Award honors green landscapes in La Cañada

After 50 years of honoring the town’s most beautiful and lush landscaping, La Cañada Valley Beautiful has launched a new award to honor those yards that are green in more ways than one.

Each month the club will issue a Green Award to residents crafting lovely landscapes using drought-tolerant plants that require less water and are a better match for the local climate, said President Linda Fults.

“As much as we love lawns and the beautiful gardens that take a lot of water, if you look around town, you see people who are making a big change in their landscape,” she said.

The winner of the inaugural Green Award, Nicole Johnson of 5011 La Cañada Ave., said she’s happy to receive the recognition for her front yard. In addition to its array of cacti, other succulents and carefully placed stones, the garden has sprouted a plaque identifying it as the La Cañada Valley Beautiful Green Award winner.

Johnson said that when she and her husband purchased the home a little over a year ago, the front garden already included cacti. But inspired by the Getty Center’s cactus garden, Johnson said they wanted to improve their property’s aesthetics while maintaining the drought-resistant theme.

“We could definitely appreciate the benefits of having that garden in the front,” she said. “Cactus can be a little hard and sharp, so we did add a few grasses and some other plants, like the sticks of fire, which also is a succulent but adds some softness to the garden.”

Johnson, a transplant from the Northeastern United States, said she is continuing to expand her use of drought-resistant landscaping.

“With having these kinds of plants here we don’t have in the northeast, I’ve been able to start some container gardens in the back with these succulents,” she said.

Fulks said offering the award is a natural step for the club. La Cañada Valley Beautiful is responsible for re-landscaping the La Cañada Flintridge Library grounds with drought-tolerant and native plants. Fulks said that all the plants used at the library are marked so residents interested in rethinking their gardens can get ideas of what might work for them.

City Councilmember Laura Olhasso offered the idea for the new award, Fulks said.

Olhasso said she thinks the award fits in with the club’s mission.

“La Cañada Valley Beautiful has done, and continues to do, such a wonderful job with making us aware of drought resistant landscaping, I just thought it would be a great segue to offer an award,” she said.

In a city rich with lush, water-intensive landscaping, the new award is a step toward improving sustainability, said Olhasso.

“Lawns take up the largest amount of water in the city,” she said. “Water’s a precious resource and we can’t always count on having as much as we need.”

Nicole Johnson’s garden is proof that you don’t need a lot of water to create a beautiful garden.

“Sometimes we turn off the water to that area and forget about it for a couple weeks,” she said.

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