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WaterSmart Landscape Contest Winner Creates Wildlife Habitat

The winner of the Olivenhain Municipal Water District 2020 WaterSmart Landscape Contest created a wildlife habitat by removing grass and replacing it with climate-appropriate plants. The District’s Board of Directors honored Laura Lisauskas as the winner of the contest during its September 9 meeting.

2020 WaterSmart Landscape Contest-Olivenhain Municipal Water District-WaterSmart

WaterSmart Landscape Contest Winner Creates Wildlife Habitat

The winner of the Olivenhain Municipal Water District 2020 WaterSmart Landscape Contest created a wildlife habitat by removing grass and replacing it with climate-appropriate plants.

The District’s Board of Directors honored Laura Lisauskas as the winner of the contest during its September 9 meeting.

Lisauskas purchased her home in 2018 and decided to remove the existing grass and replace it with a more attractive, climate-appropriate landscape. In addition to being water-efficient, the new layout has created a habitat for pollinators and local wildlife, provided fruit for her family, and enhanced the beauty of her neighborhood.

Water-efficient, WaterSmart landscape

The new landscape is water-efficient, eye-catching and has created a habitat for pollinators and local wildlife. Photo: Olivenhain Water District

The new landscape is water-efficient, eye-catching and has created a habitat for pollinators and local wildlife. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Her design divided the garden into multiple interest points and color schemes to highlight different plant collections. Lisauskas even designed and constructed the dry-stacked retaining wall herself.

“Ms. Lisauskas has captured the range of textures and colors found in some of our most beautiful local natural landscapes,” said Bob Kephart, Olivenhain Municipal Water District board director. “Her inspiring, water-efficient landscape is a prime example of using climate-appropriate plants and rainwater harvesting elements to conserve water and reduce pollution from runoff.”

The colorful winning WaterSmart design was inspired by the diversity of San Diego County’s ecosystems and features a variety of native and low-water-use plants including California Poppy, Blue Bells Emu Bush, and Pink Rockrose. The landscape utilizes drip irrigation and onsite rainwater collection, further reducing outdoor water use.

Landscape makeover attracts pollinators

The winning landscape was inspired by diverse San Diego County ecosystems and features a variety of native and low-water-use plants including California Poppy and Pink Rockrose. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

The winning landscape was inspired by diverse San Diego County ecosystems and features a variety of native and low-water-use plants including California Poppy and Pink Rockrose. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

The Watersmart Landscape Contest is held annually by water agencies throughout San Diego County to showcase attractive landscapes that use less water than conventional turf-heavy landscapes. Winning entries exhibit excellence in curb appeal, climate-appropriate plant selection, design, efficient irrigation, and environmental considerations.

The WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program offers free, online classes: https://landscapemakeover.watersmartsd.org/

WaterSmart-Landscape Makeover-Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Before and after view of the 2020 WaterSmart Landscape Contest winner’s home. Photos: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Welcoming La Mesa Landscape Wins 2020 WaterSmart Contest

Tim and Brianna Montgomery of La Mesa transformed a thirsty lawn to a welcoming, water-efficient English inspired cottage landscaping, winning the Helix Water District 2020 WaterSmart Landscape Contest. The contest is an annual competition recognizing outstanding water-wise residential landscapes based on overall attractiveness, design, efficient irrigation, and appropriate plant selection and maintenance.

The Montgomerys' blooming and colorful English inspired landscape uses much less water than a lawn of similar size, and compliments the couple’s cottage style home. Photo: Helix Water District

Welcoming La Mesa Landscape Wins 2020 WaterSmart Contest

Tim and Brianna Montgomery of La Mesa transformed a thirsty lawn to a welcoming, water-efficient English inspired cottage landscaping, winning the Helix Water District 2020 WaterSmart Landscape Contest. The contest is an annual competition recognizing outstanding water-wise residential landscapes based on overall attractiveness, design, efficient irrigation, and appropriate plant selection and maintenance.

The Montgomery home prior to its award-winning landscape makeover. Photo: Helix Water District

The Montgomery home prior to its award-winning landscape makeover. Photo: Helix Water District

Compared to the previous lawn, the Montgomerys’ blooming and colorful English inspired landscape uses much less water than a lawn of similar size. The thriving landscape creates privacy from the road, and compliments the couple’s cottage style home. Over the two-month billing period ending in May 2020, this home used 40% less water than the average Helix Water District customer.

Privacy and low-maintenance style took priority

The Montgomerys' new design incorporates a variety of native and low water use plants. Photo: Helix Water District

The Montgomerys’ new design incorporates a variety of blooming flowers and herbs. Photo: Helix Water District

They purchased their home in 2014. The couple were not happy with the existing lawn’s water consumption, or the lack of privacy it offered. The front window faces two streets. They made unsuccessful attempts on their own to reduce the lawn’s water use. In addition, the front yard sloped towards the house, causing moisture to form in the home’s basement during rainy weather.

The couple toured numerous gardens in East County with the California Native Plant Society’s native garden tours to collect design ideas. They hired a landscape designer in fall 2018, who worked to create a hardscape layout, irrigation design, and planting plan featuring low-maintenance plants, while still matching the charm and character of their 1950s cottage style home.

The Montgomerys worked with a landscape designer who helped create a hardscape layout, irrigation design, and planting plan featuring low-maintenance plants. Photo: Helix Water District

Tim and Brianna Montgomery worked with a landscape designer who helped create a hardscape layout, irrigation design, and planting plan featuring a green color palette. Photo: Helix Water District

“Our landscape designer gave us the design to meet our needs and created a plan so that we could do most of the work ourselves,” said Brianna Montgomery. “We only had to hire a contractor to do hardscape work and install the new water-efficient irrigation system. We did all of the other work ourselves, including grading the front, amending our soil with fresh compost, purchasing and installing the new plants, and adding mulch according to the design.”

The new landscape design offers more privacy from surrounding streets. Photo: Helix Water District La Mesa Landscaping

The new landscape design offers more privacy from surrounding streets. Photo: Helix Water District

The year-old landscape boasts a filled-in appearance and a wide variety of vibrant and colorful plants.

To offer privacy, create shade, and height, the landscape has a fruitless olive tree and a bright desert willow. Low water use daisies add lushness to the landscape. Shrubs and groundcover provide contrast with the home’s red brick front, including soft blue-greens from lavender, Mexican bush sage, and fescue grasses; emerald-colored rosemary; yellow-green rockrose; and splashes of purple, yellow, white, reds and pinks among the landscape’s many flowers.

Efficient new irrigation completes the transformation

The new landscaping is more welcoming both to people and pollinators. Photo: Helix Water District

The new landscaping is more welcoming both to people and pollinators. Photo: Helix Water District

The efficient irrigation system includes micro sprays, drip irrigation, and a smart, weather-based irrigation controller. The landscape diverts and captures rainwater from the front roof and diverts the water to the back yard through a series of French drains. The new rainwater diversion prevents moisture from forming in the home’s basement and also provides additional water for the plants in the home’s backyard.

The new landscape is now more welcoming both to people and pollinators, birds, lizards, and other wildlife now calling the landscape home.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better landscape,” said Brianna Montgomery. “Our landscape fits the energy of our home and ourselves, and we loved being a part of the transformation every step of the way.”

Lavender and daisies brighten the winning landscape design. Photo: Helix Water District

Brianna and Tim Montgomery were recognized at the June 17 Helix Water District virtual board meeting. They received a $250 gift card, an award certificate, and a WaterSmart contest winner sign to display in the yard.

Photos of the winning landscape project will appear in the winner’s section at landscapecontest.com, along with Helix’s past winners and those of other participating local water agencies, and on the district’s website.

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Butterflies and hummingbirds aren't just visually appealing; they also provide a service to your landscape by pollinating plants. Photo: GeorgeB2/Pixabay

Attract Butterflies and Hummingbirds

Witnessing the quick burst of color that often accompanies a butterfly or hummingbird’s flight is always exciting. It’s even more exciting when you see them in your own garden. Aside from being visually appealing, butterflies and hummingbirds also provide a service to your landscape by helping to pollinate plants. In doing so, they ensure seeds for future generations of plants.

How do you attract these beautiful garden pollinators?

Colorful, tube-shaped flowers located in sunny areas will attract hummingbirds in search of nectar. In Southern California, these tiny pollinators can stay year-round with a steady food supply. To provide this supply, try selecting a variety of plants that will bloom at different intervals throughout the year.

Hummingbirds also like shrubs and trees that provide shade where they can rest or find materials to build nests. Those cool areas are also where they can hunt insects. This can be helpful to your garden as they may eat insects harmful to other plants.

Similarly, butterflies also rely on flowers that provide nectar. They need host plants, which California native plants often are, where they can lay eggs. These eggs will hatch caterpillars, which will need to feed on nearby leaves. If you are concerned about leaves with lots of holes from hungry caterpillars, try strategically placing these plants behind other plants or in the back of your garden.

A good way to plan out where to put certain plants is by mirroring native plant communities.

Some native California plants that attract butterflies and hummingbirds:

  • California Fuchsia
  • Manzanitas
  • Chaparral Currant
  • Narrowleaf Milkweed
  • Sticky Monkeyflower
  • Coyote Mint

By selecting the right types of native plants, your landscape will burst into color!

The Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including tips for sustainable landscaping best practices at SustainableLandscapesSD.org and free WaterSmart classes at WaterSmartSD.org.

Encourage pollinators to visit your sustainable landscaping with plants that attract bees, butterflies, and others. Photo: Flickr/Creative Commons

Planting for Pollinators

Plants and insects need each other to survive. Nature provides checks and balances in a garden. You can attract insects and creatures that help maintain the healthy balance of a garden without pesticides.  

Flowering plants rely on insects for pollination, and thus reproduction. In turn plants feed and house insects. Some bugs eat too much, destroying their plant hosts and spreading disease. Other beneficial insects fight off the destructive species, eating them or disrupting their reproductive process. 

Birds, bats and lizards help too, consuming pests both large and small.  

Actively cultivating a diversity of plants in the landscape that flower at different times of the year attracts helpful insects and predators. It also improves the resilience of gardens and reduces the need for chemicals.  

To attract more garden helpers, like mason bees and lizards, create habitat for them. Consider getting establishing a nesting box for bees. Leave a small rock pile for lizards to inhabit. Put a large tree branch in the garden and let it decompose naturally.   

Plant a Butterfly Garden 

Many specific of native Verbenas are excellent choices to attract pollinators to your sustainable landscaping. Photo: WIkimedia Commons

Many specific of native Verbenas are excellent choices to attract pollinators to your sustainable landscaping. Photo: WIkimedia Commons

There are many plants that support the lifecycle of butterflies. Try to use several in your garden to boost larvae and caterpillars as well as the full-grown, nectar seeking adults. Some good choices: 

Narrow Leaf Milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis) 

Island Alum Root (Heuchera maxima) 

San Miguel Island Buckwheat (Eriogonum grande var. rubescens) 

Cedros Island Verbena (Verbena lilacina) 

Island Bush Snapdragon (Gambelia speciosa)  

Got Bees? 

Not all ground needs to be covered in mulch. Try designating a five- to ten-square-foot patch of open ground for ground-nesting bees and insects, especially if your garden contains San Diego native plants.  

 

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.