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Water Management
2008 Xeriscape Contest Winners

2008 Xeriscape Awards CeremonyThe Tucson Botanical Gardens and the Arizona Department of Water Resources recognized the winners of the 2008 Xeriscape Contest at a ceremony at the Tucson Botanical Gardensoff site icon on May 15, 2008. Awards were given to recognize the work of professionals and property owners who have made innovative and appropriate use of native and low-water-use plants, water harvesting, gray water and efficient irrigation systems.

The primary reason for this contest is to increase awareness of exemplary landscapes that are water efficientXeriscape graphic cactus 2  and to encourage others to utilize these innovative practices to create beautiful landscapes and save water. The use of Xeriscaping and native plants is an important aspect of desert-appropriate landscaping and promoting water conservation in our community. By combining elements of design, artistry and water efficiency, these landscapes honor this beautiful desert, and set an example for the rest of us to follow. 

Article on 2008 Winners from Tucson Home Magazine acrobat icon


Community Xeriscape Leader

Lisa Shipek 2008 Xeriscape Leader award winner2008 Community Xeriscape Leader Award- Lisa Shipek

As Executive Director of Watershed Management Group, Lisa focuses on developing projects that involve collaborative learning, building community knowledge and pride, and enhancing natural resources. Lisa is one of Tucson's unsung heroes who for the past five years has worked tirelessly to spread the word about water harvesting to people and organizations throughout our community. Lisa is passionate about forging the connection between people and the environment. With a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and Masters in Latin American Studies, she believes the most effective way to improve the environment is through community development. You can see evidence of her leadership and commitment at projects all over Tucson. Lisa led a group that installed a passive water harvesting system to support a community butterfly garden on the large vacant lot at Broadway and Country Club. Other projects include the Nature Conservancy Building, Ward IV offices, Rivera Elementary School, Miles Exploratory Learning Center and many others. Lisa's accomplishments are not limited to her work with the Watershed Management Group. She has done extensive community-based research on water management and conservation in Ambos Nogales. She has studied abroad in Ecuador, Nepal, Northern India and has worked as a volunteer naturalist guide at Monte Verde in Costa Rica.

Homeowner Category

These entries must be substantially designed and installed by the homeowner’s themselves:

Grand Prize winner and Recipient of the J.D. DiMeglio Artistry in Landscaping Award - Karen Martin & David Zavala

Martin Zavala front yardThe judges were “Wowed” by this home landscape and awarded the Grand Prize for Residential Landscape Design to homeowners Karen Martin and David Zavala. Grand Prize winners win the use of the Southern Arizona Home Builders Association (SAHBA) Pavilion at the Gardens for a party of up to 100 guests! This midtown home landscape was described by one judge as “charming as one could find-exhibiting amazing creativity, knowledge of plants and garden care.” It is a very appealing, “wild yet tamed” landscape featuring lots of little “secret gardens” and special touches. It incorporates recycled materials, the natural flow of water, plus plants from many regions. These homeowners have incorporated the “ADWR Drop Your Water Use” plant zoning concepts and have thoughtfully followed the Xeriscape principles of a water conserving design, zoning plants by water use, good maintenance practices, use of mulch to retain soil moisture and reducing or eliminating high water use plants, such as a privet hedge and citrus. Recently they even replaced a patch of existing Bermuda grass with artificial grass. Birds and butterflies are encouraged through careful plant selection and they continue to look for new ways to encourage new species. There are many “outdoor rooms" throughout the back yard that are designed with an artistic flair and decorated with tile murals, old garden tools and a variety of whimsical and colorful objects.

These exemplary homeowners were also presented with the J.D. Di Meglio “Artistry in Landscaping” Award, another of our top awards that honors a Tucson legend and innovator in the garden design world. J.D Di Meglio inspired everyone he met to embrace the beauty of the Sonoran Desert and to appreciate the natural artistry alive in the native landscape. This award is given in his memory to the landscape that the judges feel has the most artistic flair with plant selection and placement, creative use of space, color and art in the landscape. Congratulations to this year’s winner of the J.D. Di Meglio “Artistry in Landscaping” award!

Homeowner First Place- Thomas Liguore

Liguore front yardThis front yard has excellent zone planning with good use of water harvesting basins, colorful plantings, and a nice mini oasis with lamb’s ear. After removing a neglected Bermuda grass lawn, this east side homeowner created three irrigation zones, a mini oasis near the front entry, a desert area in front between the house and the street and a privacy hedge. Contours and berms were made by bringing in desert soil and water is retained on site by using a retaining wall made from adobe cap block and brick for an old “Presidio look.” Native plants with a variety of color were chosen to attract hummingbirds. The judges said: WOW--what an inviting and appealing yard!


Judges’ Award “Distinguished Xeriscape” - Daniel and Tracy Williams

Williams backyard oasiscactus in bloom Williams ResidenceThis is one of the ceremony's most prestigious awards, that honors a landscape design that distinguishes itself from the rest yet follows our conservation and beautification goals. These homeowners have created their own universe with landscaping that flows from one area to another. This restoration began in 2001 with a disturbed hillside in the Tucson Mountains and has been transformed into a spectacular garden with a variety of low water use plants, trees and groundcovers, covering the gamut of colors and textures. The land was contoured with swales, berms and earth mounds to channel and direct rainwater runoff from the roof into tree wells. The crescent shaped raised planting beds soften the landscape and function as rainwater catchments. The two citrus trees at the lower end of the property take advantage of rainwater runoff when available, otherwise they are irrigated using drip irrigation. These homeowners are in tune with nature and have a harmonious relationship with what they refer to as their “Circle of Life” landscape, which they share with local wildlife-- a paradise right outside their back door.

Judges’ Award “Bright Spot in the Neighborhood” - Vincent Scardino

Scardino front yardAnother of the special judges’ awards recognizes a “Bright Spot in the Neighborhood.” This midtown home really stands out – showing off the dedication of the homeowner. The homeowner used drought-tolerant plants that are low maintenance and resilient. The west facing front yard is enhanced with deciduous trees to allow winter sun in but providing summer shade. It is a bright spot in an otherwise bleak neighborhood –providing inspiration for his neighbors. In the words of one of the judges, “It was enthusiastically planted” with colorful and appealing drought tolerant plants. It attracts hummingbirds, bees, butterflies and other insects and provides homes for lizards and geckos.



Judges’ Award “Best Revegetation of a Hillside or Slope” - Sperry and Donna Lynn Van Langeveld

Van Langeveld brittlebush in bloomVan Langeveld dalea in bloomThis yard started out as a difficult site but because of its sweeping view, the homeowners were committed to doing a good job. They took a disturbed natural hillside area and revegetated it with native and desert adapted plants to create an “explosion of color” throughout the year. From early spring the golden yellow brittlebush lines the driveway transitioning to asea of blue dalea’s. Plants are blooming incrementally through early winter with the intent of attracting hummingbirds and butterflies. Additions to pre-existing cacti include: penstemons, lantana, salvia, blue hibiscus, Mexican honeysuckle, texas ranger and verbena. All landscaping was done with minimal cost using neighbors cast offs, one gallon size plants and by salvaging plants in the path of construction. Rockwork planting areas and drainage along the edge of the driveway was hand placed by the homeowners using natural stone present on site, with great results. The judges understood how much imagination and hard work were required to create a natural landscape on this type of terrain.

Judges' Award—Best Water Harvesting and Use of Gray water - Martha Retallick

Retallick front yardStarting in 2004 with a sea of gravel and a “formidable infestation of Bermuda grass” in back, this homeowner sought to educate herself through landscape classes and workshops in the hopes of avoiding major mistakes in undertaking the new landscape design. Deciding against an irrigation system that would result in higher water bills for landscape watering, she opted instead to use gray water and rain water to keep the landscape going. Without the help of gutters, the owner created rock lined catchments along the roof drip line to catch and direct rainwater to plants. Bath tub and sink “gray water” is captured and carried in buckets to help water the plants. In the words of one of the judges, “using minimal equipment and plants and maximum imagination and effort, the owner has an arid landscape appealing from the street and impressive in the efficient use of water. Adopting the Xeriscape approach and having a water conservation ethic has resulted in a daily use of 55 gallons – half the average use in Tucson! Martha was also the winner of the rainwater harvesting cistern donated by Oasis Water Harvesting.


Honorable Mention - Jacqueline Soule

Soule front yard catchmentThe judges noted this yard had an excellent plant mix and revegetation, especially the combination of native and annual flowering plants. Its design blended sand, rocks and flagstone for a pleasing effect. This yard started out as a sea of gravel with problematic soil and drainage issues. A transformation has begun, through the use of mulches and over 50 species of native Sonoran and Chihuahuan desert plants. Water use is kept to a minimum by using soaker hoses and some hand watering. Ultimately the landscape should be able to live on rainfall once established. It is truly a labor of love, and as the homeowner states-blood, sweat and some tears!


2008 Photo Gallery, Homeowner Category


Professional Category - Commercial and Public Works

Grand Prize— City of Tucson Department of Transportation

Median at Alvernon Way & 29th StreetMedian with Palo Verde tree in bloom

median with Native treesThis public works project was the unanimous choice of our judges and deserving the high praise and recognition of grand prize.The surrounding area is a typical commercial strip mall, built before landscape screening and buffer yards were required. This design captures the character of Tucson and what Xeriscape means. From the beginning this median was designed and installed without any irrigation with the intent to utilize on-site water harvesting techniques only. This street median was designed and planted over 10 years ago. Long before the mainstream popularity of water harvesting, the City of Tucson’s Department of Transportation was pioneering water harvesting concepts using basins to capture on-site water and aesthetic use of river rock and boulders. The groundcover and boulder riprap give a natural expression of the Tucson image and native plant materials for low maintenance and easy care. The result is a lush, densely vegetated planting in a sea of asphalt, bringing a tiny bit of the Sonoran Desert into a stark urban environment. As one judge commented, “I wish there could be more projects like this that maintain a Tucson sense of place.”

Judges’ Award - Best Neighborhood/Community Landscape Project-

City of Tucson Department of Transportation, San Antonio Park/Parque de la GenteSan Antonio Park Shade Sail

San Antonio Park Entry areaThis site was formerly occupied by Red Ball Moving Company and had been vacant for a number of years. The City acquired the property with the intent of creating a neighborhood park in the mixed-use San Antonio neighborhood. The design was a collaboration between the City’s Department of Transportation and Parks and Recreation in conjunction with the neighborhood itself. The various elements within the park: stage area, picnic tables and grill and children’s sandbox were the result of the neighborhood’s desire for a gathering place for neighbors and children. The desert style design provides a comfortable feel that is achieved through gently rolling mounds and a dry streambed which captures and harvests rainwater onsite. Large trees were preserved in place and a mix of native and drought-tolerant plants were added for additional shade and interest. The judges were impressed with the excellent plant selection and placement and the overall color and textures.

2008 Photo Gallery, Public Works and Judges' Awards

Professional Residential Category

Newhouse residence designer Scott CalhounFirst Place Residential Award—Scott Calhoun, "Zona Gardens" - Newhouse Residence

Dormant Bear Grass and blooming PenstemonThis landscape is a well designed “desert woodland” that showcases plants and provides a wonderful mix of textures. The main challenge of this yard was to integrate a mature shade-producing Elderica pine into an updated xeric landscape design. Although the mature pine casts welcome afternoon shade on this west facing home during the summer, it did not fit into the desired Sonoran desert design theme. However, the designer and homeowners decided to work around it. The pine was augmented with Chinquapin oaks, white orchid trees, beargrass, Ocotillo, deer grass, superb penstemon, sandpaper verbena and pale-leaf yucca, reminiscent of vegetation patterns usually seen at slightly higher and wetter parts of southeastern Arizona. Also included was a new circular driveway of decomposed granite and a vegetable garden that is irrigated with rainwater. In the early spring blooming begins with the coral blooms of the superb penstemon set against the dried blades of deer grass. As spring continues, the bloom stalks of the yucca rise from the purple mats of verbena while a white haze of orchid tree appears. The garden was designed for an extended spring bloom followed by a period of rest when evergreen foliage plants like beargrass take center stage.

Second Place Residential Award- Paul Connolly, "Sonoran Gardens" - Rosalik/Krys Residence

Rosalik/Krys Residence designer Paul ConnollyThese mid-western transplants worked with their designer to create a desert-friendly landscape with outdoor rooms where they could relax and enjoy their new lifestyle and environment. This yard reflected the personalities of its homeowners, which come through in the garden ornaments and art collections. Starting with 1,300 square feet of gray concrete, 1,500 square feet of lawn with few plants, and an obscured view of the Catalina Mountains the transformation began. The designer did an outstanding job of integrating new plants with the surrounding natural desert. Large boxed 'Desert Museum' Palo verde trees were brought in to screen neighboring houses and the lawn was removed and replaced with a variety of low maintenance, low-water-use plants. The red bird of paradise, mallow, dalea, blackfoot daisy, verbena, gaura and chocolate flower combine nicely with night blooming yucca, lavender spice and Texas mountain laurel to offer a stimulating mix of sizes, colors, textures and fragrances!

To create comfortable outdoor living spaces the cold gray concrete was stained a warm rustic color. A lattice structure and ceiling fan were added to the back patio as well as a fireplace and spa. With the addition of bright pastel colors, accent tiles, colorful pots and sculpture, the homeowners now spend many hours watching the birds and enjoying their desert oasis. The landscape provides food, water and shelter for butterflies, hummingbirds, and quail, earning it the designation of “Backyard Wildlife Habitat” by the National Wildlife Federation. The judges thought this landscape included excellent and colorful plant selection, placement and a design that flowed.

2008 Photo Gallery, Professional Residential

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