Standing at the front of the Louise Lowry Davis Center last fall, Madeline Ward was amazed by the crowd that packed into the center on a Saturday morning.

Ward, who is the water conservation coordinator for the City of Santa Barbara, watched in amazement as the room filled with more than 100 people, standing room only, to attend a workshop about lawn alternatives to use during the drought.

“We were blown away by the attendance,” Ward said of herself and fellow workshop coordinator, Lesley Wiscomb.


Encouraged by their previous success, the pair are coordinating an all-day workshop on Saturday focused on gardening in drought. 

The event is free to the public, and attendees can stay the whole day or stop by for a topic of interest.

The workshop will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Louise Lowry Davis Center, 1232 De la Vina St., and parking will be free to attendees.

On the list of speakers are Dr. Steve Windhager of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, who will be speaking about harnessing the power of sustainability, landscape designer Billy Goodnick on designing a water-wise garden, as well as talks on gray-water systems and the city’s rebate program.

For a full schedule of the workshop, click here.

The city is partnering with the UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners program, of which Wiscomb, a retired landscape architect, is a member.  

The mission of the group is to teach sustainable gardening and landscaping skills to the public, while introducing them to the horticultural research and practices discovered by scientists in the UC System.

“We’re all about public education for the home gardener,” Wiscomb said.

The Master Gardener program requires attendees to complete the course and then go on to complete volunteer work in the community. Master Gardeners are behind the scenes, working on upkeep for the Butterfly Garden at Alice Keck Park, for example.

People may be most familiar with seeing the UCCE at Saturday farmer’s markets in Santa Barbara, where volunteers can be found giving out gardening advice. The group also partners with many horticulture societies and other organizations to advance its mission.

When the drought was declared, the Master Gardeners went to work trying to organize some programs that would teach home gardeners how to better manage water and maintain a sustainable landscape.

“We want to let people know you can have a beautiful garden that’s water wise,” Wiscomb said.

The recent rains have been “a great benefit” to the gardens, with many springing back, Ward said, but the rain hasn’t done much to replenish local reservoirs.

The city has reduced its water usage by 33 percent in December, over and above the reduction of 20 percent it asked of residents.

Ward said the rebate program offered throughout South Coast has quadrupled in size, and that many people make small changes, putting in drip systems as well bigger tasks such as taking out whole sections of lawn.

“We know people are really interested in changing their landscape,” she said.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at lcooper@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Lara Cooper, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @laraanncooper

— Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at lcooper@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.