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Water Management
2009 Contest Winners

TBG Xeriscape Contest logo

The Tucson Botanical Gardens and the Arizona Department of Water Resources recognized the winners of the 2009 Xeriscape Contest at a ceremony at the Tucson Botanical Gardensoff site icon This year's Emcee was Jim Marten, Deputy Director of the Governor Brewer's Southern Arizona Office. 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, graywater and efficient irrigation systems on April 25, 2009 at the " More Green Per Drop Festival" which focused on ways to conserve water in the landscape through practical methods and new and innovative irrigation technologies!Xeriscape graphic cactus 2

The primary reason for this contest is to increase awareness of exemplary landscapes that are water efficient 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. 


2009 Community Xeriscape Leader

Chris Monrad 2009 Xeriscape LeaderChris Monrad -2009 Community Xeriscape Leader, and co-founding member of the Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society, Cactus Rescue Crew

For the past ten years Chris has worked to rescue native plants in harms way and redistribute the salvaged plants to public projects and private gardens throughout our community. They have saved over 43,000 native plants from 212 sites. He offers his time to tell anyone about the chance to save native plants in the path of development and then helps to distribute them to the public to reduce the illegal collection.

Chris works to preserve the natural environment while recognizing the need for development. As an Electrical Engineer with a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or LEED Certification and owner of Monrad Engineering, Inc., he believes the most effective way to improve the environment is by recognizing opportunities when they present themselves. It was on the job that Chris first recognized the need to salvage native plants from a site planned for a new school. The near pristine desert site of approximately nine acres was surrounded by new development. Chris inquired about which of the plants would be saved for landscaping the school and was told only a few large tree specimens would be retained for replanting. From that encounter the idea of utilizing the Arizona Native Plant Law and members of the Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society to salvage plants was born. 

Today these efforts supplement the on-site retention or salvage required by development permits to assist with issues surrounding specially protected and endangered species of cacti and succulents as well as salvaging traditional barrels, hedgehogs, pincushions, Ocotillo, small saguaros and other natives occurring on salvage sites. You can see evidence of Chris’ leadership and commitment in the landscaping around new schools, and countless projects all over Tucson. Chris’ dedication to preserving and improving the awareness of the unique beauty of the Sonoran Desert was on display at the Cactus & Succulent Society of America Convention. Nearly 1,000 attendees received a four inch pot with a Golden Spined Fishhook cactus grown from hand pollinated seed by Chris from four salvaged cacti to retain the yellow flower and yellow spines over the more typical red-spined variety.

Chris’ accomplishments are not limited to his work with Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society. He also is president at International Dark-Sky Alliance working to preserve the night sky so all of us can continue to be amazed by the stars.

Homeowner Category

These entries must be substantially designed and installed by the homeowners themselves. We are honoring a total of three homeowners this year:

Grand Prize - Thomas Staudt Residence

Staudt ResidenceThe winner is a quote/unquote work in progress with the transformation beginning in 1995 with the removal of non-native plants installed by the house’s previous owner and the installation of a trench and berm system to utilize rainwater. The current owner removed non-native grasses and planted butterfly and cacti gardens while renting it, then continued the improvements including a rainwater cistern and the beginnings of a gray water system after purchasing the home. It now provides inner-city habitat to quail, hummingbirds, and curved-billed thrashers nesting in a backyard Cholla - earning a Backyard Wildlife Habitat designation from the National Wildlife Federation.
Judges found this landscape to have an outstanding selection of native trees, shrubs and accent plants to replicate the native desert. They did a fantastic job of choosing plants and implementing passive and active water harvesting, which provides most of the water necessary for the plants and visual interest to a formerly flat lot. Nice tall trees provide effective shading for the home. The judges noted that this garden is very organic and homey with a sense the landscape is used and loved.

First Place – Francine ShacterShacter Residence

The first year this homeowner moved to Tucson she witnessed “lots of sand and silt being carried away during the monsoons”, and, with acknowledged input from attending workshops by Greenfire Ecological Landscaping and Watershed Management Group, has magically transformed a barren hillside into a rock-pooled oasis. Judges noted that this was a very challenging lot, and they did a fantastic job of controlling erosion and implementing paths while blending the lot into the hillside. Water harvesting on a steep slope and exclusive use of native plants created a very nice effect and shows an obvious effort to conserve water.


Second Place - Kit & Carol Weaver

Weaver front yardNeighborhood children love to watch the butterflies, hummingbirds and finches attracted by strategically placed native plants which maximize the use of sunlight (or lack there of) found at Desert Survivor’s plant sales. They built dirt mounds, dug irrigation trenches, placed boulders and drip irrigation throughout, creating what the judges term a small but bright spot in a bland neighborhood which offers a great example of the possibilities. Judges commented that this landscape is very neat and tidy with a sharp delineation between the totally xeric part of the yard and the oasis part of the yard which contains a small patch of grass and blooms galore to make people, hummingbirds and butterflies happy. The Mesquite tree is well pruned and its placement produces heat reduction for the house. Gravel mulch and rocks were used as sculptural elements along with berms for water harvesting and good use of aesthetically pleasing native plants. Several judges noted the Lantana hedge was a nice touch to cover the chain link fence and very effective.

These homeowners continue to work on their yard and have grand plans for the future, including a custom-welded “ocotillo” fence and additional cisterns.

2009 Photo Gallery, Homeowner Category

Professional Residential Category

Grand Prize - Diana Turner, Turner Designs for the Cantrell Residence

Cantrell front yardSince variety is the spice of life, how about 50 different plant species of which 35 are native to the Sonoran or Chihuahuan deserts to spice up a home?... Judges stated that this landscape is an example of excellent design of landscape elements with placement of a water feature, boulders, flowering plants and accent plants creating visual and aesthetic interest to the composite design of the whole site. A very well balanced front yard with a nice seating area shaded by two Palo Verde trees and well spaced and placed plants provide interest. The front yard flows smoothly into the back yard past nicely designed trellises to a very pleasant rear yard with a water feature and large rocks placed for water retention. The use of native plants was well laid out and functional.


Judges’ Award for Water Conservation - Greg Corman, Gardening Insights for the Corman Residence

Corman front yardIn 2000 this home’s landscape consisted of Bermuda grass and a few junipers. Now it is a Mecca for native birds, insects and reptiles with berms and swales, shady mesquites, a native bee habitatoff site icon (made of salvaged beams) and 67 species of native plants providing year-round color Even the AC condensate is utilized!

Judges found this to be an excellent desert landscape with the placement of cacti, wildflowers and accents harmoniously arranged for visual effect. Native trees are well placed for maximum heat reduction and the use of the ocotillo as a screen is both effective and attractive. The repetition of barrel cacti, Mesquites and gravel create a minimalist look. This designer used a variety of native species near the perimeter to blend in with the surrounding landscapes. This design offers an example of color, texture and interest galore achieved with only harvested water and no supplemental irrigation. One judge is quoted as saying “this corner lot is filled with golden-crowned barrel kings keeping an eye on the neighborhood and celebrating desert denizens with great bee box art!”

2009 Photo Gallery, Professional Residential Category


J.D. DiMeglio - “Artistry in Landscaping” Award

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 JD DiMeglio “Artistry in Landscaping” award---

Jason Isenberg, Urban Organics Landscape, LLC. for the Isenberg Residence

Isenberg sunken seating areaThe winning designer’s inspiration started with the unique design of the house itself, “industrial warehouse modern” creating a lush but low-water-use oasis which is cared for 100% organically including worm castings! Digging deep (literally lowering the landscape View looking toward seating areaareas to achieve not only privacy but rainwater collection). By choosing plant forms with architectural simplicity to match the home, the designer incorporated mass plantings of low water use species such as Pedilanthus (slipper flower) and showcased them within the sunken outdoor living area.

Judges stated that the design offers an Asian aesthetic with color, texture and plant placement while using low water use plants to allow a small area to have a feeling of spacious grace, great functionality and a design consistent with the modern lines of the house. This very clever design integrates a vegetable garden with sculpture, a fountain and an outdoor shower. Judges noted that this home had the best irrigation, garden, and great use of harvested water. The space is functional and restfully pleasing -tying the gray hardscape materials with the grayish-green plants to accentuate the whole.

More Photos, 2009 Artistry in Landscaping Award

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