The photo above is the Esalen Institute vegetable garden in the 1970's. This is where it all began for me, my first gardening job. I planned and planted everything with one or two helpers. I took the photo on an Ectachrome X slide. I learned gardening from Selig Morgenrath who "ran the outside", as Esalen people then referred to Big Sur landscape architect, philosopher, and legend. Selig was the single person most responsible for turning the Esalen grounds into a showplace California garden. I had no idea, not even the faintest fantasy, that today I would be putting together this website and building gardens as The Romantic Garden Company.
The trail from Esalen to here came through UCSB where I was a violin student. I also worked at gardening part time, mostly at a couple estates in Montecito. In the early 1980's I became interested in restoring old and disengaged gardens. I came across a few of them in Montecito and little by little, brought them back, not to their former glory because I had never seen that. But I brought them to new beginnings that saved what was saveable. And carried forth the original idea. For instance, a 1930's maze garden off San Ysidro Lane called for starting over. Which we did, keeping some turk's head shrubs, huge plants, as we found them. Instead of replanting the boxwood maze, we planted new box in squares and rectangles. The blocks of box were positioned for a directional dramatic effect, going up to and around the big old shrubs.
In 2000, I stopped work as a gardener and concentrated entirely on small landscape jobs. About this time I became aware of digital photography. I saw immediately its power to communicate design to a far wider audience. I spent considerable time learning that while continuing job work. For years I was interested in photography and carried around a Nikon F2 with SLR lenses. Ultimately I switched to Canon (now 70D) and took hundreds of plant and hardscape photos. These were catalogued as photos and masked photos. The masking gives the picture its appearance isolated from its background. This allows multiple photos in one image to be seen as a single entity.
Through the 20 years I've been doing this work we've had many small jobs mixed with a few big ones. Some jobs were so complicated they went on for months. All these were residential with an acre or larger, zoned irrigation and time-consuming stone work. The hardscape time factor is the main variant in this work. Planting can happen pretty quickly. In whatever the job, the main thing is achieving a look, a subject that is discussed early on. We pay attention to details to pursue an artistic presence. The photo designs express the finished job, as in a prediction.