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The San Diego Horticultural Society has teamed up with the Association of Professional Landscape Designers-San Diego District, to feature the work of some of the best local garden designers! Gardens for the 2024 Spring Garden Tour are located in Carlsbad, Leucadia, and Encinitas.

The theme for this year’s tour is Sustainable Beauty. Designers have created gardens to support all life; plant life, soil life, insect life, wild life, and human life. Enjoy seeing gardens with elements that exemplify how to support nature and our planet, while bringing more beauty into the landscape. Some of the design elements that you will see are: rainwater capture, native and climate appropriate plants, plants for habitat, efficient irrigation, permeable paving, and the utilization of compost and mulch. Each garden has its own personal style designed to take advantage of unique characteristics of the site to create wonderful living, relaxing and entertaining spaces!

Click on the dark blue text in the garden descriptions for information on sustainable topics.


Designed by Nan Sterman of Nan Sterman, Waterwise Gardenerour 2021 Horticulturist of the year

In 2019/2020, this old Encinitas property underwent a major transformation; from one old beach cottage to two small homes, one updated from the original and one brand new. Extensive decks surround the modern style main house - with a guest house for extended family and visitors.  The landscape design challenge was to create a big feeling in a very small space, as well as privacy - yet with the ability to connect with neighbors.  The clients envisioned a lush landscape with fruit trees, a vegetable garden, and beautiful flowers.  Nan Sterman did her magic and created both outdoor rooms with purpose as well as color everywhere.  Beautiful and whimsical stained-glass hides in many corners of the yard.  The owners' parents gifted them geodes, shells and beach glass collected from years of travel which are  incorporated into the poured concrete paths, patio, firepit, and seating bench. The edible garden area is tucked in between a small meadow and lush Mediterranean plantings.  Water efficient drip irrigation. is used in the garden.  

This garden is a master class on how to fit many things into a small space, with beauty around every corner.

Lorraine Cote will be painting in the garden. Learn more about her work at  LorraineMarieCote.com or Instagram  .

Designed by Nan Sterman of Nan Sterman, Waterwise Gardenerour 2021 Horticulturist of the year

Beginning with a 1980’s style traditional thirsty garden with many invasive species, the evolution of this garden has been enormous. Challenges included drainage issues, irrigation issues, soil erosion, worn out pathways, and inaccessible areas.  Over 10 years, Nan Sterman  has redesigned the garden space by space, in six phases.  Each space uses plants that suit our climate and conserve water, as well as functioning to serve the client’s needs.  California natives feature in most of the garden spaces, either as the main attraction or in a composition of plants from many Mediterranean climate regions.  Each space has its own character, its own plant palette, and its own color palette.  Excluding the meadows, the entire garden is irrigated with in-line drip irrigation. This garden invites you to leisurely wander along its pathways, breathe in the scent of our California native plants, and revel in the sense of place that they bring (and habitat they provide!).  Enjoy the swaths of color and texture that Mediterranean plants add, let your eyes rest on a peaceful meadow, and experience this beautiful garden.

Joyce Trinh will be painting in the garden. Learn more about her work at  Facebook or Instagram  .

Designed by Brad Lefkowits of Waves Landscape Design

This completely renovated landscape is the award-winning home garden of Brad Lefkowits of Waves Landscape Design. Purchased in 2020, Lefkowits used it as an opportunity to showcase his modern style, and push the boundaries of the watershed approach in new and imaginative ways. Multiple water capture features such as: cisterns, rain gardens, and even a Carex praegracilis lawn, keep thousands of gallons of rainwater on site. The backyard incorporates an office, mudhouse for the kids, fireplace, and seating for dining and lounging.  Over 170 plant species give Brad hands-on experience he can use to assist his clients. The garden features sustainable practices blended seamlessly into a family friendly and party ready garden.

Learn more about this garden that was featured in the San Diego Union Tribune in January.

Geoff Allen will be painting in the garden. Learn more about his work at  GeoffAllenArt.com or Instagram  .

Designed by Brad Lefkowits of Waves Landscape Design

This ecological, family friendly landscape was designed in two phases. Phase one was the installation of the backyard which has areas for entertaining, play areas for small children, and areas for managing storm water.  Low water plants were used throughout.  The landscape features two types of bridges crossing a swale, a Kurapia lawn, (a low water lawn alternative), a playhouse for the kiddos, and multiple seating areas for the homeowner and their guests. 

Phase two included contouring and planting the large front yard orchard with masses of perennials.  The street is at a much higher elevation than the house, thus making rainwater capture a challenge.  A unique solution was used by sending the water from the house back to the top of the front yard where it slowly winds its way down through the garden.   In front of the house is another low water Kurapia lawn where the homeowners got married. 


Designed by Debra O’ Leary of Coastal Garden Design

Two neighbors on a cul-de-sac, both needing a front yard renovation, decided they’d like to join forces and work together to create an expansive & cohesive feeling for these two narrow, individual entry gardens.  The homeowners’ goal was to achieve a subtle form of  privacy using softscape screening rather than a solid wall or a fence.  After removing the existing lawn, the center area between the two yards was mounded up in order to raise the grade level for the screening plants. Boulders were then placed to create additional interest and habitat value.  Smaller, drought tolerant plants with a variety of foliage and flower color were planted to fill out the combined planting area. This design strategy resulted in an integrated and very neighborly design.

The owners chose plants that reflected their individual aesthetic preferences, yet it all flows together beautifully due to the same ground cover, (Dymondia margaretae), being used throughout.  Both owners were very pleased with the end result: a subtle form of privacy along with a welcoming vibe!


Designed by Claudia Kuepper of Gardenscapes by Claudia

The owners of this beautiful Encinitas Ranch home presented the designer with two challenges: update the exterior with a modern aesthetic, and create a functional safe space for the family and their pets. Dominated by numerous overgrown Italian Cypress that overshadowed the yard and an unhealthy lawn, the old front yard was dated, lacked interest, and had no function. Since this home is situated at a busy community entrance, the old front yard was not a welcoming place for the homeowners to greet guests and enjoy the outdoors. The new entry and front yard garden are enclosed by a low wall and gates, with a small patio that gives the owners a place to relax and entertain. It also provides a safe place for their pets and a buffer from the busy street. This lawn-free front yard features a colorful low-water Mediterranean plant palette, with 3 beautiful multi-trunk Strawberry Trees and many colorful succulents, grasses, perennials and shrubs. A small recirculating fountain is visited by birds and creates a peaceful sound. A new drip irrigation system was installed along with many yards of compost and mulch to amend the compacted soil. The original concrete driveway was repaired and refinished, and the entry porch concrete was overlaid with thin flagstone. This prevented the need for concrete demolition, and resulted in significant cost savings.

Sherry Roper will be painting in the garden. Learn more about her work at  SherryRoper.com or Instagram  .

Designed by Claudia Kuepper of Gardenscapes by Claudia

This 1980’s cottage style home is a great example of small space design with maximum functionality. The home has had several owners and garden renovations over the years, including lawn removal in 2018 by the prior owner. The current owner, APLD landscape designer Claudia Kuepper, purchased the home 2 years ago with a goal of creating a colorful and interesting garden that maximized the small space. The garden was renovated with a low-water palette of plants that complement our Mediterranean climate. A new drip irrigation system was installed along with many yards of compost and mulch to amend the compacted soil. Other additions included a new backyard fireplace, glass view wall, and new solar panels with a Power Wall battery to store energy, and low voltage lighting. Further sustainable items included refurbishment of the original concrete driveway (rather than demolition), as well as staining and resealing of the existing pavers. Anything that could be refurbished or repurposed was retained, including pots that were converted to fountains which are visited by the local birds and frogs. Existing block walls in back were clad in wood siding to soften the hardscape. The Tillandsia green wall at the front entry is a great example of vertical gardening to maximize small spaces. The old California Pepper Tree behind the property is a welcomed part of the lovely canyon view and borrowed landscape.

Designed by Andrea Doonan of Andrea Doonan Horticulture + Design

Filled with a patchwork of geometric textures and bold color, this Moroccan influenced garden emulates a quilt.  The evolution of the garden includes several mini gardens designed and installed at different phases. Included in this dog friendly garden are outdoor rooms with a tile rug, a dreamy canopy daybed, a mosaic "water trough", a curvy raised vegetable and flower bed, multiple fountains, and backyard terraces. There is a little bit of everything from California native plantsother climate appropriate plants, and edibles, in addition to a secret moon garden with a custom mosaic designed and installed by Andrea Doonan. 

In the design, spaces were intentionally left for the client to plant bulbs, roses, and other goodies, while still keeping cohesive threads running throughout.  Among the plantings and terraces are dog paths and tough native sedges that can handle the two resident Airedales. The only lawn-free house on the block, the front was centered around the existing pomegranate tree.  A combination of succulents, natives and Mediterranean plants surround the entry which was created by reusing Arizona flagstone that was on site.  While visiting you may spot peacocks in front, local to the neighborhood, which inspired the peacock motif fountain in the backyard. This garden is a good example of many real-world landscape projects that are installed in phases over time.

Cherry Sweig will be painting in the garden. Learn more about her work at  cherrysweig.com or Instagram  .


Designed by Laura Lisauskas of LLD Landscape Design

After a beautiful home addition and a major interior remodel were completed, this landscape was in need of a refresh. To upgrade the slope in front, a brand-new masonry entrance was created to complement and complete the architecture.  A series of steps interlock with stucco planters to create curb appeal.  The areas around the house were maximized and enclosed for privacy using a combination of retaining walls, vertical wood screens, and hedges. 

A bioswale was added in the front to capture rainwater and keep it onsite. Keeping the budget in mind, only a few retaining walls were added on the slope using an asymmetrical pattern to visually divide the space and create a backdrop for plantings.  Colorful and lush plantings, drifts of ground cover, and a variety of unique plants were installed.   River rock delineates the sidewalk and stylistically connects the bioswale to the rest of the space.  It also encourages dog walkers to keep their pets on the sidewalk and away from the plants.  Additional native plants for erosion control will continue to be planted in the future. 

Designed by Laura Lisauskas of LLD Landscape Design

Starting with a traditional landscape of lawn, shrubs, and a dying tree (all water and maintenance intensive),  this south facing front yard needed some inspiration.  Budget was an issue, so a simple, naturalistic approach was taken.  Materials were sourced from demolition projects while some plants were gifted.  The primary objective was to remove the lawn and capture the rainwater from the roof and put it into the landscape, vs going to the street and into the ocean as previously done.  A lawn removal rebate assisted in the process.   A lovely seating area is next to the house, with a dry river bed (capturing the rainwater) snaking through the landscaped area.  A variety of plants are located along the river bed; hardy perennials, striking agaves, winter blooming aloes, texture-rich sedges, and a few evergreen natives.  The plants are irrigated in the dry season with drip irrigation.  The owners delight in watching the rain garden work, knowing that it is bringing their landscape to life.

Designed by Laura Lisauskas of LLD Landscape Design

Owner and designer Laura Lisauska has incorporated just about everything you could think of in this corner lot where she resides with her family.  With sustainable features such as water capture, edible plantings, California natives, Mediterranean plants, reuse of onsite materials, growing her own plants, efficient irrigation, and wildlife habitat, the garden  makes for a cornucopia of offerings.  Originally, dead grass and weeds dominated the eroding sunny hillside along the street, while an old fence blocked the views. Design challenges included steep terrain,a southern exposure, strong south-westerly winds, sandy soil which lacked nutrients, a tight budget, and the absence of wildlife. Masonry walls, rock walls, an exotic wood fence, and acid washed glass were used in terraces on the slope.  Contrasting materials such as Corten steel, wood, different sized and colored rock were used to create interest.  Salvaged native rock was collected from pool and garden installations and reused in a long dry stack wall.  Drought-tolerant plants suitable for the Southern California climate include Australian Natives, Exotic Desert species, and California Natives, as well as herbs and fruit trees. Deciduous trees such as Apricot, Pear, and Pomegranate alternate with evergreen Citrus, Olives, and Guavas to create seasonal interest. Shrubs and native plants were allowed to grow freely, creating dense shelters for birds. Numerous species of lizards inhabit the stone wall gaps, while blooming grevilleas attract bees and hummingbirds during dormant winter months. Mourning doves and California Towhees feel right at home under the shrubby shelter, and hummingbirds visit sages, manzanitas, and arbutus.  All roof and surface rain water is retained in underground pits and basins throughout, which are expressed on the surface as dry rivers cutting through the slope. The garden serves as a laboratory for Laura, who enjoys incorporating sustainable principles in all the gardens she creates. 

Designed by Laura Lisauskas of LLD Landscape Design

This newly built modern home visually delights with its curb appeal-plus design! A number of architectural elements varying in scale were used to create a new entrance experience and divide the front yard into functional zones. The home’s architecture features a wide glass entrance resulting in little privacy from the street. Addressing the lack of privacy became the main objective of the front yard design.  By moving the concrete entrance path off center and staggering the two custom Corten privacy screens, this stunning entry area now has a sense of discovery as one approaches the front door along with a sense of privacy for the homeowners.   Large planters with trees add immediate impact making them a key focal point in this yard.  The main planting area features soft shrubs, a variety of succulents, drought tolerant Australian plants and grasses that combine for rich textures and low maintenance.  There’s even a mini Bocce court with a seating area inviting visitors to play and lounge in this enticing front yard.
A large, community drainage collection pit is a great feature for capturing rainwater and routing it through this development to a water capture area downslope from the homes and the on-site community garden.

The backyard has everything for a great family hang out space; a new pool, a built-in fire pit and lounge area for relaxing, a play area for the kids, and a raised planting area for fruit trees.  The back makes for a gracious and fun place for entertaining and everyday living!

Kathryn Peterson will be painting in the garden. Learn more about her work at  kathrynpeterson.org or Instagram  .


Designed by Greg Rubin of California’s Own Native Landscape Design, Inc., our 2018 Horticulturist of the year

Veteran native garden designer Greg Rubin shows off a welcoming and cozy native landscape in this Carlsbad garden.  The new horizontal slat fence adds a modern vibe to this cozy cottage.  Habitat plants including Ceanothus, Manzanita, Artemisia, Abutilon, and others invite native bees and butterflies to make their home. A natural looking dry stream bed captures water during the rainy season.  Installations of boulders and rock slabs for walking add to the natural look of this garden.  Come and see what a beautiful native garden can be!

Joanie Captainwill be painting in the garden. Learn more about her work at  joancaptainfineart.com or Instagram  .

Our Mission To inspire and educate the people of San Diego County to grow and enjoy plants, and to create beautiful, environmentally responsible gardens and landscapes.

Our Vision To champion regionally appropriate horticulture in San Diego County.


© 2024 San Diego Horticultural Society

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