Swallows Secret Garden aspires to share the joy and beauty of flowers with the Santa Cruz community. As Gardener-in-Chief, I craft each arrangement exclusively from flowers and plants grown on site. I hope to make you smile as I share a piece of the garden with you.
Artisanal - as in, selected by a gardener who is crazy about plants: their unique beauty, their contributions to the ecology, their origins and cultivation preferences, their symbolism and history with humans, their healing properties and the way they can come together in an arrangement to bring joy and uplift our spirits.
Seasonal - as in, arrangements made from what is lovely in the garden right now: both the stars of the show, like lilacs in Spring, and the lessser-known beauties like the puff balls on Clematis virginiana in Fall. Working seasonally also means cultivating diversity, especially native and climate-friendly plants that shine when fussier cultivars are sulking.
Local - as in, grown HERE, unlike the 70% of US flowers that are imported, most with a hefty environmental and human cost attached: air miles, toxic chemicals, destructive farming practices and exploitative labor practices. In contrast, your bouquet of entirely local flowers grew in healthy soil that sequesters carbon and in a garden that feeds and shelters local birds, insects, small mammals, amphibians and reptiles.
Our property sits tucked into pine and redwood dotted foothills. When we moved into the house in 2006, we were delighted to discover tree swallows putting on an acrobatic show just before dusk, dipping and diving in the sky above the house. The next day, we noticed a swallow flying in and out of a corner of the front porch. Hungry peeping alerted us to the swallow nest tucked on a small platform under the roof overhang. Every year since, even when the house was under construction, we have made sure the swallows have a place to nest in that same corner. We don’t know how long swallows have raised their young here, but we do know they were here first.
Wooded hillsides surround the garden
2020 swallow babies demanding dinner
At first glance, we were drawn in by the magnificent century-old coast live oaks that are the ecological and artistic heart of the garden. The rest of the garden was, to put it mildly, overgrown. Actually, it was approaching Sleeping Beauty’s Castle level of overgrown. To transverse the property required ducking and diving under branches and squeezing through thickets. A wisteria vine had grown so enthusiastically that we did not at first realize there was a guest house behind it. I thought it was magical, a Secret Garden waiting to be sculpted and revealed.
Betty, the original gardener, preserved and planted what are now the grand dames of the garden: the oaks, a Southern magnolia, an Eastern dogwood, massive rhododendrons, the wisteria. We kept those and got some professional help with hazardous tree removal and hardscape. The rest of the garden has been transformed organically over 14 years by hand with shovel, wheelbarrow, compost and mulch.