​Helix Water District named Tim and Brianna Montgomery of La Mesa as the winner of its 2020 WaterSmart Landscape Contest, an annual competition that recognizes outstanding water-wise residential landscapes based on overall attractiveness, design, efficient irrigation and appropriate plant selection and maintenance.

Compared to the Montgomery’s previous lawn, this blooming and colorful English inspired landscape uses much less water than a lawn of a similar size. This thriving landscape creates privacy from the road as well as compliments the couple’s cottage style home. Over the two-month billing period ending this May, this home used only 13 units of water, which is almost 40 percent less than the average water use of other Helix customers.  One unit is 748 gallons.

The Montgomerys purchased the home in 2014 and were not happy with the water use of the existing lawn. In addition, the low-lying grass offered little privacy from the road since their home’s front window faces two streets. After they tried to reduce the lawn’s water use, they did not like the lawn’s dried hay appearance during the warm months. Another issue was that the front yard sloped towards the house, which caused moisture to form in the home’s basement during rains.

With a landscape to renovate and a drainage issue to fix, the couple started researching water efficient landscapes. In 2017, they toured numerous gardens in East County with the California Native Plant Society’s native garden tours. The garden tours allowed the couple to see which landscapes they liked and didn’t like. Eventually, Tim and Brianna hired a landscape designer in fall 2018. The landscape designer worked with the couple to select plants that would not require too much maintenance while still matching the charm and character of their 1950s cottage style home. In addition to the plant pallet, the landscape designer created a hardscape layout, irrigation design and planting plan.

“Our landscape designer gave us the design to meet our needs and created a plan so that we could do most of the work ourselves,” said Brianna Montgomery. “We only had to hire a contractor to do hardscape work and install the new water efficient irrigation system. We did all of the other work ourselves, including grading the front, amending our soil with fresh compost, purchasing and installing the new plants, and adding mulch according to the design.”

Although just over one year old, the landscape boasts a filled-in appearance and a wide variety of vibrant and colorful plants. To offer privacy, create shade and add the element of height, the landscape has a fruitless olive tree and a bright desert willow. The low water use daisies display lovely whites and yellows that add to the lushness of this landscape. There is a charming variety of greens from the yard’s shrubs and groundcover that provide contrast with the home’s red brick, including soft blue-greens from the lavender; clumping fescue grasses and Mexican bush sage; emeralds from the rosemary; green-yellows of the rockrose; and splashes of purple, yellow, white, reds and pinks among the landscape’s many flowers.

Plants receive water from an efficient irrigation system, which includes micro sprays, drip irrigation and a smart, weather-based irrigation controller. The landscape diverts and captures rainwater from the front roof and diverts the water to the back yard through a series of French drains. The new rainwater diversion prevents moisture from forming in the home’s basement. It also provides additional water for the plants in the home’s backyard.

The new landscape is now more welcoming to the couple and neighbors who pass by. Additionally, the landscape also attracts birds, bees, pollinators, ladybugs, lizards and other wildlife that now call this landscape home. “We couldn’t have asked for a better landscape,” said Montgomery. “Our landscape fits the energy of our home and ourselves, and we loved being a part of the transformation every step of the way.”

Helix invited Brianna and Tim Montgomery to Helix Water District’s virtual board meeting on Wednesday, June 17, at 4 p.m. to recognize their work.  Following the meeting, Helix sent the Mongomerys their awards —a gift card totaling $250, an award certificate and a WaterSmart contest winner’s sign to display in the yard.

Photos of the Montgomery’s yard will appear in the winner’s section at landscapecontest.com, along with Helix’s past winners and those of other participating local water agencies, and on the district’s website at hwd.com.

The landscape contest typically runs from January through April each year; however, due to this year’s pandemic, the participating water agencies extended the contest one month. Visit Helix’s website at hwd.com, Facebook.com/HelixWater or Twitter at @HelixWater for more information.

Helix Water District treats and delivers water to over 276,000 people in La Mesa, El Cajon, Lemon Grove and parts of Spring Valley, Lakeside and unincorporated San Diego County.