water-conserving gardens

Every year the water dis­tricts in San Diego county spon­sor a con­test to rec­og­nize gar­dens that use low amounts of water. The California-Friendly Land­scape Con­test has win­ners for each water dis­trict, and then over­all win­ners in three major cat­e­gories: best do-it-yourself, best pro­fes­sion­ally designed, and best native plantings.

Here are a few images of the prize win­ners this sea­son. I think they show that you can have a lively yard with­out using swim­ming pools-full of water to keep things green. Some of the win­ners fea­ture cac­tus and suc­cu­lents, but you can see below that you don’t have to do the desert-thing to use less water.

Best California-native. Win­ner: Gid­lund. Our native flora has plenty of choices that should be used more fre­quently. Flow­er­ing selec­tions in this gar­den fea­ture sages (salvias), asters (erigeron), and mon­key flow­ers (mimus or dipla­cus, depend­ing on which author­ity you side with).

Best in City of San Diego. Win­ner: John­son. Suc­cu­lents with con­trast­ing leaf col­ors and forms star in this gar­den. This image fea­tures agaves, euphor­bias and senecios among the assortment.

Best do-it-yourself. Win­ners: Mendell, Kirk (sorry, they only listed the last names…). This entry was another of the succulent-intensive ones, but this shows a por­tion of the gar­den with mounds of low plants with con­trast­ing foliage, as well as plants in the dis­tance in bloom. Most of us like flow­ers, don’t we?

Best professionally-designed. Win­ner: Whit­ney. A num­ber of broad-leaved plants with beau­ti­fully con­trast­ing foliage fea­ture in this land­scape. I think the con­trasts are absolutely gorgeous!

Many of the pho­tos show land­scapes that aren’t 100% mature, but you can get a sense of what the gar­dens will look like in a few years. Also, as in many land­scap­ing con­tests, the hard­scape seems to get a lot of the atten­tion. I’m of two minds on that issue. For a land­scaper, a large por­tion of the profit resides in the hard­scape details, with markup on a gazebo being way more than on a few shrubs. So some of the land­scapes seem to push the human fea­tures rather than nat­ural ones. But in the case of a well-placed gar­den path: what bet­ter way to imag­ine your­self in the new land­scape than by “walk­ing” through the space with your eyes, fol­low­ing a gen­tle mean­der through your beau­ti­ful new garden?

Check out all the win­ners. The dead­line to enter next year’s com­pe­ti­tion is April 6, 2009, so that gives us all a few months to do a lit­tle replant­ing. In the end, any gar­den that helps save water can be declared a winner.

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