Jillian Steinberger-Foster

General Manager
Regenerative Landscaper
“Garden Artisan”

“We see your garden through your eyes.”


Jillian Steinberger-Foster co-owns Terra Nova Ecological Landscaping with her husband, founder Ken Foster. An ecological landscaper, fine gardener and homesteader, Jillian loves helping clients regenerate their gardens into vibrant spaces that reflect their personal vision, taste and individual uses. She loves helping coax out what clients really want. She embraces a whole systems approach.

Her main interests are creating uplifting drought tolerant softscapes, and pollinator gardens with abundant year-round color and interest from native and Mediterranean plants. She loves including grasses and sedges as counterpoints for the “floaty,” relaxing feel they add, as well as rockwork, such as rock borders, dry creek-beds and large boulder placement.

She also enjoys creating urban homesteads, or just kitchen gardens, for each client’s appropriate scale—whether it’s meant to feed a couple or the whole neighborhood—with edibles, culinary and healing herbs, flowers, and other useful plants. She is a plant person, through and though. Matching people with plants is her life’s joy. She also knows a heck of a lot about water management in the garden, as any good California landscaper must.

Although she is left-handed, she is also left-brained and takes care of much of Terra Nova’s day-to-day business operations. She loves doing business with women, and supports women in the trades. Previously, Jillian owned and operated The Garden Artisan in the East Bay. Her motto with that business was, “We see your garden through your eyes.” That’s still her motto when in the field for Terra Nova.

Jillian appreciates the opportunity to work in partnership with her well-known and much-loved husband, Ken, who was born and raised in Santa Cruz, and started Terra Nova back in 1988! They can be anywhere in the world (quite literally), and they always bump into people who know Ken, or know of his reputation for leadership in Ecological Landscaping and Permaculture. She feels she married a very special person—a star.

Speaking of which, Jillian lived on Malibu Road right on the beach as a child, and she went to Beverly Hills High School. A scholarly youth, she escaped from L.A. when she went to Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York for a rigorous humanities education. She took her Junior year abroad in Nepal, where she stayed for nearly a year, becoming fluent and literate in the Nepali language (and doing a lot of river rafting and nature connection). Back stateside, she finished her Bachelor’s Degree at University of Wisconsin-Madison, focusing on Communication Arts, specializing in Film Theory and Popular Culture Studies. She then received a Master’s Degree in the same subject, although ultimately the professorial life was not for her. Yet, her academic studies later proved to be foundational for her landscaping and gardening work. All that studying led her to deeply ponder ethics and aesthetics—which has been key to her work in gardens.

After university she pursued a career working for nonprofits—WORT-Community Radio, The Wisconsin Humanities Committee, and The Nature Conservancy—and working in tech PR in San Francisco.

Then Jillian decided she’d had enough. She moved to the East Bay to study Landscape Horticulture at wonderful Merritt College in Oakland. At Merritt, she found her plant community and developed long term associations with others pursuing careers in garden-related work. She studied design, soils, plant ID (perennials, conifers and weeds, native plants and traditional garden plants for Central and Northern California), and Permaculture, and went on many botanical field trips to natural areas. Eureka, she had found her life’s work.

Jillian has studied Permaculture with teachers Christopher Shein and Nik Bertulis at Merritt College; with Toby Hemenway (RIP), the famous author of Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, and with Lydia Neilsen and Anne Freiwald of Vital Cycles Permaculture in Santa Cruz.

At her first Eco-Farm Conference at Asilomar Beach in 2010, she met Ken Foster, who had been on the programming committee for decades (and still is). Ken hosted an annual Landscapers Mixer, and Jillian went looking for her peeps. She thought, “That guy is kind of cute and looks interesting.” Two weeks later, she received a message from him on greensingles.com. (He had a chicken on his shoulder in his profile picture; it was Ken’s 14-year-old pet hen, Jasmine! Jasmine was later buried in Ken’s worm bin.) Jillian was like, “I just met that guy at Eco-Farm!” They went out on their first date on February 13, 2011, and their second date on February 14th—and soon became a couple. In 2013 Jillian moved to Santa Cruz to help Ken run the business. Fast forward a few years, and they were married on December 29, 2019, just before the pandemic hit in Santa Cruz, at a big party at Home Restaurant Soquel. The wedding was a mix of Quaker/Jewish/Permaculture. Much fun was had.

Jillian is available for design, coaching and consultations, as well as planting plans, aesthetic pruning, and fine gardening. She welcomes helping clients create spaces that express their vision. Email Jillian at jillian@terranovalandscaping.com.