Last week we talked about water runningoff our The California Friendly Garden Contest

Before I announce an exciting opportunity for Orange County gardeners, let me recap what we talked about during the past two weeks of this column.

Standing at Little Corona Beach with a stream of landscape water gushing at my feet. I could have been standing there on any day of the year, watching the water flow by. I told you about the millions of gallons of water that escapes our gardens and flows to the ocean, carrying with it a daily dose of fertilizers, pesticides, snail baits and other garden chemicals. Together, we reviewed ways for local gardeners to reduce this runoff, conserve water and grow healthier plants.

We talked about some new water-saving technology. You learned about “smart” irrigation controllers, like the WeatherTRAK system that is producing healthier gardens and conserving water in thousands of our local gardens. I suggested that gardeners switch their sprinkler heads to super-efficient models, like the MP Rotator. The time is now, so we talked about some easy changes; like using organic products in our gardens, fixing broken sprinklers, mulching over the surface of our soil and limiting turf areas to where we really need it.

Naturally, we should also be thoughtful of the plants that we select to grow in our gardens. Choosing plants that are acclimated to Southern California’s dry summers makes perfect sense. We now know that how we group the plants in our gardens is as important as the plants that we choose. Mixing thirsty plants with low-water plants in the same section of the garden negates the value of the water-thrifty plants. However, planting thirsty plants in one zone and low-water water plants in another makes perfect sense and saves water.

Collectively, when we plant a garden wisely, irrigate accurately and maintain it in a way that conserves and protects our local resources, we refer to the garden as “California Friendly”.

Now the news! On Wednesday of this week, a coalition of water agencies, environmental groups and businesses launched Orange County’s California Friendly® Garden Contest. Nearly $5,000 in cash prizes will be awarded to the best and most beautiful California Friendly gardens in Orange County. With rainfall at record lows this year, the contest promises to be very exciting.

It’s easy to enter. Just take three pictures of your front yard, fill out a brief on-line form and you’re garden is in the running. Your pictures, along with your city and last name will be posted onto the contest website.

The competition, being promoted through numerous websites, newspapers, magazines and on television, will encourage gardeners throughout the county to make their garden California Friendly. The contest is organized by Roger’s Gardens and sponsored by a powerful coalition: The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, The Municipal Water District of OC, The Irvine Ranch Water District, The City of Newport Beach, The Surfrider Foundation, OC Coastkeeper, Monrovia Nursery, WeatherTRAK, MP Rotator, Dr. Earth, Gardner and Bloome and others.

Entries are being accepted now and will be posted on the website soon. During the month of June, public voting will take place on the contest website. Thousands of gardeners will view the pictures submitted and vote for their favorites. The ten California Friendly gardens that receive the most votes will be inspected by an expert judging team on July 13th. Finally, on the evening of July 28, at a multi-media awards presentation in Corona del Mar, the public is invited to be present when the four best California Friendly gardens are awarded. The evening will conclude with the announcement of the Best California Friendly Garden in Orange County.

If you want to win, here’s a tip . . . it should be beautiful! California Friendly gardens are beautiful. They are gardens that are stunning and inspirational. They are gardens that excite your senses, tease your curiosity and leave you wondering how you can bring them to your own home.

To see the full details of the contest, see some inspirational photographs or enter go to the official contest website,

Good luck.

Ron Vanderhoff is the Nursery Manager at Roger’s Gardens, Corona del Mar