March 31, 2019
After graduating with an Environmental Studies degree from UCSB and interning with Frank Fuji at Lotusland, Kimberly True got a job drafting with Grant Castleberg and Phil Suding before going back to school to earn a Master’s in landscape architecture. During that advance study, she says, “I had the wonderful pleasure of working with Bob Perry, who literally wrote the book on drought-tolerant plants, and I think my background in environmental studies, ecology, hydrology, and horticulture has led me to my current enthusiasm for water-wise planting design.” She also credits her stint as a volunteer wildland firefighter with influencing her expertise in designs that fit the Santa Barbara region. In 2010, she opened True Nature Design.
What drew you to landscape design early on? My dad was raised in the Salinas Valley during the Great Depression, and as a result of living on many farms and ranches, he was a fantastic gardener. We always had large vegetable gardens and beautiful ornamental plants. My dad and I would drive to Big Bear and collect rocks, and built many decorative rock garden beds together. I designed and built my first little garden at age seven, to the delight of my parents. My dad was also a wonderful artist and encouraged my interest in art. I took drawing and oil-painting classes as a kid, and would spend hours drawing. I suppose landscape design is the fusion of passion for plants and gardens, and love of art and drawing. My first formal job in landscape architecture was hand-drafting planting plans (which is a lost art) at Castleberg Associates in Santa Barbara, a perfect marriage of my favorite things.
What has been your favorite work-related field trip or vacation? I was fortunate to experience a study abroad quarter in Italy while working on my advanced degree. We lived for three months in a hilltop village in Tuscany and visited different gardens and regions each week.
What is your favorite public landscape design in Santa Barbara? There are so many! I have always loved Alice Keck Park Memorial Gardens. The Courthouse gardens, of course. I love the scale of El Paseo courtyard. It’s hard to pick a favorite!
Where do you find design inspiration outside of landscape architecture? I am definitely most inspired by nature. Mother Nature is the most talented landscape designer. It is often the architecture of mountains, the sounds of water, and the arrangement of plants in a wild landscape which provides inspiration on plant combinations, colors, scale, texture, and use of accents.
What do you most like about your job? It is different and challenging every day. Every project is different and poses a whole new set of problems to solve and things to create.
What do you most dislike about your job? Being on the computer all the time. When I first started it was all hand drafting, which felt so much more creative. I still do almost all of my conceptual plans by hand, and my initial design work by hand. The computer has made things easier in some regards, but the sitting and drafting by mouse can get fatiguing.
If you had to go back to pick another profession, what would it be? Something related to travel and being outside, like a backcountry ranger or nature photographer, or wilderness travel guide of some sort. I was an ecotourism guide in Costa Rica in my twenties, and I absolutely loved that.
What is your current state of mind? Positive and hopeful. I am a tireless optimist.
What is your idea of perfect happiness? Sitting on a warm beach with someone I love.
What is your greatest fear? Being hit by a car operated by someone looking at their phone while walking or riding my bike.
What is your greatest extravagance? My massage therapist.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Of Aristotle’s 12 Virtues, maybe Temperance. You can never have too many plants or chocolate. I think we’d have a better world if everyone followed the other 11 virtues.
Which talent would you most like to have? Balance.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? Procrastination.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? Probably earning my Master’s degree. That was a lot of work and dedication, and very little sleep. I was awarded Dean’s Outstanding Student for the whole department, which really meant a lot.
What is your most treasured possession? Probably my Toyota Tacoma truck. I know that’s silly, but it gets me out into beautiful places where there are few people. It also holds all of my toys like camping gear, mountain bike, and kayaks, and lets me go play outside. It’s not so much the truck itself, but where it can take me and the experiences I am able to have because of that.
Which living person do you most admire? It was Michelle Obama until the Swedish climate-activist Greta Thunberg came along. I love Michelle Obama’s grace, and Greta’s passion. Two strong women who are making positive changes in our world.
What do you most value in your friends? Reliability. I don’t have a huge number of friends, but of the close ones, I know without a doubt that we’d do anything for each other.
Who is your favorite fictional character? Dana Scully.
Who are your heroes in real life? Anyone who is trying to make the world a better place.
What is your most marked characteristic? My laugh (so I’m told).
What word or phrase do you most overuse? “like”. I grew up in the 80’s and still haven’t shaken that one!
What is your motto? Dream big. You can’t get anywhere without a dream. Follow it!