by Virginia Hayes

Ah Fiesta! That time of year when all of Santa Barbara becomes
the venue for one big party — a party with a typical Santa Barbara
flair that intends to recognize and celebrate our rich culture.
There are parades, dances, music, and food wherever you turn. One
of the signature elements of this celebration remains just as
old-fashioned as ever: Flowers, real live ones, are used to
decorate horses, carriages, food booths, and hairdos throughout

One of the best places to see floral displays is at the big
parade. It’s not as gaudy or fanciful as the Parade of Roses in
Pasadena, but floats are still adorned with greenery that just a
few days ago was part of somebody’s garden. In Santa Barbara, it
takes a community to pull together a bevy of handsomely decorated
entries that rely on living plant material to adorn the otherwise
industrial-looking trailers.

Some of the flowers will be purchased, but many more will be
donated by local growers and collected in private gardens
throughout the area. Palm fronds by the hundreds will serve as
backdrops to daisies, roses, and birds of paradise. Garlands of
magnolia leaves and leather fern will drape the posts of
make-believe patios and stairways. Some of the horses will sport
their highly polished silver tack, but others will have flowers
braided into their manes and tails or even wear a blanket of
carnations. Spanish dancers, would-be vaqueros, and lady riders
will wear floral headpieces, or at least tuck some posies into
their hatbands or behind their ears. City and political dignitaries
will ride in antique carriages and buckboards, with flowers woven
through the spokes of their wheels and mounted with elaborate
floral sprays. One of the other traditions for Santa Barbara’s
Fiesta parade is the cadre of girls carrying baskets of flowers
along the parade route and distributing them to the waiting

Go to the parade, enjoy a night of Spanish dancing, or just
party down. But whatever you do, be sure to wear some flowers in
your hair.

August Tips

• Plant South African bulbs as soon as they appear in nurseries.
Look for freesia, ixia, watsonia, and gladiolus and sparaxis

• Pick ripe fruits and vegetables. Most will come off with only
a gentle tug. If it takes more, then they probably aren’t fully

• Fruit trees and vines, like wisteria, may put out suckers that
should be cut close to the trunk or pulled off to keep energy going
into the main growth.


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