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About Sagebrush

We are landscape designers located in the Bay Area of California that specialize in residential gardens in San Mateo County. At Sagebrush Garden Design, we believe beautiful green spaces should be accessible to everyone. We work with you and your budget at every step of the process to make your garden dream a reality. Our designs are tailored to your garden aesthetic, function, and climate. 

Our focus is in native gardens, water-wise gardens and working (edible) gardens. We love instructing blossoming gardeners in techniques and skills for maintaining their plants and irrigation system.  


Whenever possible, we include California native plants in our designs. California natives are diverse, beautiful and impart many benefits to the environment. Native plants create habitat for pollinators and wildlife and are perfectly suited to any soil type and microclimate in California. Native plants can be used in formal gardens, cottage gardens, shade gardens, food forests, etc. Any aesthetic is possible using native plants.

Joana Smolen

Head Designer and Owner


Growing up in California gave me a great appreciation for its immense biodiversity. Going on hikes and camping throughout the state made me yearn to have nature a bit closer to home. So I looked to my childhood yard and thought, "Why not bring it here?" I then got a BLA in Landscape Architecture with a focus on California native plants from Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, to make my desire a reality. My goal is to bring the wild into the garden. From the sand dunes of the coasts to the alpine meadows, I know California has a plant perfectly suited for any garden and climate. 

I didn't stop there. In school, I learned that there is more to know than just design and plant names; you also need to know how plants behave in a garden setting. The next logical step for me, then, was maintenance; learning how to prune, train and care for the plants. After a competitive application process, I was one of five interns accepted for an internship at The Filoli Historic Estate Gardens. There, I received a crash course in how to keep a garden healthy, growing and thriving. I then applied that knowledge to another historic estate in Lake Tahoe, where I served as groundskeeper to the Heller-Ehrman mansion. I restored neglected paths and plant beds on a very tight budget. Soon after, I returned to my hometown in the Bay Area. Over the next five years, I perfected my fine gardening skills in residential garden maintenance. Now I bring my own designs to life with clients by transporting nature into cities, one garden at a time.

Christina Smolen



My name is Christina Smolen, and yes, you are correct, Joana and I are sisters! I also have a passion for plants and design. I attended UC Berkeley and majored in Integrative Biology with an emphasis in Botany. I interned at the Berkeley Botanical Garden and absolutely loved working there and teaching others about plants and ecology. I realized I wanted to help others understand the natural world. Post college I became a Middle School Science teacher, where I began a gardening club and later a gardening elective class, introducing children to growing their own food and maintaining a garden. I am passionate about sustainable ecological design and have earned a Permaculture Design Certificate. Let's conserve water, heal the soil, and do everything we can to support the land and all the organisms that live here in California!   

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