The Cure for Nature Deficit Disorder

By Alida Aldrich   |   October 1, 2020

An award-winning, published landscape designer, with over two decades of experience, Alida is well known for designing new gardens, as well as restoring landmark gardens throughout Montecito and Santa Barbara. In the spring of 2021, Alida will be teaching a class in The Principals of Landscape Design through Santa Barbara City College.

Between masks, fires, floods, and election anxiety, we’re all suffering from a sense of loss of what we used to call “normal.” But before you pull out all your hair, start kicking the dog or stop speaking to your partner, help is on the way. I’ve got the “fix” to calm you down.

What says fall more than Liquidambar trees showing off their astounding orange and red leaves? (Pictured here on a Hope Ranch rear garden I designed a few years ago.)

I’ll be writing this seasonal “Bloom’n Times” column to remind you of the comforts of nature in general and of gardening in particular. 

Being cooped up for the last six months, we have all been afflicted with NDD – Nature Deficit Disorder. Your doctors – from your dentist to your cardiologist – will tell you one of the best things you can do for your health is to get outside and enjoy nature, every day.  

Beyond our own gardens, we are blessed with extraordinary public gardens – Upper Manning Park, Casa de Herrero, Lotusland, Alice Keck Park, The Botanic Gardens, Postel Memorial Rose Gardens, Chase Palm Park, Douglas Preserve, Santa Barbara Zoo, Elings Park – all just waiting to help restore our emotional wellbeing. Make an outing of it, quietly stroll through any of these gardens and let nature do its thing. 

Talk about your super-sized parks, where else can you go for a mountain hike in the morning and enjoy a beach picnic by lunch? 

You may not be able to get out every day, so let’s talk about enjoying your own outdoor space, be it a garden or patio. I’ll be offering ideas and tips to enhance your own private piece of paradise. 

By creating and nurturing other living beings, you’ll remember how to relax and appreciate your place on earth – and maybe even figure out how you fit in.

Quick Fixes

• Get a hummingbird feeder, and put it outside the window near your favorite chair.

• Pick out a birdbath – both you and the birds will love it.

• Buy a fountain to place out in the garden, or on your patio as a focal point and a source of a stress-reducing music.

• Begin paying attention to your five senses:

Listen for the sound of the breeze whispering through the trees

Touch a soft petal – or even hug a tree

Smell the sweet bouquet of a flower

Notice all the different shades of green in plants

Taste the bounty from your own garden

We still have warm weather to enjoy for a while, so pull out the croquet set, set up a horseshoe pit, play ‘hide and seek’ with your kids (or grandkids). See if you can get a friend interested in taking up bird watching – a great hobby to share.

Outdoor fun doesn’t have to end when the sun goes down. We have such low light pollution in Santa Barbara – perfect for stargazing. Enjoy picking out constellations and experiencing the grandeur of our galaxy.

Longer-Term Fixes

Retail nurseries should have their selection of spring bulbs available (or will soon). Planting narcissus, crocus, daffodils or irises this fall will surely put a smile to your face next May.

Seasonal Garden Tips:

Fall is the time for garden cleanup. Thinning trees now will protect them against breakage from strong winds

 Watering can be tricky in the fall. Santa Ana winds can dry your garden overnight – it pays to be vigilant.

Try over-seeding warm season lawns with cool season grass seed.

Fall is the best time for planting in our region, so plan ahead.

Have a safe fall, and we’ll talk again when winter arrives.


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