WaterWise Garden Recognition Contest

2021 Countywide Winner

Donna Grubisic | Carpinteria 


Motivated by the 1990s drought, Donna Grubisic removed her lawn and transformed her yard into a beautiful retreat for pollinators. She and her daughter designed the garden together, focusing on plants that would bring color and attract bees, butterflies, and birds to the front yard. Ms. Grubisic, who has raised monarch butterflies and bees in the past, wanted to create habitat for these species. The garden is water efficient and has no irrigation system installed; it is hand watered with a pressure-activated garden nozzle and rainwater captured in three 300-gallon cisterns attached the side of the house. The garden also features a downspout redirect into a dry creek bed as well as permeable pavers and walkways. Donna and her daughter continue to maintain the garden together, and have enjoyed finding ways to update its design and colors. 

Regional Winners

Colleen Newkirk | Vandenberg Village 


Colleen Newkirk moved into her home in 2018. After receiving special approval from her HOA, Ms. Newkirk removed the lawn and installed a drought tolerant, water-wise garden complete with drip irrigation and decomposed granite walkways. Ms. Newkirk focused on incorporating natives and species that would attract birds and bees. She also replaced the original wooden fence with ornamental iron in order to enjoy views of the nearby Burton Mesa Ecological Reserve, which has created the opportunity for her to meet her neighbors as they walk by, and for her neighbors to see the transformation from lawn to water-wise garden. Ms. Newkirk maintains the landscape herself and enjoys seeing hummingbirds around the garden, as well as her lower water bill.  

George Hopwood and Joseph Navarro | Santa Barbara 

 SB2021Collagepoppies GardenContest_SBcreekbed

George Hopwood and Joseph Navarro bought their home 8 years ago, and right away were excited to replace the high maintenance lawn with a low maintenance, sustainable garden. They enrolled in the Green Gardener program, and attended both County watershed wise and City of Santa Barbara water-wise workshops to learn about sustainable landscaping practices. Using the WaterWise plant database, they worked with a landscape contractor to select native plants that would bring color and texture to the yard. They also installed drip irrigation and downspout pipes to a dry creek bed, which helps rainwater recharge into the ground rather than running off into the street. Their favorite aspect of the transformation has been watching the landscape mature over time, as well as no longer having to use a push mower to cut the grass. 

Susan and Howard Silver | Montecito   


Susan and Howard Silver relocated from New Jersey into their Summerland home in 2012, and set to work redesigning both home and yard. With the help of their landscaper, they removed the brush that made up much of the yard, revitalized the fruit trees, and added drought tolerant plants to create a beautiful garden that would be appropriate for our semi-arid climate. They credit the success of the transformation to their landscape contractor, as well as advice from Mike Clark, Water Conservation Specialist of Montecito Water District, who helped educate the Silver's on water-wise practices. The yard is watered by a drip irrigation system, with occasional hand watering for the fruit trees. Howard enjoys being able to eat home-grown fruit from the trees as well as walking through the garden each morning, when he takes photos of the flowers and sends them to friends around the country. 

2020 Countywide Winner 

Poole-Hickey Family | Santa Barbara 


The Poole-Hickey family is the winner from Santa Barbara as well as the Countywide contest winner. When the drought inspired the family to switch out their lawn for something more native and natural, Ms. Poole, an architect, took inspiration from the landscaping in her architectural designs. The garden utilizes every bit of space available and includes many water wise features, such as a rain barrel to capture water onsite for irrigation, downspout pipes, and drip irrigation. The garden is designed to attract native birds and insects, and has also become a social place for neighbors to enjoy. Their latest project has been an herb garden in the parkway, which uses permeable pavement. 

2020 Regional Winners

Laura and Geof Wyatt | Montecito 


Laura and Geof Wyatt have been living in their Montecito home for 25 years. They began replacing their lawn areas with natives after the drought hit and they realized how much water and maintenance the grass required. They originally focused on designing their garden with non-pollinating plants, as Laura has a fear of bees, but 25 years later they have added citrus and stone fruit trees as well as pollinating grasses, and they love seeing and hearing bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds enjoy their yard. They also enjoy making homemade jam and ice cream from the fruit trees. They use 100% drip irrigation as well as gravel and mulch to help hold in moisture. 

Bob and Pat Wingate | Carpinteria 


Bob and Pat Wingate, the winners from Carpinteria, were motivated by the California drought to redo their lawn. Bob and Pat were participants in Carpinteria Valley Water District's WaterWise Landscape Rebate Program in 2017, and have completed all of the work on their garden themselves. In addition to native vegetation, they also utilize rain barrels to capture water onsite, and rarely need to irrigate. They particularly enjoy the wildlife that their garden attracts, including Monarch butterflies that flock to their milkweed plant.

Linda Zivich | Vandenberg Village


Linda Zivich of Vandenberg Village designed and maintains her garden entirely by herself. When she moved into her home nine years ago, she began replacing the lawn with low maintenance, drought tolerant plants. She loves the natural greens of the plants, and has enjoyed creating color in her front yard using native shrubs and grasses. The garden features meticulous attention to detail, and includes solar powered lights for nighttime and labelled placards for the different plant species. Linda enjoys designing her friend's gardens to be more water wise, and has helped several of them win garden contests of their own. 

2014 Contest Winner

 Taylor_WaterWise 2014 Stone

Jim and Tanya Taylor's WaterWise garden won 1st place for the 2014 WaterWise Garden Recognition Contest, held in Carpinteria by the Carpinteria Valley Water District. 



Before and after pictures of the 1950 bungalow in the Concha Loma neighborhood, a year and a half after planting. An expanse of Bermuda grass was replaced with gravel paths and hillocks, planted with a casual mix of low maintenance and water wise grasses, succulents, bushes and fruit trees.



Taylor3 Taylor4
  Taylor5   Taylor7



A bucket is used in the shower to capture the initial cold water in the plumbing lines. This water is then deposited into one of many "drip buckets" spread throughout the landscape, which offers plants a slow soaking.