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June 1, 2009 (El Cajon) - Winners of the sixth annual California-Friendly® Landscape Contest gathered to collect their prizes at the Water Conservation Garden at Cuyamaca College on May 16th. Twenty homeowners from across the county received honors for outstanding examples of beautiful, drought-tolerant landscapes.

Photographs of the winning landscapes adorned a display in The Garden’s Plaza, and garden editor Mary James and garden author Nan Sterman co-MCed the presentations.

Creative winners walked away with prizes ranging from $250 - $500. A tie in the Professionally Designed category saw Susan Hurwitz (San Dieguito Water District) and Cynthia Winters (Otay Water District) each receive $500, as did the regional best in Do-It-Yourself, Maggie Walton (Helix Water District), and Native Landscape, Fritz Brecke (Lakeside Water District).

Each of the participating water agencies also chose a Best of District which were awarded $250 each:

Santa Fe Irrigation District Paul and Ruth Parker

City of Oceanside Mike Garrow

Otay Water District James and Cynthia Ciolli

Padre Dam Municipal Water District Rick and Rosi Crouch

Rincon del Diablo Municipal Water District Ellen Pettit

Ramona Municipal Water District Ron Parks

City of Escondido John and Barbara Horst

Olivenhain Municipal Water District Lorene Rice

San Dieguito Water District Costa and Allison Haramis

City of San Diego Katharina Krause

Helix Water District Peggy Chambers

Sweetwater authority Glenda DeVaney

Lakeside Water District Frank and Cheryl Barraco

Vallecitos Water District Gisela Gelbing

City of Poway Patrick and Roberta Korch

Vista Irrigation District Susi and Jose Torre-Bueno

When asked why she decided to have a drought-tolerrant landscape, Peggy Chambers said, “It was to cut down on water use and expense. I wanted an easier to maintain landscape, and I was slowly drawn to the so-called ‘California-friendly’ shrubs and plants.” She discovered, however, there were other benefits. “I love watching the birds and butterflies flit around the shrubs. The colors and scents are intense, and I love being in the midst of it all.”

Cynthia Winters came to be a California-Friendly gardener by an entirely different route. “About 5 years ago a friend introduced me to a few succulents. The plants were much easier to take care of than my flowers. Then 2 ½ years ago I met Karen Suggs who lives in Campo, and her entire yard is California Natives and succulents. The design and her unique approach to “reusing every cutting” were appealing to me. I purchased many books on how to garden this new way and became committed to moving in this direction.”

On the other hand Susan Hurwitz made the decision in conjunction with her landscaper and her architecture. “We like the southwestern flora. It was recommended by our landscape designer and of course the water issue was considered. Our inspiration was from Santa Fe, New Mexico. The fact that our house is a flat-roofed Santa Fe style building was a consideration, and we worked closely with our designer to achieve a cohesive look.”

The winning sites are superb examples of landscapes appropriate for San Diego and its increasingly dry climate. Water shortages and cutbacks will continue to be a fact of life in Southern California. The winners of the contest influence their neighbors and friends and serve as inspiration for other county residence.

Photos of the Landscape Contest winners can be seen at the Water Conservation Garden, located on the grounds of Cuyamaca College and can be viewed at:

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