Building a Garden on the Cheap: Paseo Tranquillo by Grace Design Associates

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What do you do when you’re just getting started in the landscape design business and you’ve got a lawn at home to do? You want a showplace, a spot where you can give passersby something wonderful to look at — but as a startup business, you know you can’t afford yet to build a garden like the ones you’re designing for your upscale clients. That’s the dilemma that faced Margie Grace, principal of the award-winning Santa Barbara-based Grace Design Associates: a garden that had to look “spectacular” but be easy to maintain, budget-wise, and boy-friendly for her growing sons. She was clear on what she wanted: flowers for both outdoor enjoyment and indoor bouquets, and a place she could de-stress after long work days. But how to pay for it?

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It was time to get resourceful, to reach back into her botanical knowledge bank and start gathering her landscape and garden materials “on the cheap.” She went to any source she could find: flea markets, garage sales, thrift shops, even friends’ garages and attics. An urn and iguana pot? Drastically discounted at a statuary store. Bricks found curbside, free, became steps; bearded iris, succulents, yarrow, and other plants came from donations by friends and even strangers! It was a long process, with a flexible time line that had to include evenings and weekends…but now, it’s come together into a truly “tranquil place” on a street called Paseo Tranquillo. Her conclusion after all of this? She quotes Walt Disney: “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible!”

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