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Rancho San Diego Landscape Earns Award for Colorful, Waterwise ‘Room with a View’

While Patricia Wood celebrates a top award in landscaping presented by her local water providers, there are probably more than a few disappointed gophers that are not singing her praises. Wood and a team of landscapers spent 2018 and 2019 transforming her 3,850-square-foot lawn, located along a cul-de-sac near Valhalla High School in Rancho San Diego, into drought-tolerant landscaping.

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

Accessible Garden Wins Otay Water District WaterSmart Landscape Contest

El Cajon resident Patricia Wood, inspired by her daughter Kimberly, transformed a thirsty lawn into a wheelchair accessible garden, winning “Best in District” in the Otay Water District 2020 WaterSmart Landscape Contest.

The beautiful, wheelchair accessible garden inspired by Patricia Wood's daughter Kimberly is the 2020 Otay Water District Landscape Contest winner. Photo: Otay Water District

Accessible Garden Wins Otay Water District WaterSmart Landscape Contest

El Cajon resident Patricia Wood, inspired by her daughter Kimberly, transformed a thirsty lawn into a wheelchair accessible garden, winning “Best in District” in the Otay Water District 2020 WaterSmart Landscape Contest.

Wood’s landscape demonstrates a well thought-out design, methods for efficient irrigation, and appropriate plant selection and maintenance.

“The one thing that really inspired me was when they said to consider your front yard as another room in your home,” said Wood. “My daughter is in a wheelchair and spends most of her time in her bedroom or our family room, so giving her an outside room to enjoy was the best Christmas present for her that I could imagine.”

Patricia Wood's landscaping prior to its accessible and watersmart makeover. Photo: Otay Water District

Landscaping at the Wood home prior to its accessible and WaterSmart makeover. Photo: Otay Water District

For more than 10 years, Wood had been struggling with a high water-use lawn and gophers digging holes in her yard. In 2018, she learned about the WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program presented by the Water Authority and the Otay Water District. She learned which low-water-use plants and design would work best for her garden.

Patricia Wood's winning landscape design after its makeover. Photo: Otay Water District accessible garden

Patricia Wood’s winning landscape design after its makeover. Photo: Otay Water District

Wood is president of the Neurodegeneration with Brain Iron Accumulation Disorders Association. She dreamed of surprising her daughter Kimberly, who has NBIA, with a wheelchair accessible garden. Using recommendations from the landscape makeover program and with help from a landscaper, Wood transformed 3,850 square feet of her yard. Her design came to life with a beautiful water-wise garden.

New low water-use accessible garden 

Patricia Wood solved her gopher infestation while transforming her landscaping into a waterwise design. Photo: Otay Water District

Patricia Wood solved her gopher infestation while transforming her landscaping into a waterwise design. Photo: Otay Water District

Wood’s new garden features a decomposed granite path for her daughter to access areas from her wheelchair up close. A dry-creek bed captures rain from the roof and prevents overrun. Waterwise plants such as foxtail agave, blue chalk sticks, butterfly bush, cape plumbago, Texas sage, Texas sundrop, sea lavender, little ollie, and a gold medallion tree fill the yard.

Patricia Wood's landscape design has broad decomposed granite paths to accomodate a wheelchair. Photo: Otay Water District

Patricia Wood’s landscape design has broad decomposed granite paths to accommodate a wheelchair. Photo: Otay Water District

She replaced her overhead spray nozzles with a drip irrigation system controlled by a weather-based sensor. She even solved her gopher problem by applying a wire mesh underneath the topsoil and wire baskets for each plant. Her efforts have led her to decrease her estimated water use by an average of about 27%.

“We are thankful to those residents in our service area who have made great strides to increase outdoor water-use efficiency by upgrading to WaterSmart landscapes,” said Otay General Manager Jose Martinez. “Our hope is that customers find our water-saving classes, resources, and incentives useful for creating their own landscaping projects.”

Wood applied for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s Turf Replacement Program and received an incentive of $7,325 for her project.

Patricia Wood and her daughter Kimberly have made their new garden a haven during the pandemic shutdown. Photo: Otay Water District

Patricia Wood and her daughter Kimberly have made their new garden a haven during the pandemic shutdown. Photo: Otay Water District

“It is so relaxing and stress-reducing to enjoy sitting outside and watching the birds and butterflies in our garden,” said Wood. “It has made staying at home much easier during the pandemic.”

As the contest winner, Wood was recognized at the Otay Water District’s August virtual board meeting with a certificate of recognition, gift certificate to a local nursery of her choice, winner’s yard sign, and other promotional items.