A Garden Tour with Billy Goodnick

by Seasonal Wisdom on July 30, 2013

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Behind these gates is a private garden in the upscale, coastal city of Santa Barbara, California. Best of all, you can enter this exclusive home garden now with a special Seasonal Wisdom tour, hosted by award-winning writer and landscape architect Billy Goodnick, author of Yards: Turn Any Outdoor Space into the Garden of Your Dreams.

So grab a glass of prosecco, and get comfy. In this post, you’ll get garden design tips from Billy Goodnick, and see gorgeous photos of the garden he designed in a picturesque part of the United States,  commonly known as “The American Riviera.”  

Palm trees reflect in swimming pool during Billy Goodnick garden tour.When we first started preparing for this garden tour a month ago, Billy told me the Southern California garden design was inspired by the Mad Men television series to evoke the cool elegance of “Don Draper at the Beverly Hills Hotel.”

Isabel Gomes is a well-known photographer who shot the Billy Goodnick garden tour.So, who better to join our garden tour and capture this classic California scene than Isabel Gomes of the award-winning husband and wife team at Isabel Lawrence Photographers?

Over the years, my friend Isabel has photographed celebrities such as Halle Berry and Michael Douglas, and her wedding, event and lifestyle photos have been featured in magazines such as People, InStyle and Town & Country. I knew she’d be wonderful in this Seasonal Wisdom blog post. (By the way, you can make Isabel’s photos larger by clicking on them.)

Santa Barbara home for Billy Goodnick garden tour.As the three of us walked around this gorgeous half-acre garden on an early summer evening, Billy shared his thoughts about this home garden, landscape design in general and his new book Yards (St. Lynn’s Press, 2012).

Different trees on Billy Goodnick garden tour.The biggest misconception out there is that gardens are all about the plants, according to Billy. “Yes, plants are what we look at and enjoy most about our gardens,” he admits. “But picking out ‘which plant goes where’ is actually one of the last steps in the design process.”

More wonderful trees and shrubs on Billy Goodnick garden tour.He instead recommends that you first analyze your property for opportunities and constraints, and combine those discoveries with your expectations for how you want to use your garden. This shady side yard still manages to delight as we pass from the front yard to the back area of the property.

A four-foot buddha is part of the garden designed by Billy Goodnick.This 4-foot Buddha was an integral part of the garden, and the owners wanted it to have a prominent spot in their new backyard.

“The Buddha was one of the first things we discussed in planning the garden,” Billy Goodnick recalls. “When I saw the raised area, I knew instantly that we had found the perfect spot. But we had to demolish all the brick paving that was there from the previous owner.”

A four-foot Buddha in garden designed by Billy Goodnick.Today, dwarf Mexican weeping bamboo, purple cane orchid, palm grass, fishtail palm, papyrus, Greenlee moor grass, mat reed and pygmy date palm are some of the plants that create a serene, peaceful setting for the majestic Buddha.

In this bed, as in Billy’s other designs, you can see repetitions of similar plant shapes, contrasting textures and complementary colors. All these elements helped to create garden beds that are low maintenance but filled with unexpected and exciting plant choices.

Billy Goodnick and Teresa O'Connor at the garden tour.Billy and I are standing in front of the raised garden, so you see how the Buddha area is elevated in the backyard.

Billy Goodnick designed the buddha to be visible in many places around the garden.Billy spent hours considering where to place the statue, so that the Buddha would be visible from different spots in the yard.

Moving further back, you can see how the Buddha remains a focal point in the garden, as it gazes upon the large swimming pool.

A swimming pool was part of Billy Goodnick garden design.It’s important for your yard “to do more than just sit there looking cool,” says Billy. “It’s supremely important to make your yard work for you.”

He encourages homeowners to make their gardens an extension of their homes and to ask themselves “What do I want to be able to DO when I go outside?”

This pergola is covered with wisteria on this Billy Goodnick garden tour.For instance, here’s a pretty pergola on the property with a wisteria growing above. It was an established part of the yard, and other than some heavy pruning, it has remained relatively untouched. The outdoor veranda remains a popular spot in the garden.

A colorful lantern hangs from the pergola on Billy Goodnick tour.The covered patio is an ideal spot for relaxing with a book, or enjoying cocktails with friends during the balmy Santa Barbara evenings.

Lots of gorgeous foliage in this garden bed designed by Billy Goodnick.Near the swimming pool, this garden bed evokes the sea with its sculptural shapes, looking almost like a coral reef.

Billy says the plants include velvet elephant ear (big grey/brown one), fan aloe (in front), Sedum ‘Angelina’ (chartreuse ground cover), ‘Duet’ New Zealand flax (variegated grassy plant) and Aeonium canariensis (chunky succulent with rosette forms).

Velvet elephant ear  (Kalanchoe beharensis) is planted in this Billy Goodnick designed garden.Here is a closeup of velvet elephant ear (Kalanchoe beharensis), which blew us away with its amazing shapes and colors.  A slow grower, this succulent will eventually reach about 12 feet tall.

A pretty garden bed designed by Billy Goodnick.Throughout the garden, Billy uses a principle of mixing trees with large, medium and small-sized plants to fill the outdoor spaces with excitement and visual interest.

A dog waits in the window as Billy Goodnick gives us a garden tour.One of the family dogs watches us take the garden tour with Billy Goodnick.

A flower bed with peach and pink flowers designed by Billy Goodnick.Isabel and I particularly liked this side garden, which repeats shades of peach and pink in the flowers. The colors complement the color scheme of the hardscaping, accenting the hues of the brick and stone.

Callistemon 'Little John' bottlebrush shrub that only grows 3 feet tall and wide. Planted by Billy Goodnick.“When it does come time to select plants, I want people to get the most out of the plants they choose,” says Billy.

Shown above is a Callistemon ‘Little John’ bottlebrush shrub that only grows 3 feet tall and wide. This drought-tolerant shrub flowers year round in Santa Barbara’s Mediterranean growing climate.

A purple wandering Jew grows alongside a dew-dipped cape reed (Chondropetalum tectorum), in Billy Goodnick garden designA purple wandering jew (Tradescantia pallida ‘Purple Heart’) grows alongside a dew-dipped cape reed (Chondropetalum tectorum), showing how exciting foliage can be in the garden.

This herb garden was designed by billy goodnick.Despite their beauty, Billy believes strongly that these plants’ appearances should be secondary to what they can contribute to the usability of your garden.

“Do the plants make your garden more comfortable by shading a patio or blocking the wind? Or, create a secluded, fragrant getaway, or keep a hillside from eroding?” he asks. “Once those considerations are addressed in your garden, you have my permission to make your yard drop-dead gorgeous.”

In this young herb garden, Billy planted silver-leaved Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Silver Sheen’ in front of some old bamboo to add more privacy to this garden from its neighbors.

Side of herb garden during sunset on Billy Goodnick garden tour.The drought-tolerant herb garden is especially attractive as the sun begins to set for the evening.

Large, medium and small plants in Billy Goodnick garden designs.With his new book Yards, Billy wants people to know they don’t need to spend a lot of money or hire a professional designer to create the garden of their dreams. The book’s appendix features helpful resources for determining whether you’re up to the job.

Billy Goodnick signs a copy of Yards for Seasonal Wisdom giveaway.Billy says he wrote Yards for two main audiences:  “The first are people with an existing garden that needs improvement, and the second are those who will likely end up hiring a pro but want to be fully engaged participants in the design process.”

Regardless of which camp you find yourself in, Yards will expand your thinking so you can get the most out of what you undertake in the garden.  Plus, this award-winning contributing editor for Fine Gardening is a real hoot, so you’ll enjoy reading his laid-back, humorous writing too.

Yards is the new book written by Billy Goodnick.You can enter to win a free autographed copy!

Not only was Billy nice enough to take us on a garden tour, he’s also giving a free autographed copy to a lucky Seasonal Wisdom reader.

Enter to win a copy of Yards in this random drawing, by logging into the Rafflecopter giveaway below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks to all for entering. This random drawing ends at midnight on August 5. Please check your spam folders on August 6, and get back to us right away to claim your prize. Good luck!

Learn more about Billy Goodnick at BillyGoodnick.com.


Jennie Brooks July 30, 2013 at 11:36 am

My garden definitely needs some improvement. I have beautiful plants but not many garden design skills. thanks!

Seasonal Wisdom July 30, 2013 at 12:08 pm

Hi Jennie: Then Yards is a good book for you! Good luck in this giveaway, and thanks for participating. Teresa

Isabel Gomes July 30, 2013 at 1:18 pm

I learned so much from photographing this garden. Billy is not only incredibly knowledgeable but shares what he knows in a very accessible and entertaining way and of course, it’s a always a blast hanging out with Teresa!

Seasonal Wisdom July 30, 2013 at 2:15 pm

Hey Isabel: We did have a really fun time, didn’t we? Billy shared so many interesting tips, it was hard to fit them into one blog post. Meanwhile, your photos really captured the tour nicely. Thanks again! Teresa P.S. Someone lucky is going to win a very helpful gardening resource in this giveaway.

Janet July 30, 2013 at 2:31 pm

I already bought this book, but if I win, I could give this book as a gift to a friend.

Billy Goodnick July 30, 2013 at 4:09 pm

Janet: Hey, thanks! Nothing like an extra copy to make you popular with all the cool kids at school! And if you don’t have a signed copy of your own, e-mail me your mailing address and I’ll send a signed book plate. (billygoodnick@yahoo.com)

Deirdre July 30, 2013 at 3:34 pm

I heartily agree that everything in the garden should have some function besides looking cool.

erin bailey July 30, 2013 at 6:27 pm

I disagree. I think that there is a difference between a garden and a yard–If function for living outd0ors is primary–then it is a yard. If beauty of arrangement of plants is primary, then it is a garden. Of course, I am a landscape painter and gardener, not a architect and an introvert who likes to escape humanity– do you think that colors my opinion?!

Seasonal Wisdom July 31, 2013 at 4:22 pm

Whatever you decide to call it a garden or a yard, I hope you enjoy your time out there. Good luck in this random drawing, and thanks for visiting Seasonal Wisdom.

Karen Sloan July 31, 2013 at 5:55 am

Lovely garden! That location beside the swimming pool does evoke a coral reef. I think the Buddha was well placed, too. Well done!

Seasonal Wisdom July 31, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Hi Karen. Thanks for your comments. I really liked the coral reef garden, especially all the different textures, shapes and sizes. Good luck in this random drawing!

Karen Sloan August 1, 2013 at 11:38 am

Thanks very much, Teresa! And agreed… different shapes, textures and colours make a garden so much more interesting!

Michael Sanchez August 1, 2013 at 11:19 am

I enjoyed working with Billy when I used to live in Santa Barbara and as a landscape architect am always looking for great design references. Nice work Billy!

Seasonal Wisdom August 1, 2013 at 11:31 am

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Michael. Good luck in this random drawing. Teresa

Cheryl August 1, 2013 at 1:41 pm

It looks very inspirational. Excited to participate.

Rosarito August 1, 2013 at 2:39 pm

It looks like a great book.

Mariëtte Verlaan August 2, 2013 at 3:27 am

I love the Seasonal Wisdom blog, I love Billy’s garden, I love to win this fabulous book.
The garden feels peaceful and just right in atmosphere and energy.
Sunny regards, Mariëtte (the Netherlands)

Debbie McMurry August 2, 2013 at 12:52 pm

The book looks great and could use some great ideas for my garden space.

Seasonal Wisdom August 2, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Thanks Cheryl, Rosarito and Mariëtte Verlaan. We really appreciate your comments, and we wish you all good luck in this random drawing. Best regards, Teresa for Seasonal Wisdom.

Sarah R. August 2, 2013 at 5:24 pm

I would like to win a copy of this book to help my mother with her yard. Thanks for the chance.

Billy Goodnick August 3, 2013 at 8:58 am

To all: I’m enjoying all your positive comments! And, as an author who has no second thoughts about shameless self -romotion, I hope that those who are not fortunate enough to win a copy of Yards will purchase one (or two or six – only 5 months ’til Christmas!). Hey, a guy has to make a living.

Cyndia August 5, 2013 at 10:16 am

Wow, what an incredible garden, and wonderful tips! I’m looking forward to reading this book, whether I win or buy! Hope I win though!

Jeavonna August 5, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Billy is funny and talented. I am sure this book is great reading.

Seasonal Wisdom August 5, 2013 at 2:34 pm

You’re right @Jeavonna, Billy Goodnick is funny and the book makes for good reading. Thanks to Cyndia, Debbie and Sarah for your comments too. Good luck all in this random drawing. Teresa for Seasonal Wisdom.

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