Teri and John Keating enjoy the peace they find in their award-winning creekside garden. (Courtesy photo)

John and Teri Keating are the grand prize winners of the 2022 WaterWise Garden Recognition Contest for their native garden at their home in Montecito.

The WaterWise Garden Recognition Contest was initiated in the spring to recognize beautiful, water-efficient residential gardens throughout Santa Barbara County.

The Santa Barbara County Water Agency and participating local water providers encouraged residents to enter into the running for an agency award and the countywide grand prize. A winner from each participating water provider’s service area received an engraved sandstone sign to display in their gardens.

This year’s participating water providers were the Montecito Water District, Carpinteria Valley Water District, Vandenberg Village Community Services District, and the cites of Solvang and Santa Barbara.

On Jan. 9, 2018, the Keating’s property burst into flames when the debris flow, rushing down San Ysidro Creek, ruptured a 22-inch, 1,000-PSI main transmission gas line that ignited the pilot light in their garage. It has taken more than four years since the explosion to rebuild their home and redo the landscaping.

The Keatings wanted to recreate a similar ambiance to their original water-wise landscaping while accommodating the new 80,000-lb. boulder that landed on their property from the blast. They also wanted to plant California natives, specifically California Bay trees, as their perimeter hedging in memory of their 40-foot-tall California Bay tree that was stripped away during the debris flow.

The Keatings said they love the peacefulness and serenity of walking through their creekside garden. They enjoy the beautiful blooms and fragrance of flowers, including Ceanothus, Manzanita, Cleveland Sage, and Monkeyflower, and the bounty of their edible fruit trees.

Their garden features supplemental irrigation and leak detector sensors. They installed two graywater systems, which divert laundry and shower water to irrigate their landscape. They prevent water leaks by using flow sensors that measure water use and automatically shut off irrigation when leaks are detected.

The residence also has a master valve that keeps the irrigation pipes and faucets shut off unless the programmed controller turns on the irrigation. John Keating receives notifications of leaks and can control the irrigation system from his phone.

Other finalists for each participating water agency’s service area were: Susan Clarke and Rand Clark of Santa Barbara, Anthony Lombardi of Carpinteria, Kurt and Joy Jonas of Solvang, and Marron and Camille Smith of Vandenberg Village.

The winning gardens encompassed stunning displays of water-wise and native plants, high-efficiency irrigation, and graywater systems.

Photos of each awarded garden can be viewed at www.WaterWiseSB.org/GardenContest. These home gardens demonstrate that water-wise, sustainable landscapes can be lush and colorful, provide habitat for wildlife, and are low maintenance. Many winners replaced their original lawns and now have the added benefit of a lower water bill.

Coming out of another dry winter, the WaterWise Garden Recognition Contest is relevant in recognizing residents who are doing their part to be water-wise while maintaining an aesthetic garden. To learn about the Garden Contest winners and for information on water-wise, low-maintenance gardening, and rainwater harvesting, visit www.WaterWiseSB.org.