California Drought Prompts Landscape Redesign is now in its fourth year of a drought state- one so extreme that Governor Jerry Brown has recently declared a statewide drought emergency which asks all Californians to reduce their water usage by 20 percent. This drought is not solely limited to California, but is happening throughout the nation and worldwide. You know the importance of reduction, but still may be asking the question of how can I cut back?

I recently had the chance to sit down with Julie Bonsack, a Senior Account Executive and vital member of the SmartDraw team for nearly a decade, to discuss her recently implemented plan to reduce water consumption in her own backyard.

Julie Backyard 1

Julie’s backyard remodel

Julie Backyard 2

Spacing is key for this underwater world design!

What prompted your recent landscape renovation?

I had an empty space that needed lots of water and was also decaying. It required some much needed attention. My Homeowners Association (HOA) had specific restrictions and allowances which I needed to abide by- namely, the majority of the landscape was to be drought tolerant.

How did you create your landscape design?

I used lots of layering. I knew that I would need many layers to organize my diagram, so in my first layer, I inserted a PDF of my lot of land. In my next layer, I drew lines over the PDF that represented the specific dimensions of my backyard. I continued with each layer until I had my entire diagram built.

Screenshot of Julie Diagram no underline red marks

SmartDraw Tip: You can insert as many layers as needed into your landscape diagram. Navigate to the Page tab, select Layers, then select New Layer. This adds an additional layer to your diagram.

Screenshot of SmartDraw Layers- Where to find

How long did your project take, from initial idea through to completion?

My renovation took 45 days in total. After a town hall meeting with my HOA in May, I learned about the requirements for my backyard. I immediately began to research. During a recent visit to Quail Gardens in Encinitas, CA, I took photos of a number of drought tolerant plants and environmentally friendly designs. Upon returning home to San Diego, I sorted through the photos and developed a loose idea of how I wanted my backyard to look.

As my expertise is not in landscape, I found a local nursery that assisted in bringing my thoughts to a reality. Once the design had been drawn up by the nursery, I incorporated this into my SmartDraw diagram and presented the final draft to my HOA. Immediately my design was approved, and construction began at the end of June. The project was completely finished by July.

How has this renovation helped your neighborhood in the current California drought?

  • It has dramatically reduced our water cost. Our neighborhood shares a single water meter, and the HOA pays the bill. There have been no complaints by the HOA since our recent renovation, and you know what they say- “no news is good news!”
  • My water usage has reduced dramatically. I use a drip system, which means that I do not have to use any sprinklers!
  • My property borders a common sidewalk and vista point that many of my neighbors use to walk their dogs, jog, etc. Any person passing by can see my renovation. I ultimately designed our backyard to look like an underwater world, so the result has been a more appealing scenery to view.

Were there any symbols within your diagram that you needed to create manually?

One symbol that I created manually was the planter “mounds” that are seen at the top of my drawing. As this is a top-down view of my backyard, I needed to find a way to illustrate that these mounds had different elevations, so I used the symbol called ‘Oval Planter Box’ three times, then grouped them all together. I gave each oval a different color (darker to lighter on top) and different shape (larger to smaller on top) to indicate a change in elevation.

What advice do you have to people who want to use SmartDraw to complete their renovation?

I highly recommend using the Layers feature within SmartDraw. This helped me to organize my diagram and to keep things separate. For example, I have an entire layer that is dedicated to the names of each plant or object within my landscape. This allowed me to space everything within my diagram to scale without worrying about the overlap of plants with text.

For anyone who wishes to conserve water on their own property, what advice would you have for them?

  • Research, research, research. I looked at many plants and designs to find exactly what fits my style and area.
  • I recommend taking photos of yards and meeting with a number of designers.
  • Also, remember that your plants will grow over time, which ultimately reduces the number of plants and other scenery that you need to purchase. Keep this in mind also when drawing up your design- spacing is key!

Do you have ideas on how to combat this extreme drought that California faces? Please comment below.