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Helix Water District Demonstration Landscape Blossoms

The plants are thriving at Helix Water District’s demonstration landscape just eight months after the project was completed. The WaterSmart plants at the District’s administration office in La Mesa beautify the neighorhood while inspiring people to install sustainable, WaterSmart landscaping.

“Everything is growing in beautifully,” said Helix Water District General Manager Carlos Lugo. “We started with smaller plants to reduce costs and planned for growth. We’re happy to share this resource with our customers and community.”

Demonstration landscape includes water-wise gardens

The demonstration landscape includes three unique water-wise gardens on the streets around the building, including a Mediterranean garden on University Avenue, a desert landscape on Lee Avenue and a California native landscape along the building’s main entrance on Quince Street. Each garden started with smaller plants of varying colors, flowers and textures.

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Desert landscape on Lee Avenue at Helix Water District in La Mesa. Photo: Helix Water District

“The grasses in our native garden are filling in the mulched areas, creating a soft meadow-like appearance,” said Lugo. “We are also seeing the canopies of the Palo Verde trees expanding, and underneath, the succulents and agaves are blanketing the hillside, filling the landscape with color and texture.”

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Grasses create a meadow-like appearance in some of the Helix Water District demonstration landscape gardens. Photo: Helix Water District

Plants provide wildlife habitat

The plants in all three of the gardens are adapted to San Diego’s climate and need half to a fifth of the water that a traditional lawn needs. In addition to requiring less water, WaterSmart landscapes also require less maintenance and provide habitat for local wildlife like honeybees, birds and butterflies.

In each garden, plant markers provide the name of each plant and a QR code, which when scanned with a smartphone, provide each plant’s name, sun and water needs, mature size and photo.

Customers can also use the district’s interactive webpage to make a list of their favorite plants and download each garden’s design plan. Information on efficient irrigation and rebate programs is also available.

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Native, water-wise plants thrive on Quince Street in one of the Helix Water District gardens. Photo: Helix Water District

The project was completed in June 2020 and partially funded through a grant from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

Helix Water District provides water treatment and distribution for 277,000 people in the cities of El Cajon, La Mesa and Lemon Grove, the community of Spring Valley and areas of Lakeside – east of downtown San Diego. Helix is also a founding member of The Water Conservation Garden, a nearly six-acre water-wise demonstration garden in El Cajon.

Sempra Funds Salk Institute Project to Capture and Store Carbon in Plants

A project announced Monday by Sempra Energy and the Salk Institute seeks to advance plant-based carbon capture and sequestration research to help address the looming climate crisis. San Diego-based Sempra donated $2 million to the Salk Institute to help fund the five-year project.

Helix Water District Creates WaterSmart Demonstration Landscape

Helix Water District recently completed a new demonstration landscape outside of its administration building in La Mesa. The project is intended to inspire and educate the surrounding communities to install WaterSmart landscaping, and it serves as an example that residents can use to help design their own landscaping.

After a vote by Facebook followers the "People's Choice Award“ goes to "Red Jumping Spiderman” by Sabine Kurz-Sherman. Photo: Courtesy Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve 2019 Photo Contest Winners Inspired by Nature

At its November 13 meeting, Olivenhain Municipal Water District’s Board of Directors recognized amateur photographers for their winning images captured in the 14th annual Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve photo contest.

“I am impressed with the quality of images and talent of Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve visitors,” said Bob Kephart, OMWD board secretary. “This year’s winning images put together a strong case for just how important it is to preserve open space for native habitat.”

Contest entries help to promote Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve and educate the public on the importance of wildlife and habitat protection. There were 84 entries in five categories: Scenic View, Water Scenery, Plants, Animals, and Youth (under 15 years of age).

The public also selected a People’s Choice Award winner by voting for their favorite photo from among 10 entries posted on the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve’s Facebook page.

Small details inspire 2019 Best In Show photographer

Best-in-Show winner Francesca Hummler explained to the board, “I fell in love with photography in high school as a darkroom assistant. I particularly enjoy macro photography, a style which I found suited the color and repetition of the plant in my photograph well.”

See all seven winners:

“Paint Brushes” by Francesca Hummler – Best in Show

“Paint Brushes” by Francesca Hummler received this year's "Best in Show" award. Courtesy: Olivenhain Municipal Water District Elfin Forest 2019 Photo Contest

“Paint Brushes” by Francesca Hummler received this year’s Best in Show award. Photo courtesy: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

“Misty Morning Over Lake” by Jeff Brock – Scenic View

“Misty Morning Over Lake” by Jeff Brock won in the Scenic View category. Photo: Courtesy Olivenhain Municipal Water District Elfin Forest 2019 Photo Contest

“Misty Morning Over Lake” by Jeff Brock won in the Scenic View category. Photo courtesy: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

“Behind the Grass” by Daniel Humphrey – Water Scenery

“Behind the Grass” by Daniel Humphrey won in the Water Scenery category. Photo: Courtesy Olivenhain Municipal Water District Elfin Forest 2019 Photo Contest

“Behind the Grass” by Daniel Humphrey won in the Water Scenery category. Photo courtesy: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

“Shine Bright” by Maria Ana Karina Lara – Plants

“Shine Bright” by Maria Ana Karina Lara is the winner in the "Plants" category. Photo: Courtesy Olivenhain Municipal Water District Elfin Forest 2019 Photo Contest

“Shine Bright” by Maria Ana Karina Lara is the Plants category winner. Photo courtesy: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

“Western Fence Lizard” by Karen Wood – Animals

The "Animals" category winner is taken by “Western Fence Lizard” by Karen Wood. Photo: Courtesy Olivenhain Municipal Water District

The Animals category winner is “Western Fence Lizard” by Karen Wood. Photo courtesy: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

“New World” by Stella Klins – Youth

This year's Youth category winner is Stella Klins for "New World." Photo: Courtesy Olivenhain Municipal Water District Elfin Forest 2019 Photo Contest

This year’s Youth category winner is Stella Klins for “New World.” Photo courtesy: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

“Red Jumping Spiderman” by Sabine Kurz-Sherman – People’s Choice

After a vote by Facebook followers the "People's Choice Award“ goes to "Red Jumping Spiderman” by Sabine Kurz-Sherman. Photo: Courtesy Olivenhain Municipal Water District Elfin Forest 2019 Photo Contest

After a vote by Olivenhain’s Facebook followers the “People’s Choice Award“ was “Red Jumping Spiderman” by Sabine Kurz-Sherman. Photo courtesy: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Prizes included tickets donated by San Diego Zoo, a 24” x 36” canvas print donated by PC Photo & Imaging, outdoor equipment donated by REI, and a $100 cash prize donated by contest partner Escondido Creek Conservancy.

All of this year’s winning photographs will be on display from January 1 to April 30, 2020, at the Interpretive Center Honoring Susan J. Varty located in the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve’s staging area.

READ MORE: San Diego Grown Photo Contest Highlights Agriculture

Avoiding invasive plant species, removing dead leaves and branches, and planting native plants can protect your landscape and home from wildfires. Photo: azboomer/Pixabay

Firefighting with Plants

Wildfire is a constant threat in Southern California. But there are ways you can protect your landscape and home using native, fire-resistant plants.

Plan your landscaping in three zones

Zone 1: Help your landscape resist fires by choosing smart designs and fire-resistant plants. The first zone should provide 35 feet of defensible space around structures and access areas. This maximizes fire prevention and allows fire crews to access your property if needed.

Zone 2: Your landscape should reduce the chances of airborne embers from catching fire. Thin vegetation for at least 65 additional feet in the second zone. That makes for a total of 100 feet of defensible space.

Zone 3: Many of San Diego County’s native, fire-resistant plants can survive and recover from infrequent fires. Some plants even use fire as a signal to begin growing.

However, when fires occur too frequently, survival is tough for even the most well-adapted plants. Invasive, non-native plant species make fires more frequent, longer in duration, and hotter. That’s why it’s important to remove invasive plants in fire-prone areas.

Crassula is a diverse and extensive genus of succulent plants, with about 350 species.

Crassula is a diverse and extensive genus of succulent plants, with about 350 species. Photo: Pixabay

Use fire-resistant plants

Some native plants with high salt or water content can themselves from airborne embers. For instance, agave, aloe, crassula, and other succulents store extra water in their fleshy leaves. These plants also usually have a low volatile oil content.

Five fire-resistant plant choices include:

  • Daylily hybrids
  • Coral Aloe
  • Indian Mallow
  • Bush Morning Glory
  • California Sycamore trees

Avoid plants that fuel wildfires

Messy, oily trees and shrubs, such as eucalyptus and junipers, fuel fires. They ignite quickly, burn hot and long, and release embers into the air. Because of those factors, they contribute to the spread of wildfire.

Preventative landscape maintenance includes regularly removing dry grass, thatch, brush, weeds, litter, waste, and dead and dying vegetation. Trees should be properly pruned. Similarly, shrubs should be thinned. Remove any dead branches or leaves. Leave root structures intact to avoid erosion. Dead leaves and branches are especially flammable on evergreen shrubs, so avoid planting these close to homes or structures.

This article was inspired by the 71-page Sustainable Landscapes Program guidebook available at SustainableLandscapesSD.org. The Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at WaterSmartSD.org.

Plants With Wet Feet And Dry Feet

Plants and people have similar likes and dislikes when it comes to their feet. Of course, plants don’t literally have the kind of feet that take them on a stroll, but a plant’s roots are often referred to as “feet.” Just like most people enjoy a walk along the beach or wading in a pool on a hot day, plants like – and need – water on their roots to thrive. And just like people don’t like soggy feet in wet socks, plants don’t generally thrive with their roots in standing water. Horticulturists refer to plant roots in soggy soil as “wet feet.” Conversely, plants that can thrive without much water on their roots are said to have “dry feet.”