How to grow beautiful Bougainvillea

How to grow beautiful Bougainvillea

From Garden Design Magazine —
Want to add some color to your landscape? You need a flower that isn’t afraid of San Diego’s hot, dry weather, and Bougainvillea is it. This fantastic article shows you the different varieties of Bougainvillea and explains how to use it as a vine or groundcover, soil preferences and how to water it. Note that East County is in Zone 10 — Bougainvillea’s favorite zone — of the USDA’s Plant Hardiness Zone System.

Explore Bougainvillea in Garden Design Magazine

The 2018 WaterSmart Landscape Contest winner is . . .

The 2018 WaterSmart Landscape Contest winner is . . .

Helix Water District has named Carey Hultgren and Paul Geldbach of La Mesa as the winner of its 2018 WaterSmart Landscape Contest, an annual competition that recognizes outstanding water-wise residential landscapes based on design and overall attractiveness, appropriate plant selection and maintenance, and irrigation methods.

This 1930s Spanish-style home on Dutton Lane sits on a 0.67-acre lot and now uses 40 percent less water than it consumed a few short years ago. Over the two-month billing period ending this April, this home used just 14 units of water.  One unit is 748 gallons.

Hultgren and Geldbach purchased the property in 2012 and, at the time, the only landscaping was dead sod, dying trees and a swimming pool. Rather than trying to rehabilitate the thirsty lawn, Hultgren and Geldbach slowly transitioned their property into a colorful, complimentary, and climate-appropriate landscape.

Incredibly, the two completed the design, installation and maintenance of their Spanish oasis on their own. “Yes, it has taken us a long time! But I believe the extra time spent has been worth the money we’ve saved and the pride of ownership we gained in the process.”

How They Did It

Hultgren attended the San Diego County Water Authority’s free WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program in 2015 and within a few months they were ready to break ground. Since then, this do-it-yourself duo has completed a great amount of work.

“We’ve installed 26 water-wise trees and countless drought tolerant plants. We continue to refine and add to the landscape every spare moment we have,” said Hultgren.

The work first involved clearing the land with multiple truckloads of dead plant material and then rebuilding the sun-scorched soil. They hauled in over 40 yards of compost and mulch to provide the new plants with nutrients and help the soil retain moisture.

Next on the list was irrigation for the new plants. Fortunately, the old lawn had an irrigation system. The couple retrofitted the system with efficient rotating nozzles and avoided the expense and labor of installing a completely new system.

Lastly, the couple carefully selected, arranged and installed the colorful, low-water-use plants. Now that the plants are established, Hultgren and Geldbach can turn the irrigation system off from late fall to spring with nothing but the occasional hand-watering in between.

“In fact, we deeply watered the Palo Verdes along the driveway the first year to get their root systems established and we haven’t watered them or the 20 octopus agaves…for about one and a half years! This spring, the trees have thanked us with a spectacular flower show.”

Hultgren and Geldbach wrote in their contest application that, “It’s gratifying to see that our efforts to conserve water with careful plant selections, irrigation retrofitting and mulch maintenance has been paying off with a lower water bill than some of our neighbors, plus a more colorful landscape.”

As this year’s winners, Hultgren and Geldbach will receive the following prizes – a $250 gift card, a certificate, as well as a WaterSmart Landscape Contest winner’s sign to display in their yard.

Photos of Hultgren’s and Geldbach’s yard will appear in the winners section at, along with Helix Water District’s past winners and the winners from other local water agencies. Helix will also feature the couple and their landscape at, the district’s own website.

Next Year’s Contest

The 2019 WaterSmart Landscape Contest will begin around January next year and the deadline for submissions will be in late April.  Look for information about the 2019 contest at, and Twitter@HelixWater.

Governor approves permanent water conservation rules

Governor approves permanent water conservation rules

Yesterday — after two years of analysis, lobbying and debate between water suppliers, environmental groups, state officials and legislators — Governor Brown signed two bills into law that establish permanent water use restrictions throughout California.

The new laws require Helix and other urban water suppliers to set and comply with annual water use targets — water budgets — based on three factors:

  • An allowance for customers of 55 gallons per person per day for indoor water use
  • A yet-to-be determined allowance for customers for outdoor water use 
  • A cap on water distribution system leaks

Helix customers should note that their water use may already be 55 gallons or less per person per day indoors. The average daily water use of Helix customers this year — indoor and outdoor use combined — is just over 97 gallons per person.

It’s also important to note that Helix already has permanent, year-round water use efficiency measures in place, as do many Southern California water suppliers. This is not the case, however, statewide.

What concerns water suppliers is the yet-to-be determined allowance for outdoor water use. Property owners should expect something along the lines of the maximum applied water allowance (MAWA) for new development in California. The MAWA limits new residential landscapes to 55 percent of the water needed for a healthy lawn, and new non-residential landscapes to 45 percent.

Drive around La Mesa, El Cajon and Lemon Grove and you will see that many Helix customers will be okay with an outdoor water allowance, because they already installed water efficient landscapes. You’ll also see properties that emerged from five years of drought with no landscape left. But the remaining lawns and tropical backyards in our service area could be an issue.

Helix’s annual water use target will be based on the total square feet of irrigated landscape in our service area and the yet-to-be determined equivalent of the MAWA. Water suppliers that do not meet their annual target face fines of $1,000 per day.

The State Water Resources Control Board will go to work now, deciding what the outdoor water use allowance will be. Water suppliers need to establish their annual water use targets by 2022.

Read the San Jose Mercury News Story

Read Assembly Bill 1668

Read Senate Bill 606




Reserve Your Seats for Saturday’s Workshop

Reserve Your Seats for Saturday’s Workshop

Learn how to transform your yard into a beautiful, water-saving landscape at our FREE, 3-hour WaterSmart Landscape Design Workshop this Saturday, June 2, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Taught by a local landscape expert, this 3-hour workshop will teach you:
  • How to convert your turf area to a water efficient landscape
  • How to select plants that will thrive in our Mediterranean climate
  • How to analyze your yard, identify soil, remove turf & irrigate efficiently
  • How to create a professional landscape — planting & irrigation designs ready for installation!
10 Spectacular Trees for Tight Spaces

10 Spectacular Trees for Tight Spaces

Ideally, a small to medium-size tree for a courtyard has plenty to offer year-round — spring flowers, summer shade, fall color and attractive branches for winter interest — without needing too much in return. The perfect patio tree also has a slower growth rate to reduce pruning and doesn’t drop messy seeds, blooms or fruit or have aggressive roots that will lift paving.

Read 10 Spectacular Trees for Courtyards and Tight Spaces on

6 Ways You Can Save on Landscaping

6 Ways You Can Save on Landscaping

Landscaping is expensive, and that’s the primary reason you don’t see a water efficient landscape in front of every home. That said, a lot of decisions go into planning, design and installation, and each decision offers opportunities to save money. Our plan here at Helix is for today’s article to be the first of many on how to cut the cost of a water efficient landscape.

Read 6 Ways You Can Save on Your Garden Renovation on

It’s Fix a Leak Week

It’s Fix a Leak Week

Nearly 1 trillion gallons of water are wasted in U.S. homes each year from easy-to-fix leaks. That’s why Helix is participating in Fix a Leak Week, March 19-25, and we encourage you to join us.

Sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) WaterSense program, Fix a Leak Week is an opportunity to improve the water efficiency of your home by finding and fixing leaks. In the average home, household leaks waste more than 10,000 gallons of water each year. That’s the amount of water needed to wash 270 loads of laundry!

Go to to get started.

You’ll find four do-it-yourself projects complete with instructional videos:

  • How to check your water meter to find leaks
  • How to check your toilet for leaks
  • How to check your irrigation for leaks
  • How to check your swimming pool for leaks

If you’re not ready to tackles these projects yourself, call a handy relative, plumber or irrigation specialist to help out.

Visit the WaterSense website
Like WaterSense on Facebook
Follow WaterSense on Twitter

Water-Wise Home Garden Tour is March 24

Water-Wise Home Garden Tour is March 24

The Water Conservation Garden will host its third annual Water-Wise Home Garden Tour on March 24, 2018, 9am-3pm — and you’re invited.

The tour will highlight five beautiful gardens utilizing an array of color, variety, and low water use plants, shrubs and trees. The gardens emphasize plants from semi-arid regions of the world including Australia, New Zealand, Southwestern U.S. and South Africa.

Attendees will also have an opportunity to purchase garden/home items such as bird houses, plant pots and garden jewelry, all handmade by local artisans. In addition, attendees can speak with the homeowners about each garden, as well as knowledgeable garden docents, about how they can redesign their own landscape using drought-tolerant plants.


$25 in advance or $30 at-the-door
Available on The Garden’s website or in their gift shop

The Five Gardens You’ll See

Rita and Joel Cloud
This unusual garden is in the shape of Africa with specific areas dedicated to the couple’s cherished destinations. The Madagascar Palm is one of the focal points and a favorite. This garden is for aloe, agave, cacti, rock, and succulent lovers. Going green without the grass, beautiful flowers, trees, an array of plants and garden art will delight your senses. Enjoy your walk through Africa and watch out for animals!

Susan and Larry Nichols
A cottage-style landscape on a half-acre, this lush garden features a variety of drought-tolerant plants designed to provide a colorful and bird friendly environment. The front yard is a low water meadow filled with flowering perennials and ornamental grasses. The backyard retreat is filled with roses, succulents, fruit trees and flowering ornamentals with winding paths and even a chicken “mansion!”

Jill and Gaylord Norcross
This small, half-acre property nestled on the South slope of Mt. Helix had approximately 3,000 square feet of lawn removed to create a water-wise natural landscape. The semi-desert front yard highlights a unique variety of cactus, succulents and cycads. The back yard was designed primarily to showcase drought-tolerant native plants of the Southwest.

Amethel and Ken Parel-Sewell
Following the work of succulent expert Debra Lee Baldwin and designer Laura Eubanks, approximately 300 plants were creatively placed in their garden tapestry, with ribbons of succulents and cacti weaving throughout the garden and along the flagstone paths. This natural, outdoor room featuring hummingbirds visiting amazing succulent blooms has become an extension of their living space. This ecosystem has no gophers!

Marsha and Gary Rold
Bordering the Crestridge Ecological Reserve, this acre-plus garden began as an owner-designed retirement project after the Cedar fire burned through the neighboring open space. The landscape features natural boulders and stacked-rock borders, California native plants, water-wise selections from Australia and other Mediterranean climate regions, fruit trees, vegetable beds and strategies for critter-proofing the edible crops.

Get DOUBLE the rebate on rotary nozzles

Get DOUBLE the rebate on rotary nozzles

Photo: Rotary Nozzle (Hunter Industries)

Have we got an offer for you!

Helix is doubling the $2 per nozzle rebate on rotary nozzles for our customers. Rotary nozzles cost from $5 to $8 each, so a $4 rebate is a substantial savings. Note that you must purchase at least 30 nozzles to qualify for the rebate, but you probably need that many or more to replace the sprayheads throughout your landscape.

Why are we offering this great deal? Because most homeowners have sprayheads and sprayheads have two inefficiencies: they water quickly, which can cause the water to run off the landscape, and they produce mist, which can blow away. Rotary nozzles use 10 percent less water than sprayheads. They save water by producing large water drops and applying them slowly, giving the ground time to absorb the water.

Replacing sprayheads with rotary nozzles is a simple project because you don’t need to dig out or relocate your sprinklers. All you have to do is unscrew the sprayhead, screw on the rotary nozzle and adjust the nozzle. Watch our video below.


  • A butter knife or standard screwdriver to pry the nozzle out of the sprinkler far enough to grab it
  • A rubber jar opener to help you grip and turn sprinkler risers when your hands are wet
  • A small standard screwdriver to adjust a sprinkler’s distance (arc)


  • When you grip and turn a sprinkler’s riser to point the rotary nozzle in the right direction, you’ll hear and feel a “ratcheting” noise. Don’t worry, this is normal and you’re not breaking the sprinkler.
  • You will get a little wet, so wear the appropriate shoes and clothes.
Daylight Saving Time Starts Sunday

Daylight Saving Time Starts Sunday

Don’t forget to spring forward into Daylight Saving Time this weekend — it starts at 2 a.m. on Sunday.

While it can takes days, weeks, even months to change the clocks in your cars — yeah, we all have those stories — it would be very smart and efficient of you to change the clock on your irrigation controller this weekend, and to give your irrigation system this 4-point check-up.

Replace the Battery in Your Timer 
Replace the battery in your timer, if there is one, to make sure you don’t lose your programmed watering schedule if the power goes out. Many timers will automatically revert to watering seven days per week, ten minutes per day, after a power outage if they don’t have a good battery.

Run the Sprinkler System  
Check to make sure all your sprinkler heads are still watering your plants and not the sidewalk or street.  Give them a simple twist if they need to be redirected. Realigning your sprinkler nozzles can save 12 to 15 gallons each watering cycle.

Check for Leaks
Look for perpetually damp spots in your yard or places where water pools – these could be a sign of a leak in your sprinkler system.

Stop Irrigating When it Rains
Don’t forget to turn off your sprinklers when rain is in the forecast and leave them off for at least 72 hours afterwards.

Small changes can make a big difference when it comes to outdoor watering.  Start a new habit and check your sprinklers when you change your clocks to make sure you’re not wasting water — and paying for it.