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Vibrant pink, orange, purple and red succulents are interspersed among lush rosemary and lavender bushes in this award-winning landscape makeover in Santee. Photo: Padre Dam MWD

Bright Ideas Bring Padre Dam MWD Landscape Contest Winner to Life

Santee homeowners removed grass, replaced the turf with a colorful, WaterSmart landscape, and won a landscape makeover contest too.

Melissa and Josh Perrell’s new landscaping at their Santee home is bursting with bright colors. Vibrant pink, orange, purple and red succulents are interspersed among lush rosemary and lavender bushes. Even more impressive, it didn’t take a single drop of irrigation over the past year to keep it thriving.

The Perrells makeover project was selected by Padre Dam Municipal Water District as its 2020 Landscape Makeover Contest winner.

The Perrells landscaping prior to its makeover. Photo: Padre Dam MWD landscape

The Perrells landscaping prior to its makeover. Photo: Padre Dam Municipal Water District

The Perrells decided to remove their lawn about two years ago. They wanted a low-water option that would look healthy year-round and require little maintenance. They were tired of spending time mowing it and using large amounts of water to keep the grass alive only to see it get brown during summer months.

The couple learned about the Turf Replacement Rebate Program and applied for the program. To remain within the budget provided, they decided to tackle the installation themselves. This gave them the opportunity to design their own landscape, support local businesses, and choose their own plants. The rebate is now up to $3 per square foot.

The Perrells chose easy care plants they would not have to prune or maintain. Photo: Padre Dam MWD landscape

The Perrells chose easy care plants they would not have to prune or maintain. Photo: Padre Dam Municipal Water District

“We chose plants that were hardy so we wouldn’t need to replace them or do too much maintenance,” said Melissa Perrell. “We also incorporated rosemary and lavender because we think it’s neat to be able to cook with and use the plants that you have.”

One week to a beautiful new watersmart landscape

The project took one year from start to finish. Photo: Padre Dam MWD

The project took one year from start to finish. Photo: Padre Dam Municipal Water District

After planning and designing their dream front yard, the Perrells spent four days removing their turf, installing rocks, installing irrigation, planting, and laying mulch.

They used a local nursery to select plants that fit their style and budget. By working straight through the process, their landscape completely transformed in less than a week. Their DIY cost-saving approach meant that they were reimbursed for 100% of the cost of their new front yard through the rebate program.

The Perrells enjoy compliments from Santee neighbors on their new landscape design. Photo: Padre Dam Municipal Water District

Melissa Perrell loves the low-maintenance needed to keep the new landscape looking its best with no pruning or trimming, and the different heights and colors of the plants. While they have a drip irrigation system in place, the Perrells were able to turn it off and let their landscape be completely watered naturally last year. They recently turned the system on again as the weather began to heat up at the end of June.

“It’s cool that it was something we were able to do together,” said Melissa Perrell. “It’s fun because our neighbors watched us put it in and now when we see them they say ‘Your yard’s looking really nice!'” Read more

The Nieves family's landscape makeover project won the Sweetwater Authority's contest in 2019. Photo: Sweetwater Authority 2020 landscape makeover

2020 Landscape Makeover Competition Opens Call For Entries

Fourteen water agencies in San Diego County seek the best in landscaping makeover projects for the regional WaterSmart 2020 Landscape Makeover competition. The annual contest offers the opportunity to showcase residential waterwise landscaping as a way to inspire other homeowners to consider replacing water-guzzling turf based designs.

The contest deadline for all participating agencies has now been extended to Friday, May 29. Homeowners may submit their entry online. You must be a resident within agency boundaries to participate. Each agency winner receives a $250 gift certificate and recognition on the agency website and social media channels.

Deborah Brandt's winning landscape includes contrasting elements, such a cactus, river rock and wood chips, against a backdrop of dramatic magenta, purple and striking orange. Photo: Vista Irrigation District

Deborah Brandt’s 2019 winning landscape for the Vista Irrigation District includes contrasting elements, such as cactus, river rock and wood chips, against a backdrop of dramatic magenta, purple and striking orange. Photo: Vista Irrigation District

Participating agencies include California American Water, the cities of Escondido, Oceanside, and San Diego, Fallbrook Public Utility District, Helix Water District, Olivenhain Municipal Water District, Otay Water District, Padre Dam Municipal Water District, Rincon Del Diablo Water District, San Dieguito Water District, Sweetwater Authority, Vallecitos Water District, and Vista Irrigation District.

“With rebates available for turf removal, now is a great time to replace your lawn with a beautiful WaterSmart landscape,” said Brent Reyes, water conservation specialist for the Vista Irrigation District.

Turf removal saves estimated 36 million gallons annually

La Mesa residents Bob and Shan Cissell transformed 2,500 square feet of turf into their own Conservation Garden in La Mesa, winning the 2019 Oty Water District Landscaping Contest. Photo: Otay Water District

La Mesa residents Bob and Shan Cissell transformed 2,500 square feet of turf into their own conservation garden in La Mesa, winning the 2019 Otay Water District Landscaping Contest. Photo: Otay Water District

With a majority of residential water use in San Diego County attributed to watering landscapes, regional water efficiency efforts focus on outdoor water use.  By showcasing their beautiful landscape in the WaterSmart Landscape Contest, homeowners can offer ideas and demonstrate how waterwise landscaping can be attractive as well.

Thanks to ongoing education and incentives, San Diego County residents have targeted more than one million square feet of turf grass for replacement with WaterSmart landscaping through free landscape makeover classes sponsored by the San Diego County Water Authority between 2013 and 2018. The Water Authority has documented an estimated savings of 33 million gallons annually,

Online landscape makeover tips available

If you need some inspiration or guidance, WaterSmartSD offers landscape makeover videos you can view on demand. This series of videos mirrors the content of the in-person workshops and four-class series. Each video takes you step-by-step through the process of creating your own beautiful, water-efficient landscape.

From measuring your property to getting to know your soil to picking the right plants for the right place, these entertaining and informative videos will guide you along the path to a WaterSmart landscape.

In addition, WaterSmartSD provides a list of online resources and guides to planning your landscape design project, soil analysis, compost and mulch, plant choices, and irrigation.

For additional information on 2020 Landscape Makeover Contest entry rules, go to WaterSmartLandscapes.

Click on the gallery below for more 2020 landscape makeover inspiration from past winners.