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Expo quenches thirst for water conservation knowledge

Emphasis is on drought-resistant plants and the monitoring of outdoor spinklers.

September 26, 2013|By Bryce Alderton
  • A volunteer tends to a Pink Melaleuca at the fourth annual Laguna Beach County Water District's SmartScape Info/Expo on Saturday. The event featured hands-on gardening demos, horticulturists, water saving tips, and tours of the district's own garden.
A volunteer tends to a Pink Melaleuca at the fourth annual… (Don Leach, Coastline…)

Earth Day's younger brother came to Laguna Beach last weekend.

The Laguna Beach County Water District opened its doors to the public Saturday and Sunday, hoping to boost attendees' water IQ while exhibitors offered tips on how to plant a raised garden bed and demonstrated the capabilities of different sprinkler heads.

The event, the fourth annual Smartscape Info/Expo, extolled the virtues of planting succulents and native California plants. Attendees walked through a temporary garden of lobelia, manzanita, vegetables and herbs such as peppers, lettuce and rosemary.

Students from Saddleback College's horticulture and landscape design department spent two weeks assembling the stone-bordered garden on district property, complete with a walkway.

The expo featured several organizations and volunteer groups, including the Laguna Beach Garden Club, Master Gardeners of Orange County, which is part of the University of California Cooperative Extension, Rain Bird Corp., an irrigation company, and Kellogg's Garden Products, which sells soil and mulch.

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Kids painted their own flower pots and then chose a plant to fit inside, and the Wyland Foundation, named for muralist Robert Wyland, set up an area where children could draw.

Some attendees also received vouchers for free bags of compost.

The expo was more than exhibitors handing out fliers, said Christopher Regan, the district's assistant general manager.

"Our goal is for people to ask the experts questions and look at irrigation systems to see how they work," Regan said as he walked through the native plant garden on Saturday. "[Drought-tolerant] plants don't have to be just cactus. There are birds of paradise, blue status, sticks on fire."

Salvias, a member of the sage plant family, do well in Laguna, according to Robert Farnsworth, chairman of Saddleback College's horticulture and landscape design department.

"They're easy [to grow], beneficial, drought-tolerant and come in many different colors," Farnsworth said.

Laguna resident Anne Stringer browsed the exhibits, trying to get some planting ideas for her yard.

"We live on a slope and have no lawn," Stinger said. "There are irregular-shaped areas so we might do a potpourri of things. We have a lot of agave [plants] on the slope and it's a challenge to water."

The district also displayed how water trickles from grass to a curbside gutter and eventually into storm drains.

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