Monday, June 11, 2007

"Alice" is Santa Barbara's jewel

I was searching for some cool images of gardens in Santa Barbara and ran across a great shot of the Sensory Garden at Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden (above). “Alice” as we like to call the park, is truly the gem of Santa Barbara's park system. It’s a botanical collection filling a full city block with diverse plantings from around the world, and a delightful pond filled with koi carp so big you’d be tempted to strap on your water skis and hitch a ride.

The garden, designed by Grant Castleberg and Sydney Baumgartner, opened in 1980. As City Landscape Architect for Santa Barbara, I have the distinct honor of lending a hand in the continued evolution of “Alice” as plantings are redesigned and new amenities are gently fitted in.

My favorite project was my collaboration with Grant, the Braille Institute and a number of their “clients” who are visually impaired. Little did I realize that my dad, Irv, would one day find his own vision compromised by macular degeneration and would benefit from our work.

In a nutshell, we designed a garden that fit seamlessly into the rest of the park, using high contrast plant combinations (visually impaired doesn’t mean completely sightless—that’s only about 10% of the Braille Institute’s clientele), fragrance, texture, and auditory posts that have recorded messages about the plants in the vicinity of each “station.”

It’s still my favorite place for an urban walk, is well loved by the community and a great site to take horticulture classes. If you’re in the ‘hood, find your way over to the intersection of Santa Barbara St. and Micheltorena. And check out "Alice's Garden" a great book and stunning photo collection about the park by Ann-Marie Castleberg.

1 comment:

Diana said...

Oh my goodness the sensory garden has grown up! Has it really been so long since it was installed?

It is one of my favorite parks in Santa Barbara.