Friday, February 25, 2022

Returning to La Conchita, California—Part One

When Gerhard and I attended the Bromeliad Summit back in 2019 we stayed at an Airbnb in a small community just south of Santa Barbara called La Conchita. We only had a brief chance to check out the area's gardens (my post here), but I remember it felt like a gardener's paradise and I vowed to return someday to see it all. I did just that last November...

La Conchita is a single exit, unincorporated community, off the US 101 as it hugs the California coastline—literally just a single exit, you have to be heading northbound to take it, there is no southbound exit. Back in 2005 there was a mudslide in the area that killed 10 people, it's been officially declared a geologic hazard area. As if that wasn't enough, fires have repeatedly threatened the area's homes. I think it takes a certain "devil-may-care" attitude to live here.

I drove up and down the ten avenues of La Conchita on the morning of November 20th, stopping to take photos whenever I saw something suitably planty. I would have loved to walk the streets but had to balance that desire against the time it would have taken and the other things further up the coast which I hoped to see that day—driving won.

I pulled over to get a better look at an interesting garden I'd spotted when I realized I'd parked next to a narrow sort of "guerrilla-garden" along a chain link fence at the northern edge of the community. This photo and the two above are of that space...

And here's the garden I'd spotted...

The plants are so abundant they're spilling over and out of the brick wall along the front of the property.

Looking into the small front garden...

And street-side...

Isn't this fantastic? Check out the tillandsia "dripping" off the roof.

Tillandsia are poised to take over the chain-link and bamboo gate as well.

This is best shot I got into the private garden area, yes, I would have loved to see more of this!

Love this plant and planter combination...

There was one on each side of the gate. The plant might be a sarcostemma, I bought an oddity last July at the Oregon Cactus & Succulent Society Show and Sale held at Portland Nursery and it was labeled as such. It looks very similar to these plants.

What an exuberant garden, I walked back to the car with a big smile on my face.

And of course I snapped a few more images of the guerrilla-garden, I bet the gardener responsible for the above garden had taken his or her talents, and extra plants, across the street.

I've got another post's worth of photo's from La Conchita to share sometime soon, in the meantime I think I need to look at real estate listings!

(*update after looking...turns out a vacant lot sells for $430,000 and a home up against the cliff that gave way goes for $870,000—geologic hazard area doesn't mean cheap real estate!*)

All material © 2009-2022 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.


  1. I have such fond memories of our stay there. I'm so glad you stopped and took these photos. It seems plants WANT to grow there. The fish tail palm that dwarfs the house in photo #4 is insane!

    BTW, I still can't wrap my head around the freeway situation. Coming from the north, you have to overshoot La Conchita, take the next exit farther south, turn around and get in the northbound lanes before you can exit. There is no other access to La Conchita from what I can tell.

    1. I was glad I remembered the odd freeway situation and stopped there when I was headed north. Can you imagine having to always make that odd turn around to get home when you've been up north and are headed south? Then again I guess you would eventually just get used to it.

  2. I remember that mudslide. Friends and I were stuck in monumental looky-loo traffic jam on one of our many trips up that way not long after the slide. I'd never stopped in La Conchita before or since, though. The LA Times did a "10 years later" article on the area, which you can find here if you're interested:

    Unless something has changed, there have been no government investments in stabilizing the hillside in that area and, as the rep from the US Geological survey said, future landslides are inevitable in that stretch. I don't want to crash your dream but I'd rather you check out Carpinteria!

    1. I tried to read that story as I was writing up this post and I guess the LA Times has decided I need to pay if I want to read anymore. Bummer.

      I figured the real estate in La Conchita would be more affordable, considering the danger. I can't even imagine what gardenable space in Carpinteria would cost!

  3. You captured two great Guerrilla Gardens in this post. That 'shocking' red bougainvillea isn't an easy color to support, yet that combo looks amazing (even with the two Aloes that possibly succumb to summer). You've become very skillful at those awkward "over the fence into the private garden" shots. That garden is so cool on the outside, I imagine the treasures it conceals on the inside. Artful planters, and a Fitna tree... the fragrant blooms. If only Fitna was hardy.

    1. I had to look up Fitna, as I've never heard it called that. Speaking those "over the fence" shots. There was a small dog barking at me while I took those photos, I was sure someone was going to come see what I was up to!


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