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The Sustaining Garden

Articles: The Sustaining Garden

A solid wall helps protect the house and front yard from potential wildfires. Photograph by RGT

An old African proverb, “Little by little grow the bananas,” describes the evolution of the Korpinen Erickson garden, perched in the south-facing foothills overlooking Santa Barbara, California. During the years that I have been involved with Rick Erickson and Neil Korpinen in their garden, we have worked and played together to create a series of environments, linked together by the site’s topography, existing native vegetation, and the ongoing natural cycles of Santa Ana winds, drought, and fire.

The garden recently survived two major catastrophic fires, the Tea and Jesusita fires. During the devastating Jesusita fire, firefighters chose to make a stand in the garden’s entry area because of the width and easy access of the motor court, combined with the low and open vegetation adjacent to the home. The garden and home survived, albeit covered with a layer of thick ash. The nearby fire was so hot that some of the curtains inside the house actually melted, but the garden came back with a flourish—a testament to t...


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