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By Karen Hastings Art by Rick Garcia Jeff Chemnick’s On a sun-soaked slope at Jeff Chemnick’s Santa Barbara specialty nursery, Aloes in Wonderland, lies a botanical version of the legendary phoenix, the mythical bird that rose from the ashes of a raging fire. Bronzed and wiry from years spent outdoors, Jeff looks out over his exotic botanical collection, which would look right at home in a Dr. Seuss book. He points to the lower slopes of his property, where a thick forest of 12- to 14-foot tree aloes bristles in the hot sun. “All those were cuttings of an aloe that was close to the house and burnt,” says Jeff, who lost his home and some of his prized plant specimens in Santa Barbara’s 2008 Tea Fire. “They’re from one plant, and I didn’t even irrigate them. I did it just for fun.” Strolling under the thick canopy of spiky branches, it’s hard to imagine that this jungle of succulents grew from a scorched stump in less than 10 years. Today, these plants are more than a symbol of regeneration and transformation after devastating loss — they’re part of a savvy strategy of fire-safe, drought-tolerant garden design. Aloes in 54 Montecito Magazine Fall 2018–Winter 2019

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