Local landscape architect rides the recessions

Posted: March 2nd, 2018 | Art on the Land, Columnists, Featured | No Comments

By Delle Willett | Art on the Land

Greg Hebert got his start in landscape architecture while an undergraduate and graduate student at the University of Colorado. By owning a “design-build” business, he designed residential landscapes in the evening and installed them during the daytime. He worked with a crew of up to four college-age men and a woman who helped install the projects.

When Hebert graduated with a B.A. in Environmental Conservation (’81) and a Master of Landscape Architecture (’85), Denver was in an oil-industry recession and the economy was hurting. Jobless, he seized an opportunity to drive a client’s car from Denver to Coronado, and earned $500 getting here!

(l to r) Valerie and Greg Hebert

That changed everything. San Diego was booming, and Hebert got a job with landscape architects Deweese-Burton in the spring of 1987. He worked as a draftsman on the landscape of Rancho Valencia Resort and Spa in Rancho Santa Fe, learning nearly everything about the resort.His second recession experience happened in 1990–91, this time in San Diego, so he fell back on his college experience.

“I started designing residential landscapes in 1992 out of my house,” he said. “Fortunately, Burton Studio [a spinoff of Deweese-Burton] wanted to concentrate on resort development so they introduced me to the developer and home-owners who were building homes in Rancho Valencia.”

Hebert, 58, is best known for his custom residential design. He believes that the residences at Rancho Valencia resort best exemplify his brand. Homes are designed in early California Rancho style and landscapes created with drought-tolerant plant materials, along with unique decorative tile features (benches, fountains, niches and raised planters), that blend in with the resort.

“I like to think we design with an awareness towards the environment,” Hebert said. “We have always shied away from high water-use plants and specified stone and brick on sand even before the terms ‘xeriscape’ and ‘permeable’ were used.”

Hebert said his clients are his best inspiration.

“We strive to create landscapes that make them happy and unique to their lifestyles.”

Part of two Orchid-winning projects, Hebert’s first Orchid award came in 2000, when he collaborated with artist Denny Haskew of the National Sculptors’ Guild to site “The Greeters” public-art piece at the entry to the Barona Casino & Resort.

Hebert’s landscaping around the Britt Scripps Inn, located in Park West (Photos courtesy Greg Hebert)

In 2016, the St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Oceanside won the Grand Orchid. As Hebert described, the church has a public garden with a contemplative olive tree grove and decomposed granite paving. Shade from large coast live oaks softens the church and a special Stations of the Cross garden is planted with plum trees and perennials.

Hebert’s residential landscape designs were featured in San Diego Home & Garden magazine’s Garden of the Year issues in 2005, 2008 and 2015. The 2015 Annual Garden of the Year for Residential Design was recognized for the “structural approach” in designing the garden to enhance the Rancho Santa Fe architecture of the home. One juror pointed out that there was great concrete work throughout and was especially in love with the barbecue and entry courtyard fountain. Hebert received the greatest compliment from the homeowner who said that the landscape is “perfect” and her “husband is in heaven.”

In both 2001 and 2008, the Rancho Santa Fe Association’s Lily Award was presented to Hebert for his landscapes. The Rancho Santa Fe Covenant presents awards to built designs that celebrate excellence in architecture in the tradition of historic Rancho Santa Fe.

Hebert also has an interest in historic landscapes and enjoys the opportunity to research and design based on original designs while updating the design to fit current lifestyles.

Downtown, Hebert was the landscape architect for the renovation of the Britt Scripps Inn at Fourth Avenue and Maple Street in Bankers Hill. The concept of the boutique hotel landscape is that Victorian-era owners traveled the world and brought plants back from the tours.

Another historic home project created by Hebert is the 1905 Alice Lee and Katherine Teats home at 3574 Seventh Ave. by Balboa Park. A major restoration recently completed on the home was designed by Irving Gill with the planting design using many species that were known to have been grown by Kate Sessions. Hebert’s team is currently working pro bono for Generate Hope,, an organization that helps young women recover from forced sex trafficking.

“Generate Hope has been gifted a historic home in Coronado and we are preparing landscape construction documents for the renovation of the former gardens. We are striving to create a landscape that will provide solace and encouragement to the young women,” he said.

Hebert’s award-winning public garden with a contemplative olive tree grove at St. Thomas More Catholic Church

Hebert’s current office is in his Bankers Hill courtyard bungalow, where he works with staff members Gail E. Zerbe, a licensed landscape architect, and Mark Fuerte, an AutoCAD specialist who is studying to become a landscape architect. Lola, Hebert’s Portuguese water dog, goes to work every day with Hebert and his wife of 26 years, Valerie, a fiber artist, who shares the office space.

In keeping with his interest in historic landscapes, Hebert and Valerie live in a 1923 historic, Coronado Spanish home that was included in the 2005 Save Heritage Organisation (SOHO) Home Tour. They have two sons, ages 19 and 21.

As a small business owner, Hebert has little spare time, but when he does, he enjoys working in his garden, entertaining friends and family, and riding bikes around Coronado.

—Delle Willett has been a marketing and public relations professional for over 30 years, with an emphasis on conservation of the environment. She can be reached at

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