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20 Questions with Kimberly True

Reflections from the Founder of True Nature Landscape Architecture

Photo: Jim Bartsch True Nature Design

After graduating from UCSB’s Environmental Studies Program and interning with Frank Fuji at Lotusland, Kimberly True worked with Grant Castleberg and Phil Suding before going back to school for a master’s in landscape architecture. During that time, she said, “I had the wonderful pleasure of working with Bob Perry, who literally wrote the book on drought-tolerant plants, and I think my background in environmental studies, ecology, hydrology, and horticulture has led me to my current enthusiasm for water-wise planting design.” She also credits her stint as a volunteer wildland firefighter with influencing her expertise in designs that fit the Santa Barbara region. In 2010, she opened True Nature Landscape Architecture.

What drew you to landscape design early on?  My dad was raised in the Salinas Valley during the Great Depression. Living on many farms and ranches, he was a fantastic gardener. He was also a wonderful artist. I took drawing and oil-painting classes as a kid. I suppose landscape design is the fusion of a passion for plants and a love of art. 

Your favorite field trip?  I was fortunate to study in Tuscany while working on my [advanced] degree. We visited different gardens each week. 

What is your favorite public landscape design in Santa Barbara?  I have always loved Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden. 

Where do you find design inspiration outside of landscape architecture?  Mother Nature is the most talented landscape designer. It is often the architecture of mountains, the sounds of water, and the arrangement of plants in a wild landscape which provides inspiration. 

What do you like most about your job?  Every project poses a whole new set of problems to solve and things to create. 

What do you most dislike?  The computer has made things easier in some regards, but the sitting and drafting by mouse can get fatiguing. 

Go back and pick another profession — what would it be?  A backcountry ranger or nature photographer or wilderness travel guide. 

Your current state of mind?  Positive and hopeful. 

Your idea of perfect happiness?  Sitting on a warm beach with someone I love. 

Your greatest fear?  Being hit by a car operated by someone looking at their phone. 

Your greatest extravagance?  My massage therapist. 

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?  Of Aristotle’s 12 Virtues, maybe Temperance. You can never have too many plants or chocolate. 

Most treasured possession?  Probably my Toyota Tacoma. It gets me to beautiful places where there are few people and holds my camping gear, mountain bike, and kayaks.

Which living person do you most admire?  It was Michelle Obama until the Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg came along. Two strong women making positive changes in our world. 

What do you most value in your friends?  Reliability. I don’t have a huge number of friends, but I know without a doubt we’d do anything for each other. 

Favorite fictional character?  Dana Scully. 

Heroes in real life?  Anyone who is trying to make the world a better place. 

What is your most marked characteristic?  My laugh (so I’m told). 

What word or phrase do you most overuse?  “Like.” I grew up in the ’80s and still haven’t shaken that one!

What’s your motto?  Dream big. You can’t get anywhere without a dream. Follow it!

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