So you’re going to tie the knot. Cupid has done his work and now
yours begins. Where to start on the long list of items needed to
make the day as special as your dreams? Santa Barbara is probably
home to more outdoor weddings than just about any place (Hawaii
might boast more). A garden wedding may seem like a simple enough
thing, but finding just the right spot and making it a corner of
paradise can take as much planning as any other part of the

Let’s start with finding the spot. Santa Barbara boasts some of
the best parks and beaches anywhere and most can be made to suit
your nuptials. Favorite spots include the last group space to the
west of Leadbetter Beach’s parking area. This patch of lawn has
fine views of the waves and islands with a comfortable surface for
chairs, tables, and the like. You can class it up by renting lots
of fancy linens and arches or go surf style and use the built-in
barbecues for your wedding dinner. Whichever way you go, you must
reserve the space well in advance through the city Parks and
Recreation Department. Other Parks and Rec venues include the
grassy knoll near the western entrance to Alice Keck Park Memorial
Gardens. The fabulous plantings in this park are a perfect backdrop
to just about any color scheme you may be planning. Again, for peak
weekend use, you will have to call as soon as you have your date in
mind and hope that no one has beaten you to the punch. City parks
such as Shoreline Park, Tucker’s Grove, the A. C. Postel Memorial
Rose Garden, and Alameda Park, even Parma Park for the heartier
crowd, can provide beautiful outdoor settings for your special

Visit for more information. Goleta’s
Stowe Park is another favorite. Want to get married at the zoo? It
might seem a strange venue on first glance, but the lovely lawn at
the highest point on the property has a bird’s-eye view of the
coast and islands beyond. The zoo staffers are old hands at
facilitating your group, however big it may be, and the kids (of
all ages) will enjoy the wildlife while you and your party attend
to the legal and solemn details of the ceremony. The Music Academy
of the West is another elegant choice for your service. Its serene
gardens are available most of the year.

Public places do have their drawbacks. There’s no guarantee that
the area right next to you won’t have a reunion of beer-swilling
oil-rig roughnecks or a birthday party attended by 20 or so
8-year-old boys going on at the same time as your event. If you can
find a suitable home garden among your friends and relations, your
wedding will be more relaxed and private than any public place
could afford. Of course, imposing on a friend means that he or she
will feel compelled to whip their garden into shape. Now is a good
time (whether you’re hosting a wedding or not) to begin that
process. Start with the bones of the garden: Trees, hedges, and
other “foundation” plantings may need some renovation. By the end
of the month, almost everything in the garden will be poised to
burst with new life. Corrective pruning and shaping now will be
invisible in just a few short months. Only the sleeker, more
balanced, or shapely shrubs and trees, now clothed in fresh green
foliage, will attest to your current efforts. You may want to get
professional help at this stage, to deal with the big cuts or just
the possibly overwhelming task of hauling away the excess
clippings. Lawns, too, need to be lush and full to withstand the
traffic of wedding guests. Aerate now, spread gypsum to keep soil
open and earthworms happy and use corn gluten to banish weeds that
will be germinating soon. If you want to sow warm-season grass
seed, wait another month and follow recommendations on the package.
Now that the background is in hand, you can turn to planting. Tuck
in perennials and annuals (preferably in the bride’s chosen color
scheme) that will be in bloom on the big day. Consult Sunset’s
Western Garden Book for information on just when a particular plant
may be expected to flower. The book also has lots of lists of
plants grouped according to flower color and the type of site in
the garden where they will thrive. Your advance planning in the
next month or two will ensure that your garden will be
picture-perfect for that important date. Virginia Hayes, curator of
Ganna Walska Lotusland, will answer your gardening questions.
Address them to Gardens, The Independent, 122 W. Figueroa St.,
S.B., CA 93101. Send email to


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