WaterWise Garden Recognition Contest

The 2021 WaterWise Garden Recognition Contest celebrates and recognizes beautiful, water efficient residential gardens throughout Santa Barbara County. These gardens serve as an example of what is possible when we design our landscapes to better use our most precious natural resource, water. 

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 

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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. 

Interested in entering? Applications for the 2022 Garden Recognition Contest will open in early spring.  

View past winners here!