The Fellows Tour Three Private Gardens in Santa Barbara

On July 14, 2021, the Fellows of the Virginia Robinson Gardens visited stunning gardens in Santa Barbara. The first garden belonged to George Schoellkopf. (The Fellows toured George’s Connecticut garden, Hollister House, in June 2019.)

George’s Summerland garden is perched on the brow of a high hill and was begun a little over twenty years ago; it is laid out in several distinct sections, ranging from formal areas near the house to more naturalistic areas further afield. The garden is Mediterranean in spirit with mostly drought-tolerant plants and no lawn. A new guest house and swimming pool are nearing completion and will define an important new garden area.

George is particularly fond of the 16th-century wellhead in the patio, which his husband Gerald Incandela carted out from Connecticut. Another feature George enjoys is the checkerboard wall in the walled garden. As for plants, he particularly likes the giant euphorbia, so architectural around the house, and also aloes, of which they have many species and varieties, partly because these plants love the exposed area on top of the hill.

Gerald, not being a gardener, has been collecting aloes and cacti because they can be moved, a bit like furniture, if a better place is found. They have been gathered in a garden on the northwest side of the house, which can get strong winds and by chance drains well. The aloes and cacti have been pruned by removing their lower branches to encourage vertical growth, and palm trees have been added for their verticality as well. The idea is to eventually create a gothic effect of columns with a canopy above. However, it all started with an empty area and a pile of stones. With these stones, George created a fake archeological dig in the style of Chaco canyon and then started planting.

Suzanne Rheinstein’s Montecito garden was inspired by a landscape by the Spanish architect and landscape designer Alvaro de la Rosa in Mallorca who is a Mallorquino (a native of Mallorca). The landscape, which was restrained and chic, was the inspiration for the front of the house. Suzanne also wanted to acknowledge her respect for Piet Oudolf and her love of his wild gardens which is reflected in the area around the pool. Landscape designer Nancy Goslee Power interpreted these 2 inspirations and created a garden “that is perfect for me, and I also love my intimate private garden,” Suzanne enthused. We had a tour of the spectacular home with stories to complement the unique possessions. Suzanne’s Montecito home was recently featured in Architectural Digest.

Concluding our wonderful trip, we dined al fresco in Mary Hampson’s hillside Montecito garden. Her husband is English, and they lived in London for 17 years, before she convinced him to move to Montecito in 1995. She said, “If I were from North Dakota, I am sure we would never have moved back to the US, but my husband found the California climate irresistible.” They have a 3-acre property and have enjoyed combining traditional English garden material (roses, azaleas, hydrangeas and camellias) with California plant life (rosemary, lavender, bougainvillea, oleander, lemons, limes, oranges, avocados). One of the luncheon highlights was her Potato Chip Cookies. In a “Downtown Abbey” twist, Emma, who served the Fellows like royalty, met and married the majordomo from the house next door!

Potato Chip Cookies
By Patron Member Mary Hampson


  • 1 cup butter
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/1/2 cups flour
  • 1 3/4 cups crushed potato chips - Lay's salted

I put parchment paper on the cookie sheet. The cookies spread, and I like to make them REALLY small, which entices people to just pop them in their mouths. Also, I think the smaller size makes them even crispier.

Cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla and flour and mix. Add potato chips and mix. Just drop a teaspoon full of dough onto the cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes, depending on the size of the cookie. Cook until
light brown. They go from light brown to BURNED very quickly, so be careful.

Remove from oven and let cool in pan for a few minutes (they will fall apart if you remove them too soon). Put on cooling rack, and dust with powdered sugar (sieve sugar over cookies).

3 Responses

  1. Diana Doyle
    | Reply

    Loved the gardens and really loved these cookies!!!

  2. Marian Power
    | Reply

    Fabulous photos! What a great trip!

  3. danielle charney
    | Reply

    Love this house and the cookies….all fantastic

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