slippers.

3450 Via Real, Carpinteria, 805/684-1998, www.gallup-stribling.com

Orchid Trail, American Riviera MediaWesterlay Orchids

A third-generation family business with Dutch roots, Westerlay Orchids specializes in Phalaenopsis in tons of beautiful colors, says Paige Harmon, who manages the retail shop of this 21-acre operation. As restrictions on gathering begin to lift, keep an eye out for announcements of in-person flower arranging and orchid care classes. Growing approximately three million orchids a year, Westerlay puts an emphasis on giving back to the community as well as on sustainable practices. Using innovative, environmentally-friendly technologies and systems have earned it an MPS “A” rating for best practices to minimize its impact on the planet.

3504 Calle Real, Carpinteria, 805/684-5411, www.westerlayorchids.com

Ambriz Kingdom of Plants

The newest grower on the trail, Ambriz Kingdom of Plants’ Owner Joe Ambriz mostly focused on the crowds at the Santa Barbara International Orchid Show and some wholesaling to local nurseries until the pandemic hit last year. Now open to the public, his greenhouses focus on Lalias Anceps and Cattleyas and generally temperature tolerant orchids, i.e. “ones we can grow outdoors here in our climate.” As a self-avowed “lover of the entire kingdom of plants,” in addition to a collection of rare and unusual orchids, Ambriz also has rare and unusual cactus succulents and South African plants for sale.

4998 Foothill Road, Carpinteria, 805/570-5792, www.facebook.com/ambrizkingdomofplants/

This story originally appeared in American Riviera Media.American Riviera Media, Fall 2021

Stimulating Senses to Stimulate Wellness at Villa Alamar and Alexander Gardens

An innovative sensory stimulation program — involving nature, scents, sounds, and colors to constantly provide pleasant sensory stimuli that promote wellness — helps assisted-living and memory-care residents at Villa Alamar (villaalamar.com) and Alexander Gardens (alexandergardensal.com) maintain their high spirits and positive outlook.

Developed by owner/partner/administrator Mitch Leichter, this Sensory Integration Program for the Advanced Stages of Dementia is seeing great success.

“Our staff is consistently engaging the residents in a proactive manner, where in the past it was reactive,” reported Leichter. “The staff has learned how to interpret body language
from nonverbal residents and have implemented appropriate reminiscent and redirection opportunities predicated on sensor stimuli criteria. In many incidents, an increase in medication has not been needed for some residents experiencing behavioral situations, and in other cases, medications have actually been decreased.”

Leichter explained more about the program to me below, and what follows is a portion of our conversation, edited for clarity and length.

Do you use the sensory integration techniques for both memory-care and senior assisted-living patients? We’ve really focused a lot on Villa Alamar, which is our memory care. It’s a translucent theory that can apply to anyone, but I’ve had more success in the implementation with memory-care dementia residents in the years
that I’ve rolled it out. This is really nice to see the effect.

What are some of the different impacts with people in memory care? The whole focus of sensory integrations is to rethink traditional care. If you try to create a traditional
activity program with a resident that has dementia, you’re making poor assumptions. You can’t assume they are cognitively able to do it, for example, if you say “move right; stand
up; sit down.” We have a huge, beautiful courtyard at Villa Alamar, and we let nature be our program. We have wind chimes, bird feeders, fountains, gardens, our furniture is multicolored for sensory pickup, and we also have classical music playing. The theory is you want to create a Zen moment for your dementia residents. If Mrs. Johnson is sitting down by the fountain and she’s watching the birds eating out of the bird feeder, you want to create that Zen moment, and then you want to perpetuate it. Even at lunch time. Rather than stop her from getting in the moment, we work together, and we allow that moment to perpetuate. And we’ll bring lunch to her and not upset what we tried to do to begin with.

By doing that, we can decrease the behavioral medication, because we’re not moving them around. The staff has been taught to be part of the program, not depart from the program. We let nature do the work, and it’s just magnificent.

That sounds like a very humane approach. Does it help everyone? I have incredible employee retention across both of my properties. Because if you walk into a place that smells good and sounds good and looks good, and the staff realizes that I’m not a corporation — we’re independently owned — they know that we’re focusing on a wellness program. And it’s not just a wellness program for residents; it’s a wellness program for the employees as well. And it works.

It’s the same philosophy in a different situation that we use with the residents, and also when the families come in. It basically slows your cadence down. It slows your heart
rate down, it slows you down, and that’s the whole theory of sensory integration. The term I use is “holistic modalities,” and the fact is that we can reduce the amount of behavioral medications by modifying our program. It works wonders.

Is there anything else we should know? When a family has to place a loved one in memory care or assisted living, there’s a lot of guilt and anxiety. Our job is to provide the
sensory integration approach so that they can calm down and also feel good about their choice. It’s been remarkable at both of our properties — we get the comments all the time. “What’s that smell?” And “Oh my gosh, look at that bird feeder, and that wind chime sounds magnificent. When can I move in?” So I hear that and I’m thinking, “Okay, good, it’s working.” [Laughs.] We want to be holistic in our approach and not force medication onto anybody unnecessarily.

See villaalamar.com and alexandergardensal.com.

Originally published in The Santa Barbara Independent on August 12, 2021. Cover photo by Erick Madrid. To read this special section as it originally appeared in print, click here.

Public Gardens for Private Inspiration

Public Gardens for Private Inspiration, originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on May 20, 2021.

NATIVE PLANTS AND WATER WISDOM
If you’re looking for ways to be water savvy at home, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden’s Water Wise Home Garden section (sbbg.org) is the place to go. This small-scale, realistic setting shows off easy-growing, beautiful California native trees, shrubs, and plants that are drought-tolerant wildlife habitats. An excellent selection of natives is available for purchase at the on-site Nursery, which helps to support the work of this valuable nonprofit.
1212 Mission Canyon Rd.

CHUMASH INSPIRATION
The Chumash Point Ethnobotanical Preserve on Santa Barbara City College’s East Campus (sbcc.edu/environmentalhorticulture) is a practical lab for the school’s
environmental horticulture students, as well as a great resource for locals to get a
peek at a garden that emphasizes native plants that have medicinal, nutritional, and
spiritual importance to the Chumash. 721 Cliff Dr.

COMING UP ROSES
If you’re looking to create your own rose garden, the A.C. Postel Memorial Rose
Garden across from the Santa Barbara Mission is a wonderful source of inspiration.
More than 1,500 rose plants in every possible hue are usually in bloom between April
and November, making these carefully tended flowerbeds a favorite spot for a stroll.
420 Plaza Rubio

SUPERB SUCCULENTS
The 37 acres of horticultural wonders at Lotusland (lotusland.org) showcase a number of rare species and exotic specimens, including an impressive array of drought-friendly plants in the succulent garden. A sweeping collection of cacti is also on display in another themed area, along with the oft-photographed euphorbia, cactus, and succulent plantings
in front of Ganna Walska’s iconic pink residence, designed with the help of respected landscape architect Lockwood de Forest. Reservations required. Call (805) 969-9990.

ORNAMENTAL EXCELLENCE
Considered a true masterpiece of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, Casa del Herrero’s grounds (casadelherrero.com) were designed in an eclectic mix of Moorish style and Country Place Era by noted landscape architects Ralph Stevens, Lockwood de Forest, and Francis T. Underhill. Included on the National Register of Historic Places, this estate features intricate pebbled pavings and a long watercourse that leads to colorfully tiled fountains, with charming spaces for flower beds, arcades, rose gardens, and a number of orchards. 1387 E. Valley Rd. Reservations required. Call (805) 565-5653.

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on May 20, 2021. To see the story as it originally appeared, click here.

On the Trails

On the Trails, originally published in the May 2021 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

In his updated guide to Hiking & Backpacking Santa Barbara & Ventura (Wilderness Press, 2021, wildernesspress.com) Craig R. Carey provides nearly 100 of his personally tested routes for day trips, weekend excursions, and backcountry treks on the lush trails of the
Los Padres National Forest.

The forest “has always been a place for me to hit that reset button,” says the Ventura County native.

In addition to the routes, Carey’s book includes maps, GPS coordinates, descriptions of terrain, flora, and fauna, attractions, and charts detailing the distances and dog- and child-friendliness of each trail.

805 Living Cover, May 2021, photo by Gary Moss.

Click here to see this story as it originally appeared in the May 2021 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

 

UCSB Arts & Lectures Patron Spotlight: Audrey & Timothy O. Fisher

Event sponsors and A&L Council member Tim & Audrey Fisher with Joe Biden. Photo: UCSB Arts & Lectures.

For a town of its size, the cultural life of Santa Barbara is impressively full, say patrons Tim and Audrey Fisher. The couple have been involved with UCSB Arts & Lectures (A&L) since they bought a home in Montecito in 2000, and attended their first performance at Campbell Hall shortly afterward.

Miller McCune Executive Director Celesta Billeci and her team introduced themselves at intermission and the rest, as they say, is history. “We’ve been great friends ever since – we just love them,” says Audrey, a fashion designer and the retired president of a custom couture clothing business.

Tim was part of the creation of the Arts & Lectures Council in 2013. “We raised 25 million over three years and that really financially created a much better environment for A&L,” said the longtime businessman and philanthropist, who recently retired after more than 45 years of leadership in The Hillman Company. As a Council member, Tim guided the establishment of A&L’s legacy giving program and advocated enthusiastically for planned giving.

Audrey is a big fan of A&L’s expansive dance programs, as well as “the variety and the fact that they bring in just about every student, all ages. I like the educational aspect of it and exposing these kids to absolutely world-renowned performers and having it be a part of their everyday lives. … The cultural life is so enriched here.”

As for Tim’s favorite A&L memories, he says, “There have been so many over the years, but I would say most recently Joe Biden was really outstanding. He was very generous with his time and he did a Q&A and interacted with the students. I think it was really special.”

The Fishers recently made a generous donation to the endowment fund, which is important for arts funding, as Tim explains. “The reason nonprofits are called nonprofits is they don’t make money. What an endowment does is it creates a strong capital base. For instance, during this shutdown period A&L would really be struggling financially without the resources of the endowment. Endowments provide financial stability and they are also important because you don’t want the executive directors of nonprofits spending all their time raising money.”

Adds Audrey, “One reason that my foundation decided to support the endowment is because it’s the least appealing gift option for many contributors. It’s the hardest money to raise because people traditionally want to see what they are paying for. While we enjoy sponsoring performances, which we do every year, I think the endowments are kind of a lonely lost child in the family (laughs) and they really need support. I think when people become educated about their merits they do support endowments because there is a security factor.”

Supporting A&L is a family affair for the Fishers. As chair and a trustee of the Audrey Hillman Fisher Foundation, Audrey has given generously to A&L. Their son Matthew has sponsored musical performances and Tim and Audrey have supported a variety of events over the years, ranging from Joe Biden to the Vienna Philharmonic.

The Fisher family also sponsored the Forces of Nature environmental series in 2019-2020, in memory of their son Brooks, who was very good friends with filmmaker and environmentalist James Balog. “They used to go on these incredible exploits together,” says Audrey. Tim adds, “He was a friend of our son, who was an ardent conservationist. I think that for A&L cleaning up the environment is such a strong theme as it is in this country and globally. It’s a very worthy cause to support.”

The Fishers split their time between Santa Barbara and their hometown of Pittsburgh, and the cultural offerings of A&L make it easier for them to go from a bigger place to a smaller place. “In the early ’70s Jack Heinz created the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust which is a really big arts organization. Their budget is over 50 million and they have five theaters and they own a lot of downtown real estate. It’s a big operation, but I would say that we probably attend more events per year in Santa Barbara,” says Tim. “The cultural life here is every bit as full, in large part thanks to A&L.”

This story was originally published by UCSB Arts & Lectures. To see it as it originally appeared, please click here.

Room For Change

Feng Shui Collective, originally published in the April 2021 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

If home has become a bit too familiar of late, this might be the year to take spring cleaning to a more transformative level—perhaps with the help of feng shui.

“Feng shui is not just about creating lovely, inviting spaces,” says Lauren Bragg (below, left), who cofounded the Santa Barbara-based Feng Shui Collective (fengshuicollective.com) with her mother, Pamela Abbott-Mouchou (above, right),
in October 2019.

“Just as importantly, it’s about change and being the architect of change in your life.”

The mother-daughter team offers services ranging from one-time visits to intensive consultations to a six week fundamentals course.

Click here to see this story as it originally appeared in the April 2021 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

Flipping the Switch to Electric: A Green Building Pioneer’s Take on Heat Pumps

Dennis Allen talks about electric-powered homes on the CEC blog.

This story was originally published on cecsb.org on February 10, 2021.

“The nice thing about electric equipment is that it just keeps getting more refined, more efficient, quieter and better,” said current CEC Partnership Council member and past CEC Board President Dennis Allen. He’s certainly an authority on the subject. In addition to building two different state-of-the-art eco-conscious homes for his own family, the founder of green building specialist Allen Construction has been bringing his passion for energy conservation and sustainability to his work building quality, healthy homes for neighbors in Santa Barbara for almost 40 years.

As the costs of heat pumps have gone down, their efficiency has continued to improve. When he was building the LEED platinum certified Victoria Garden Mews project in downtown Santa Barbara in 2011 (where he and his wife Jenny currently reside), “we didn’t even consider a heat pump,” said Dennis. “At that point they were pretty expensive. Now they are much more reasonably priced and they’re much more efficient with what they call the coefficient of performance — it can be up to four times what a forced air gas/heating system would be. All of these things are just coming on big time.”

With all of the new residential projects in California now required to have solar power, Dennis predicts that the demand for heat pumps will continue to rise. “Heat pumps are safer and healthier because you’re not burning natural gas and having the combustion fumes from the gas system, which are usually in the house. (This is why you have to have carbon monoxide detectors in homes to sense whether there is too much carbon monoxide being put out by the natural gas burning appliances.) Those are both safety and health issues. And more recent research is finding that the health issues are more serious than we were all led to believe even five years ago.”

Higher upfront costs are the primary stumbling blocks when it comes to installing electric heating and cooling systems, but, Dennis explained, “if you take into account the operational side, then it has a payback period – and from then on you’re saving money. The upfront costs are still a little bit more expensive, but that’s coming down all the time and pretty soon it’s going to be a no brainer to go all-electric. The ordinances and the state regulations are nudging people in that direction, and there are some incentive programs and so forth that help people go there. Once they go there it keeps helping to drive the cost down and it helps people save money and be healthier. So even with the slightly higher costs today it’s still worth doing.”

This story was originally published on cecsb.org on February 10, 2021.

Flipping the Switch to Electric: CEC’s Board President is Pumped About Her Heat Pump

Barbara Lindemann on going electric with a new heat pump for cec.org.

This story was originally published on cecsb.org on February 10, 2021.

The desire to cool down her house, rather than heat it, was what inspired CEC Board President Barbara Lindemann to investigate switching to a heat pump.

The air conditioner in her home in the Santa Barbara foothills was on its last legs and the furnace was more than 30 years old. After getting a bid on replacing the gas-powered furnace, Barbara pondered the purchase. “I began to think, well why am I putting in another gas furnace?” she laughed. “Given my commitment to getting off of fossil fuels this doesn’t make any sense at all.”

She asked for advice from a few knowledgeable friends, including green builder and past CEC Board President Dennis Allen and architect Dennis Thompson, who had done a remodel for the Lindemann’s a few years ago. Both of the experts agreed that heat pumps were a good alternative to another gas furnace. “Dennis Thompson pointed out that it’s not going to be long before you’re not allowed to put more gas into homes and new homes won’t be allowed to be built with gas,” said Barbara. “He said it’s really become the new thing.”

In the meantime, Barbara had also been researching getting backup batteries for her 18-year-old solar panel system. Living in a high fire zone with frequent power outages, and knowing that her solar power system would soon need to be replaced, Barbara realized that installing a heat pump would make even more economic sense when she replaced the solar with a system that included storage batteries.

Getting the heat pump “is a matter of looking to the future and taking care of our current needs at the same time,” Barbara said. While the initial upfront cost of the heat pump was slightly more than a new furnace might have been, Barbara said her gas bill has gone down and her electricity use is only up a little, “so we’re already saving money on the heat pump, even though it was more expensive to put in — and I haven’t had a chance to give it a full test with air conditioning yet.”

When summer comes around, Barbara is looking forward to her new heat pump being able to cool her home just as effectively as a standard air conditioner would, but without relying on fossil fuels to keep her family comfortable.

This story was originally published on cecsb.org on February 10, 2021.

Fresh Flowers Meet Fresh Thinking

Fresh Flowers Meet Fresh Thinking, originally published in the December 2020 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

Fresh Flowers Meet Fresh Thinking, originally published in the December 2020 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

A beautiful floral arrangement is always a welcome gift, but learning to make one can be a treasured experience. That’s the idea behind The Floral Pantry (thefloralpantry.com), a new CIY (create it yourself ) floristry-kit delivery service.

Founder and creative director Kim Wiseley worked with internationally renowned floral designers for years before landing on a way to share their expertise and creative inspiration with home floral enthusiasts, she says. The result of collaborations with renowned professionals, such as English floral designer Willow Crossley and Belgium-based farmer florist Emily Avenson of Fleuropean floral designs, the kits feature seasonal, fresh flowers, a handmade vessel, design tools, and a video design tutorial, all handpacked by Wiseley and her team in a Santa Barbara floral warehouse.

“Nature’s wonder is at the heart of everything we do,” Wiseley says.

Cover of 805 Living December 2020 Click here to see this story as it originally appeared in the December 2020 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

Midland Boarding School’s COVID Advantage

Midland Boarding School’s COVID Advantage, originally published in Santa Barbara Independent on November 19, 2020.

Midland Boarding School’s COVID Advantage, originally published in Santa Barbara Independent on November 19, 2020.

Historic S.Y.V. Outdoor School Is Great Fit for Today’s Teens

While every school struggles with COVID restrictions, Midland School’s 2,860-acre campus and nine decades of outdoor-minded, college preparatory education lends itself to an easier pivot than most. Students returned to the boarding school for grades 9-12 in late October.

“I’ve never seen a senior class that’s more vested in our collective good,” said Head of School Christopher Barnes, who’s been working round the clock for months to make their return to the Los Olivos campus possible. “The seniors are like, ‘Yeah, we’re going to make sure everybody wears their mask.’ Inside of these challenging moments are also these incredible opportunities for students to learn how to tolerate adversity, to find the grit and really evaluate what the needs are versus the wants, and really discover the very best version of themselves. That is profoundly exciting as an educator.”

Clearly Midland’s experiential, place-based curriculum is more desirable than ever right now. With health guidelines in place, students will still be able to work on the farm and in the garden, ride horses, go hiking and camping, and all of the other special things they normally do.

Enrollment is up at least 10 percent from last year. “The phone was ringing through the summer, and we definitely had to tell some people no,” said Barnes. “As much as I would love to welcome even more kids, we’re sort of at capacity relative to the situation we find ourselves in now. It leaves us with a few spare cabins for isolation or quarantine if needed; we need to reserve some of that bandwidth for that.”

They’ve gone “very deep into the four Ws,” said Barnes. “Wear your mask, watch your distance, wash your hands, and, finally, we are in this together.”

He’s excited to be an educator at such a pivotal time. “We are living through some major inflection points in history, and at the same time we’re not just dealing with a global health pandemic,” said Barnes. “We’re dealing with Black Lives Matter and a profound shift in perspectives with regard to social justice issues — and we are and want to continue to be a participant in that. We are in the midst of a straight-up economic depression, and we’ve had to dole out lots more financial aid and double down in terms of supporting our families
and make sure that we can honor our promise for them.”

SB Independent Cover, Schools of Thought, November 19, 2020.

SB Independent Cover, Schools of Thought, November 19, 2020.

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on November 19, 2020. To read the section as it appeared in print, please click here.