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Cool Green Gardens

Welcome to Cool Green Gardens – A view from the Left Coast

This Agave americana / Tradescantia pallida ‘Purple Heart’ combo replaced the front lawn of one of my favorite clients. It was a silly place for a lawn anyway, so we went very bold.
Photo/Illustration: Billy Goodnick
This is the stuff that turns me on – texturally rich combinations and harmonious color schemes. 
Photo/Illustration: Billy Goodnick
When I design for contrast, I don’t like to mess around. These vertical Kniphofia ‘Malibu’ set up a dynamic punch when paired with my “go to” tree, Cercis ‘Forest Pansy’.
Photo/Illustration: Billy Goodnick
This Agave americana / Tradescantia pallida ‘Purple Heart’ combo replaced the front lawn of one of my favorite clients. It was a silly place for a lawn anyway, so we went very bold.
Photo/Illustration: Billy Goodnick
This is the stuff that turns me on – texturally rich combinations and harmonious color schemes. 
Photo/Illustration: Billy Goodnick
When I design for contrast, I don’t like to mess around. These vertical Kniphofia ‘Malibu’ set up a dynamic punch when paired with my “go to” tree, Cercis ‘Forest Pansy’.
Photo/Illustration: Billy Goodnick

Please allow me to introduce myself. Billy Goodnick here. I’m a landscape architect, educator, and writer living in Santa Barbara, CA. That’s about 100 north of L.A., right on the coast in the much-coveted Zone 10 (Sunset Zone 24). I’m more than a little thrilled to be here at Fine Gardening, as it gives me a great place from which to write about designing, making, and caring for gardens sustainably.

We’re calling this blog Sustainable Landscaping

[Author’s note #1: Sound of screeching brakes. Sorry for this interruption. I only get a few hundred words here and if I try to define “sustainability” now I’ll need a chain saw and flame thrower to get out of the thicket. I’ll save that for another post. But I digress. I do that a lot.]

For now, let’s allow sustainable to mean whatever you think it means. If words like green, natural, drought-tolerant, organic, or the archaic xeriscape arose in your brain, that’s great. We’re generally on the same wavelength. Think Al Gore meets Mr. Green Jeans. There’ll be plenty of time to explore the complexity and nuances of that confounding word in future posts.

I’ve been involved in plant-related work for about 35 years. Before that, I was a drummer doing studio work in Hollywood and touring around the country. When I was home, I trained bonsai trees and collected house plants. Music is a flakey business so I quit and got a bit of schooling at a junior college. Then I worked in retail nurseries, landscape installation, and maintenance. I went back to school once again, and finally made my way up the food chain to city landscape architect for this lovely beach town.

Here’s what I think you’ll enjoy about this blog:

[Author’s note #2: You will come back and read my words every time I post. You will leave comments. You are getting very, very sleepy. You will obey my every command. When I snap my fingers, you will quack like a duck.]

  • I have a lot of fun when I write (see above). People who read me have fun, too. Maybe that’s enough to bring you back.
  • When I’m not having fun, I can be found ranting and raving about heinous acts perpetrated against good sense and good taste. That’s when I have the most fun. 
  • When I’m not being funny and/or ranting and raving, I can be found dispensing very useful, understandable design advice that you can apply to most landscaping situations. Twenty years of teaching homeowners to design beautiful, functional, sustainable gardens has taught me how to make complex ideas less mysterious.
  • I post a lot of pretty pictures. They will stimulate you and offer ideas for your own garden.
  • I’m a good listener and I want to learn from you. You will not agree with or like everything I say. That’s what the comment box is for at the end of this blog. I’ll get it wrong from time to time (or more) and it’s your job to straighten me out–I just caution you to keep your comments PG-13 rated. Think of the little children who read Fine Gardening‘s website.

Full Disclosure:

  • I don’t garden; I don’t even own a garden, unless you count a few square feet of dirt under the fig tree at the back of my driveway. Correction: I have a lot of gardens; they live at the homes of my clients and in Santa Barbara’s beautiful parks. But not with me; it’s better for all concerned. Therefore, I can’t tell you when to deadhead your rare albino, semi-dwarf, pin-striped, Begonia subterraneana. Want to know what’s eating your delphinium? I can’t blame you, but I can’t help you.
  • I hate most lawns and will remind you of that fact from time to time. My turf diatribes inflame a lot of readers and generate the most comments from the Loyal Order of Lawnists (LOL). Tune in as Billy gets beat up.
  • I have no experience with gardens that disappear under yards of snow or are destroyed by woodchucks. My idyllic oasis is the land of palm trees gently swaying on Pacific breezes to the sounds of The Beach Boys.

I’ll close this inaugural post by welcoming you and inviting you to click that orange RSS button on this page (that’s how you subscribe), then spam me out to your friends. If you’d feel better doing a background check before we start dating regularly, visit my profile and gallery here at Fine Gardening.

Oh, one more thing. I have to thank Kate Frank, Fine Gardening‘s web editor, for noticing me at Twitter and offering me this opportunity to play with all you nice people. I think we’re all going to get along just fine.

View Comments

Comments

  1. rcpl20 04/29/2009

    Congratulations on the introductory post!

    I look forward to what's to come!

    Ryan

  2. gardenchick 04/29/2009

    Kudos on the new blog! I am already a fan! I like your different perspective, the new different fresh approach to gardening and all it entails. Can't wait for the next one!

  3. Barb_beesandchicks 04/29/2009

    Congrats! It's great to have the Left Coast view — we are often overlooked. I'll be following along for tips on what the heck (PG-13 rated expletive) to do as I rip out my lawn.

  4. katesmudges 04/29/2009

    This will be fun ~ another place to read the words of the esteemed Gardenwiseguy. Great photos too. Congratulations, Billy!!

  5. GardenGates 04/29/2009

    Whatever it is in the landscape, I'm sure Billy will let us know -- with a smile! I look forward to the next blog!

  6. Arcadia1 04/29/2009

    Hi Billy,
    I'm so excited about your new blog! Kate Frank/FG has found a gem in you!
    As a fellow Gardener/Hort-Head who is also against lawn whenever possible, and into sustainable gardens, I will enjoy following your witty and playful writing style.
    I'm not sure what the proper horticultural version is for "break a leg", maybe "break a shovel"?
    Have fun, Billy!
    The Personal Garden Coach
    Christina Salwitz
    Renton, Washington

  7. JeanAnnVK 04/29/2009

    Dude, first of all, you stone cold rock! I love that Agave Tradescantia combo...reminds me of a punk wig. Maybe I should consider it for my front yard. Sadly, i still have turf. But maybe someday, i will have it all successfully replaced.

    What I like about your design aesthetic is the notion that the changes we make to our surroundings are even better if they are sustainable. How about if we don't plant any more resource intensive, highly invasive plants like, oh, I don't know, almost all turf grasses?

    Anyway, this is your column, so I won't go on and on, but glad to see your voice is on this site! Looking forward to more design goodness!

  8. mainegardener 04/29/2009

    I look forward to your wise and witty words (even though I live in a place with rapacious woodchucks and feet of snow).

  9. aredbloom 04/29/2009

    I am thinking this minute: WOW, COOL!
    Knowing there is so much more to fill the wilderness in my brain, I for one am excited! Yes, I get you instantly. I'm over 50 too.
    Thank You
    a red bloom

  10. aredbloom 04/29/2009

    I am thinking this minute: WOW, COOL!
    Knowing there is so much more to fill the wilderness in my brain, I for one am excited! Yes, I get you instantly. I'm over 50 too.
    Thank You
    a red bloom

  11. ShirleyBovshow 04/30/2009

    Billy Boy,
    I'm loving this "fine"(gardening) blog already! We are going to have fun reading your blog! Maybe I'll disagree with you sometime just for the hell it will raise!

    Your fan,
    Shirley Bovshow

  12. user-7006870 04/30/2009

    Yay for Billy! I love seeing you on here, you crazy man you. I don't love the fact that I have to login just to comment but I will go to great lengths to read your racy garden humor! In my opinion, You bring a shut-up-and-relax attitude the garden industry has needed for quite some time.

    Peeps, this guy is amazing, I will sit and watch 4 minutes of him driving a stupid nursery cart around. He's that entertaining. He is also a great mentor, although I tease him for being so picky, but that's what makes him great!

    Bring it on,
    Jayme

  13. DoubleDanger 04/30/2009

    There are some Agave here in West Texas that are as big as a Ford Expedition(if not bigger)with the shoots in the middle that run 15 ft. high...

    Unreal.

    But do like this combo... great work.

    I knew 140 characters wouldn't do for you. Much better here! Congrats!

  14. lizlotz 04/30/2009

    I love that combo! I'm wondering if it would work in my zone?? Your career path is inspiring - I've been thinking about going back to school for something horticulture-ish. Hmmmm...

    Liz

  15. robcorreia 04/30/2009

    Billy....I am already under hypnosis, it worked, lol!!! I am so glad to see you contributing for this fabulous magazine. I will be one to read every post!

    DEATH TO THE FRONT LAWN!!!

    Roberta

  16. Bookish 04/30/2009

    First, the city; then, the nation; next, the WORLD! Congratulations, Billy, it couldn’t happen to a more deserving guy. Sadie and I will be on the lookout for the next post.

  17. Mike_Taylor 04/30/2009

    Good job, Billy. (I think you forgot to mention that you are a man of wealth and fame). We'll be happy to not get just half your tweeted conversations! Subscribed...

  18. GardenWiseGuy 04/30/2009

    Billy Goodnick here (aka Garden Wise Guy): Thanks to all you great folks who have commented. I think I'm having a Sally Fields moment: "You like me, you really like me!" There's plenty more where this came from and I'm already thinking about the next post. If there are issues or topics you want me to expound on, come back and leave me a note. I'll see what I can do.

    Liz: What zone are you gardening in? I can tell you that the Purple Robe is even frost tender here in our coastal Mediterranean climate, so unless you're in a very protected area, it's a long shot. That doesn't mean you can't create a similar effect with another purple-leaf ground cover and light colored spiky plant that are adapted to your climate.

    Bees & Chicks: Thanks for the deleted expletive. Shows great maturity and control.

    Kate: I don't think this combo will work up there in Saskatchewan (OMG - Google has a lot of spellings for your fair province. Notice I didn't say "state")

    Arcadia/Kate: We'll start the anti-lawnist revolution. You're in charge of finding a red beret that will fit my oversized head.

    JeanAnn: Punk rock wig! That's a great image. Maybe my next design will go with a Mohawk effect - rows of Chondropetalum tectorum with all the side growth trimmed away. Gotta try that.

    MaineGardener: "Rapacious woodchucks" To coin a phrase from my idol, Dave Barry, "Great name for a band."

    RedBloom: Over 50 and you get it...watch out handing me those softball straight lines. I'll hit em out of the ballpark. Good to have you here. Y'all come back, now.

    Shirley: So good to see you here; I wallow in your praises. Can I come visit your gardens and write about you. Don't know if I can take an L.A. summer, so we'll wait for fall.

    Jayme: we'll see if FG has a tolerance for my Motion Sickness Productions video blogs. Perhaps FG can get Dramamine to sponsor my blog?

    DoubleD: it's nice to stretch beyond the 140 Twitter limit. Now I can use multisyllabic words (words like "multisyllabic).

    Roberta: I snapped my fingers - you can stop quacking now.

    Bookish: you left out the part where I rub my hands together in a sinister manner while uttering "MWAH HA HA"

    Mike: "Wealth and fame"? Did you find the password for my off-shore account in the Grand Caymans or do you have my winning numbers for the lottery? I thought I was just "comfortably well off."

    Later, skaters...gotta bang on my drum all day.

  19. juliebonnheath 04/30/2009

    So I planted peas, lettuce and spinach last night. What did YOU plant? Just kidding, Billy. Well not kidding that I planted them because I did (I was in a race to beat @joegardener with planting a garden and I won only he doesn't know we were racing), but I was joking with you about your garden since you don't have one. LOL. Now I think that was the longest run-on garden sentence that I have ever written. I look forward to your posts. And I'm always glad to see the FUNny in gardening.

  20. SeasonalWisdom 04/30/2009

    Hi Billy:

    Have enjoyed reading your tweets, so I'm delighted to now read your blog posts. Used to be a left coaster myself (Ventura) and spent many hours at Santa Barbara Botanical Garden. So, I'll probably get homesick reading what you have to say. But that's a small price to pay for getting good horticultural information.

    Congrats, and all the best...

  21. sbbmaine 05/01/2009

    "I hate most lawns and will remind you of that fact from time to time." .. wow, I wish you told this to my landscape designer. He loves them, not that I disagree .. except for the fact he wanted to remove most of my sun loving perennials in favor of lawn. I won ..

  22. Stoneware 05/01/2009

    Great opening post, looking forward to more digressions and diatribes! I'm relieved to hear that you have no garden - I've always felt like a bit of a fraud for that same reason. Kind of like a mechanic with no car? Except my Ficus is a 3rd floor flat...

    BTW, while I'm confessing...I am going to have to steal that planting combination as soon as I have a chance...just as soon as you're not looking.

  23. DebraLee 05/02/2009

    Hi, Billy -- I'm glad you're blogging about sustainability and West Coast gardening. Only you could make such a dry (pun intended) subject funny. Love the bit about woodchucks. What ARE they, anyway? Some sort of East Coast gopher?

  24. Texanoutofwater 05/02/2009

    I <3 the Lascy who doesn't have a garden! and the evils of lawns. Congrats on "going INTERNATIONAL," Billy, from Right Next To Down Under!!! -Theresa

  25. SusanHarris 05/04/2009

    Congrats, Billy! FG's a great spot for your talents and kudos to them for choosing you. And having more of you to read - good thing for me. Best, S

  26. SusanHarris 05/04/2009

    Congrats, Billy - much deserved. And kudos to FG for noticing Billy's talents and giving me more of him to read!

    (I tried to comment earlier but may have screwed up. If this is a dupe, though, just delete. Or double-count my best wishes - that's okay, too. Hugs, S)

  27. HelenYoest 05/04/2009

    Congrats and great post Billy!!!

    Helen
    Tweet GWConfidence

  28. cherylorth 05/04/2009

    What a great writing style - so funny! Can't wait for our next 'date'!

  29. SusanCohan 05/04/2009

    I actually broke my self imposed rule to not register for anything else to comment here. BRAVO Billy! I'm glad that someone else isn't going to tell me when to divide, transplant or otherwise perform tasks. Let's talk about ideas and ideals. Thanks.

  30. Fairegarden 05/04/2009

    Hi Billy, so nice to see you here! I have been getting these FG newsletters here lately and barely glanced at them until I saw your photo! Congrats and shades of Captain Kangaroo! I look forward to your posts and will try and comment regularly. :-)
    Frances

  31. Owen_Dell 05/04/2009

    Billy,

    Congratulations on a fine opening salvo. And welcome to Fine Gardening. Hope these folks are ready for your trademark radical, rascally, eye-opening, paradigm-shifting, wacky gardening wisdom. Tear it up, my man, tear it up.

    FYI, the rare Begonia subterranea that you mention is routinely deadheaded by gophers and needs no further care from the gardener. How sustainable can you get?

    Big O.

  32. Tigerlady 05/04/2009

    I too am excited about this topic, and looking forward to more photos, combos and web sites. I am in SW MO, and have a sloping front yard, mostly shaded by tall skinny white oaks that leave a million leaves from fall thru late spring. I have been trying to decide what to do to eliminate a relatively small lawn that will still satisfy the suburban neighbor and make my lot unique.

    OK, I'm not a humorist but loved reading all the posts. Maybe I'll learn to loosen up.

  33. verdancedesign 05/05/2009

    Billy, what a treat to have your cool green voice here. Whenever you're under siege from the LOL and need reinforcements from the northern flank, just give me a call. Congrats on a great start to a great gig.

    John

  34. Wolvie150 05/05/2009

    Okay, Sally Fields? Hmm, maybe I'm a "bit" older than I thought...
    This place sounds groovy (cool, neat, rad, awesome, etc. to the younger generation) and seems to be the same way I "garden". I have a few small places that my landlord lets me play in, but my real passion is playing in other's gardens, making the customers feel better about their gardens, and their gardens feel better about my customers...
    Good luck, look forward to learning bout zone 10 vs. 5b (central KS).
    Peace -

  35. mamapigeon 05/06/2009

    Great opening blog!!! Love the sustainability angle. I so want to rip out my front lawn, but my neighbors might think it a tad too revolutionary. Looking forward to your posts!!

  36. DeniseGD 05/07/2009

    Hi Billy, I've never blogged before; you're my first. Love your writing style and thoughts on sustainability!

    I look forward to reading everyone's posts and will share my thoughts as well. (My background: Master's degree in sustainable landscape design. Newly minted LEED AP.)

    Denise at Dancing Grass Designs
    DC area

  37. DeniseGD 05/07/2009

    Hi Billy, I've never blogged before; you're my first. Love your writing style and thoughts on sustainability!

    I look forward to reading everyone's posts and will share my thoughts as well. (My background: Master's degree in sustainable landscape design. Newly minted LEED AP.)

    Denise at Dancing Grass Designs
    DC area

  38. DeniseGD 05/07/2009

    Hi Billy, I've never blogged before; you're my first. Love your writing style and thoughts on sustainability!

    I look forward to reading everyone's posts and will share my thoughts as well. (My background: Master's degree in sustainable landscape design. Newly minted LEED AP.)

    Denise at Dancing Grass Designs
    DC area

  39. DeniseGD 05/07/2009

    Hi Billy, I've never blogged before; you're my first. Love your writing style and thoughts on sustainability!

    I look forward to reading everyone's posts and will share my thoughts as well. (My background: Master's degree in sustainable landscape design. Newly minted LEED AP.)

    Denise at Dancing Grass Designs
    DC area

  40. DeniseGD 05/07/2009

    Hi Billy, I've never blogged before; you're my first. Love your writing style and thoughts on sustainability!

    I look forward to reading everyone's posts and will share my thoughts as well. (My background: Master's degree in sustainable landscape design. Newly minted LEED AP.)

    Denise at Dancing Grass Designs
    DC area

  41. DeniseGD 05/07/2009

    Hi Billy, I've never blogged before; you're my first. Love your writing style and thoughts on sustainability!

    I look forward to reading everyone's posts and will share my thoughts as well. (My background: Master's degree in sustainable landscape design. Newly minted LEED AP.)

    Denise at Dancing Grass Designs
    DC area

  42. DeniseGD 05/07/2009

    Hi Billy, I've never blogged before; you're my first. Love your writing style and thoughts on sustainability!

    I look forward to reading everyone's posts and will share my thoughts as well. (My background: Master's degree in sustainable landscape design. Newly minted LEED AP.)

    Denise at Dancing Grass Designs
    DC area

  43. DeniseGD 05/07/2009

    Hi Billy, I've never blogged before; you're my first. Love your writing style and thoughts on sustainability!

    I look forward to reading everyone's posts and will share my thoughts as well. (My background: Master's degree in sustainable landscape design. Newly minted LEED AP.)

    Denise at Dancing Grass Designs
    DC area

  44. DeniseGD 05/07/2009

    Hi Billy, I've never blogged before; you're my first. Love your writing style and thoughts on sustainability!

    I look forward to reading everyone's posts and will share my thoughts as well. (My background: Master's degree in sustainable landscape design. Newly minted LEED AP.)

    Denise at Dancing Grass Designs
    DC area

  45. DeniseGD 05/07/2009

    Hi Billy, I've never blogged before; you're my first. Love your writing style and thoughts on sustainability!

    I look forward to reading everyone's posts and will share my thoughts as well. (My background: Master's degree in sustainable landscape design. Newly minted LEED AP.)

    Denise at Dancing Grass Designs
    DC area

  46. DeniseGD 05/07/2009

    Hi Billy, I've never blogged before; you're my first. Love your writing style and thoughts on sustainability!

    I look forward to reading everyone's posts and will share my thoughts as well. (My background: Master's degree in sustainable landscape design. Newly minted LEED AP.)

    Denise at Dancing Grass Designs
    DC area

  47. DeniseGD 05/07/2009

    Hi Billy, I've never blogged before; you're my first. Love your writing style and thoughts on sustainability!

    I look forward to reading everyone's posts and will share my thoughts as well. (My background: Master's degree in sustainable landscape design. Newly minted LEED AP.)

    Denise at Dancing Grass Designs
    DC area

  48. DeniseGD 05/07/2009

    Hi Billy, I've never blogged before; you're my first. Love your writing style and thoughts on sustainability!

    I look forward to reading everyone's posts and will share my thoughts as well. (My background: Master's degree in sustainable landscape design. Newly minted LEED AP.)

    Denise at Dancing Grass Designs
    DC area

  49. DeniseGD 05/07/2009

    Hi Billy, I've never blogged before; you're my first. Love your writing style and thoughts on sustainability!

    I look forward to reading everyone's posts and will share my thoughts as well. (My background: Master's degree in sustainable landscape design. Newly minted LEED AP.)

    Denise at Dancing Grass Designs
    DC area

  50. DeniseGD 05/07/2009

    Hi Billy, I've never blogged before; you're my first. Love your writing style and thoughts on sustainability!

    I look forward to reading everyone's posts and will share my little bits of wisdom as well. (My background: Master's degree in sustainable landscape design & LEED AP.)

    Denise at Dancing Grass Designs
    DC area

  51. GavidDoodnick 05/08/2009

    Fiendishly clever, full-bodied, with a hint of sage and wild fennel. Fine writing, you silver-tongued devil!

  52. cmd401 05/13/2009

    Congrats, you've you got my interest. We are moving to a new house with maybe 10ft of lawn and the rest is cement as a yard filler. Not too pretty but easier to care for, so now I've begun a potted plant yard. Yes, I made a trip to the local nursery purchased many plants,and A small japanese red maple and began my potted yard garden. So I look forward to reviewing your sight for new ideas.
    thanks, cheryle

  53. ANP 05/13/2009

    Well Done Billy! I see the Aussies in the background....we'll always be here..... Congratulations and looking forward to tuning in....Jo

  54. missuscorn 05/15/2009

    Billy, you're the perfect blend of a CA central coast plant brain trust, and lit wit. Glad to see you contributing...

    Rebecca Hudson
    Goleta, CA

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