Water Saving Yard Photo Challenge

– Posted in: Contests and Giveaways, Garden Photography

EPA_ContestI am reposting the announcement of the Water Saving Yard photo contest sponsored by the EPA.  Let’s get some entries and show that Gardening Gone Wild knows what a water saving yard look like !  On Tuesday I said:

I hope all of Gardening Gone Wild’s Picture This photo contestants will join me in this EPA challenge.  But each of us can only submit one photo, so I hope you will help me choose my entry from the ones below.

Since 2006 the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has had a WaterSense program to help raise water efficiency standards in plumbing fixtures, irrigation equipment, and even new homes.  Now they are having the The Water Saving Yard photo contest.  Let’s contribute and spread the word.

wslogo_smallAccording to their website: “WaterSense has helped consumers save a cumulative 1.1 trillion gallons of water and more than $21.7 billion in water and energy bills.”

Being in the midst of a 4 year drought here in California, my ears perk up at this work, but all of us across the country should be concerned about water use.  Indeed, 40 out of 50 state water managers expect water shortages in their states over the next 10 years.

In California, this fine front yard in Santa Barbara, designed by Carol Bornstein, was recently used by the National Wildlife Federtation to illustrate native plant habitats can have curb appeal – and they are water savers.

Picket fence and brick path entering front yard California native plant drought tolerant garden, Santa Barbara, spring design by carol bornstein

California native plant water saving garden by carol bornstein

Many gardeners in California have long understood the water challenges of our summer-dry climate, with 7 to 8 months of rainless summers being the norm.  But this EPA contest is for the whole country.  So come on you Garden Gone Wild photographers, let’s contribute to this contest!  Let’s show the EPA we know what a water saving yard really looks like.

For your efforts, I will a make a gallery of all our own entries and will award our own GGW prize for those who post the photo to our Facebook Picture This contest page.

Stepping stone path in meadow garden with Allium 'Globemaster' in front yard lawn substitute, St Louis Missouri; Matt Moynihan design

Water saving yard – St. Louis front yard meadow; Matt Moynihan design

I have some of my own favorites here.  Let me know which one I should submit.  And please submit your own !

Front yard meadow garden with lavender and ornamental grass, Stipa gigantea, and Anemanthele lessoniana ; design Maile Arnold

Water saving yard – Front yard meadow garden with lavender and ornamental grass ; design Maile Arnold

This is much more than a contest.  It is a way to help other gardeners with inspiring photos.  The EPA only awards two prizes –  publishing the winners for the world to see.  But I will add a prize for our readers – a DVD searchable database of Plants for Summer-Dry Gardens.

holt-summer-dry disc product label_600


This is the database of  photos used in the Plants and Landscape for Summer-Dry Climates book and are all landscape examples of plants used in summer-dry (mostly California) gardens.  What is particularly useful about these photos, and the EPA contest photos, is they show real gardens.  We all want other gardeners to have success, and photos are the best way to prove water saving yards can be beautiful.

So please do contribute your own best example of a water saving yard.  I will. But I can’t decide which one.

Should I stay true to my California focus and show a rustic back yard with no lawn and native plants?

Repeated plantings of yellow flower yellow Sulfer Buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum) in mixed beds with native rock field stone in Kyte drought tolerant California native plant backyard garden design

California native plant backyard garden design; Al Kyte

Or this front yard lawn meadow in Santa Barbara?

Nassella pulchra, purple Needle grass, nativ egarsse meadow lawn substitute in summer-dry garden Santa Barbara California

Purple Needle grass, native grass  meadow lawn substitute in summer-dry garden, Santa Barbara California

The rules of the contest are simple and begin with: “Participation is easy and open to anyone committed to saving water for future generations!” Gardens do have to be in the U.S. or Canada, but otherwise you can enter on the special Facebook page: FB (http://bit.ly/1Oi9UUS), or send your #WaterSavingYard photos by using the hashtag on Twitter or Instagram.  You can even email your photo to them: [email protected].  Deadline is August 27th.

Then vote for your favorite by September 10th by Liking your other favorite (don’t vote for yourself) on the Contest Facebook page. One fan favorite and one selected by EPA will be featured in their future outreach materials and highlighted on their website. I hope it is one of our Gardening Gone Wild photographers.

For the Gardening Gone Wild prize, go to the Picture This Facebook page and attach the same picture in a comment to any of the announcements and reminders about the contest.  As in our other contests, you can also add the link as a comment to this post, and I will make a gallery of all photos once all entries have been posted.

Here is another of my photos I am considering – the Willenberg garden in Minnesota uses no-mow meadow mix for lawns.

Lawn substitute, no mow fescue meadow with path leading to seating area past bird house, Minnesota garden

Lawn substitute, no mow fescue meadow, Minnesota garden

(I recently profiled the Willenberg garden at PhotoBotanic, free to members.)

Those of you who have your own blogs, please consider making your own post about the EPA contest.  Link them back here with your own contest photo and I will add them to the Picture This contest page for you. This is useful outreach to promote water saving landscapes across the country.

I know from my own travels that my favorite gardens are those that save water by being adapted to the local conditions, often using native plants.  Here is Melinda Taylor’s SITES® certified garden in Pennsylvania.

Stylophorum diphyllum - Celandine poppy, Yellow wood  poppies in backyard water conserving garden with native plants, Melinda Taylor garden, Pennsylvania

Stylophorum diphyllum – Celandine poppy  in backyard water saving yard, Melinda Taylor garden.

And one of Larry Weiner’s meadows in Connecticut.

Front yard flowering meadow garden, Connecticut meadow garden  with native wildflowers; Larry Weiner Design

Front yard flowering meadow garden,  Larry Weiner Design

In New Mexico, this Judith Philips design uses native grasses for water saving alternative lawns.

Little Bluestem grass (Schizachyrium scoparium) accent grass and wildflowers in Buffalo grass (Buchloe dactyloides) sustainable lawn meadow garden, design by Judith Phillips

Little Bluestem grass flowering in a Buffalo grass sustainable lawn meadow garden, design by Judith Phillips

And David Salman, who started High Country Gardens, has his own magnificent Water Saving Yard.

David Salman xeric New Mexico rock garden with silver foliage Artemisia frigida, Penstemon pinnifolius, Melampodium (Blackfoot Daisy) and Claret-cup cactus, Echinocereus triglochidiatus

David Salman xeric New Mexico rock garden

Which of my photos should I submit ?

Now which of yours should you submit ?  Don’t think of this simply as a competition, but a way to add your voice, your best water saving garden, to the collection of photos that will help others learn.

Enter on the Contest Facebook page.


Saxon Holt
Saxon Holt is the owner of PhotoBotanic.com, a garden picture resource for photographs, on-line workshops, and garden photography stories. An award winning photojournalist and Fellow of The Garden Writers Association with more than 25 garden books, he lives and gardens in Northern California. PhotoBotanic - Garden Photography online at www.photobotanic.com. https://photobotanic.com
Saxon Holt

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12 comments… add one

Leave a Comment

Gayle Madwin August 11, 2015, 10:54 am

I think the David Salman garden photo wins. It has everything people want to be reassured that they can have in a dry garden: flowers galore, of all different kinds, and a carefully tended look that makes it impossible to imagine lawn-obsessed neighbors ever complaining.

Cathy August 11, 2015, 1:36 pm

Saxon, what a great idea, both for your entry as well as a neat contest idea! My vote of the photos you shared is the no mow fescue meadow in Minnesota. I was ready to bring my cup of coffee and book to that Adirondack chair!

How current do photos have to be? I have numerous photos of our Massachusetts garden which was watered exclusively with rainwater captured in barrels. Our entire 1/2 acre yard there is a garden… almost no grass. Here in California, we garden in containers on our patio using all recycled water as well.

Saxon Holt August 11, 2015, 3:20 pm

Gayle – Yours is the first vote for what “I” submit to the EPA contest but I hope you submit something too. David’s garden is indeed extraordinary but would be nearly impossible outside the SouthWest. It will interesting to see what sort of entries get favored in the contest.

Saxon Holt August 11, 2015, 3:24 pm

Cathy – Ok, a vote for me to submit the Minnesota garden. Thanks. As far as what you submit, I don’t see anything in the rules defining when the photo was taken. While, in the Gardening Gone Wild Picture This contests, I ask for recent photos, in this case, I think any photo that will help the public see what a water saving garden looks like should be submitted.

Cathy August 11, 2015, 4:00 pm

It’s a tough choice, Saxon. They are all stunning, both as gardens and as photographic composiitons. I see bits and pieces of the various lessons you’ve taught in all of them.

If we buy a home, I would want to design the garden with carol bornstein’s as the inspiration. I almost chose that one since that is what I would like my own yard to look like. But I chose the no mow fescue because of the way that you captured the rolling clumps of fescue surrounding the tree which suggests undulating motion, with the chairs and fire pit in the distance, and pops of color promising blooms throughout the seasons. I’m not very good at articulating things about photos but the tree is an amazing focal point. I could imagine myself walking under the shade of that tree, along the field stones, to the bench, warm sun, a slight breeze, the smell of the woods and wildflowers.

Saxon Holt August 11, 2015, 6:24 pm

Thanks Cathy – I don’t know about you “not very good about articulating” – you said exactly what I liked that Minnesota garden and its undulating lawn and invitation to enjoy.

hb August 15, 2015, 6:41 am

I like the one with the lavenders and miscanthus, so pretty, and also the high country gardens one–so much variety and texture.

Saxon Holt August 15, 2015, 12:47 pm

Thanks for your comment hoover b. Lavender always make a garden seem somehow romantic. The grass though is Stipa gigantea not miscanthus.

Jenny August 27, 2015, 7:28 pm

My vote goes to the California garden. I’m on the last day for the entry but have submitted a photo of my Austin garden as it looks at this moment. 2 months without rain and many, many days over 100º

Saxon Holt August 27, 2015, 10:10 pm

Good for you Jenny. Be sure to submit the same photo to the GGW Picture This page too.

Oscar Kane October 7, 2015, 2:35 am

Great idea. David’s garden is really unexpected. I submit to the EPA contest.

Saxon Holt October 7, 2015, 2:54 am

David’s garden is indeed wonderful, but it is too late now to submit photos for the EPA contest.

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