Colorful California Landscape: A Water-Friendly Garden
Colorful California Landscape:  A Water-Friendly Garden

In 3 months we converted our lawn into an award-winning, colorful, California- Friendly Garden!


A California-Friendly garden (also known as a Water-Friendly or Water-Wise Garden) is beautiful, bio-diverse, and filled with colorful water-friendly, drought-resistant plants. It is not  only beautiful but it cleans the air and water, reduces waste and emissions, conserves water and power, provides an attractive habitat for wildlife, increases your property value, can be edible and pet friendly, and can serve as a gardening resource for your community.  


In this time of severe drought, it is a responsible way to conserve our natural resources while having a beautiful garden at the same time! We hope that the information provided in this website is helpful in getting you exctied about creating your own water-friendly garden.

Our previous landscape was all lawn (see photo below).  There was no diversity of foliage and the soil was hard clay.  When irrigating a significant amount of water would runoff into the gutter due to poor drainage (lawns are not good at absorbing water). Flooding during heavy rains was also a problem.  The runoff contained fertilizers and pesticides which drained right into the Pacific ocean!

Since we did not know where to begin, we hired a landscape architect, Guy Stivers (who specializes in water-friendly gardens), to design a new landscape including the irrigation and drainage systems. The installation was completed in just 3 months and converted our yard into a water-friendly, beautiful garden paradise (see photo below taken 3 years later in 2012). The landscape is now biodiverse and attracts a variety of wildlife including birds, bees and butterflies. We now utilize organic fertilizers and pest-control managment. The previous clay dirt is now a living soil filled with beneficial bacteria and insects. As the yard continues to mature, the soil is becoming more enriched as the organic nutrients naturally decompose. This in turn, provides healthy, organic nutrients to the plants and trees which allows them to grow healthy and resistant to pests.

An Award Winning Garden

Our garden was the Grand Prize winnter in the 2010 Roger's Gardens California Friendly Gardent contest and we were the division winner for Best Water Efficiency. We were featured in the Sunset Magazine blog, Frish Dirt, on August 2, 2010, the August issue of Coast Magazine, and in the April/May/June 2011 issue of Pacific Horticulture magazine. We received a Water-Wise Recognition Award from the City of Huntington Beach during the Green Expo in September, 2011.  We became a Certified Wildlife Habitat with the National Wildlife Federation in June 2013.

City of Huntington Beach Recognition
City Recognition.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [6.2 KB]

Water Efficiency and Conservation

To reduce runoff and maximize water efficiency, our new landscape utilizes drip irrigation. The irrigation is run by an Irritrol Rain Dial controller with an attached rain sensor that automatically turns off the irrigation for 24 hours when it senses rain. Mulch (1 to 2 inches) and worm castings are regularly applied throughout the yard. These help retain the water, keeps down the weeds and enriches the soil as it naturally decomposes.

Water capture is accomplished by diverting rain runoff from the roof and landscape into a functioning water capture system disguised as a dry river rock bed (see photos below). Beneath this area is buried three 60-gallon CUDO cubes.  These capture the water and then slowly release it to re-irrigate the soil and percolate down into the aquifer below. This is an important contribution to the underground water basin for providing fresh water to the community and preventing seawater intrusion barrier.

The photo below on the left shows the 3 CUDO cubes wrapped in landscape cloth with cobble stone around them to facilitate drainage. The picture on the right shows the finished yard, with Colorado River Rock installed on top of the buried CUDO cubes.

Organic Maintainence

We avoid using chemical pesticides preferring beneficial organic products, nematodes (worms!), ladybugs, and other "good" insects and microbes to control pests above and below the soil. Our maintenance contractor, David Kern (Landscape Architect License #NV450) uses organic fertilizers. Mulch, blood meal and worm castings are applied regularly throughout the year. This builds up the microorganisms within the soil. They in turn break down organic materials into nutrients for the plants.

The Importance of a Water-Friendly Garden

We, as a society, need to rethink how we are utilizing our natural resources, especially water. We need to stop being inconsiderate consumers and become responsible citizens. Just because water flows so readily out of our faucets does not mean that there is an unlimited supply.

We are polluting and using natural resources faster than the environment is able to regenerate them. Sustainable living is about healthy lifestyle choices, supporting the community in which you live and enhancing the long-term strength of the economy as well as being environmentally conscious. Sustainability is an economic, social and environmental concept. It's intended to be a means of configuring civilization and human activity so that society and its members are able to meet their needs and express their greatest potential in the present while preserving biodiversity and natural ecosystems, and planning and acting to maintain these ideals indefinitely. Sustainability affects every level of organization, from the local neighborhoods to the entire plant.

Sustainability is not just about protecting the environment and becoming greener. Yes, adopting greener habits is the key, but sustainability also includes enriching the social fabric of the community in which you live in as well as ensuring continued economic prosperity.
Our water-friendly garden was built and is maintained utilizing the Sustainable Sites Initiative's concepts. We want future generations to be able to enjoy this wonderful Earth. It is not difficult to live sustainably but it does take commitment. Our reward for living sustainably is a beautiful garden that serves as a resource for our community.
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Stewardship requires the recognition that we are all caretakers of the environment and economy for the benefit of present and future generations. We must balance the impacts of today's decisions with the needs of future generations. - The Minnesota Round Table on Sustainable Development (1998)