Garden Casitas installation at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden open to the public

Canyon Area dotted with whimsical playhouses

July 1, 2019

Beth Farnsworth

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - A series of structures has sprouted up at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden on Mission Canyon Rd.

The Garden Casitas installation opened to the public Monday, showcasing six playhouses built out of plant-based materials that welcome kids of all ages.

"Our goal is to get kids of all ages and families to come out to the Garden and into our riparian corridor off Mission Creek and experience these six structures that were built by local designers and builders," said Betsy Collins, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden's Director of Horticulture. "Something that will encourage them to spend more time out of doors and to learn to love nature and love native plants."

Venture inside the giant Woodrat House of sticks, by designer Kathryn Lape with Crowley & Co.

Or, climb through the colorful Halfling House by Frank Schipper Construction Co. and Philip Gann's Cali-Pop structure before trailing back to The Hives, built by Garden volunteers.

Collins said the Rings of Time was a labor of love by two designers out of Ojai, Marc Whitman and Tara Saylor.

"Lots and lots of work went into it," Collins said. "A steel underpinning .. handmade shingles from a tree that came down in the Taft Garden in Ojai. It has a beautiful interior with tree rings, beautifully  finished on the inside. We all call it "The Pineapple" but it's not supposed to be a pineapple -- it's really a tree trunk!"

SBBG Executive Director Steve Windhager said those handmade shingles came from a Sycamore tree that fell during the Thomas Fire.

Visitors won't want to miss a spin through Understory, a whimsical and beautiful structure that opens to the sky, designed and built by Akiko Wade Davis, AIA, and John Labe Construction.

The project took a year of planning and roughly three weeks to assemble. The installation is up through the end of December.

Rings of Time is one of six handmade Garden Casitas on exhibit at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. (Photo: Beth Farnsworth)

Rings of Time - Garden Casitas