Mar Vista gears up for its annual tour of the best in sustainable landscaping

By Gary Walker

A variety of drought-tolerant and native plants thrive in the Sears’ new water-saving garden.

A variety of drought-tolerant and native plants thrive in the Sears’ new water-saving garden.

Mary Ann and Bill Sears are two of Mar Vista’s most recent converts to a more sustainable lifestyle. The front lawn of their home on Preston Way is Exhibit A.

For 35 years, the Sears family maintained a grass front lawn with five large ficus trees. But in response to the historic statewide drought — and some urging from their children — the couple decided to make significant changes that would beautify their yard while also conserving water.

They installed a rain-capture system to irrigate a colorful dry-climate garden sprinkled with poppy seeds, which are drought-tolerant.

“We’ve saved a lot on our water bill since we put it in,” Bill Sears said.

As their community began earning citywide recognition for water conservation and other eco-conscious measures, the couple heard about the Mar Vista Green Garden Showcase — an annual event highlighting the diversity of local sustainable landscaping practices and featuring guest presentations and giveaways.

This year, the Sears’ home will be one of
54 gardens featured during the April 25 showcase.

“In light of the drought, we’re very excited to provide an opportunity for Angelenos to see water-efficient landscaping concepts in action. We highly encourage attendees to glean as much as they can about reducing water usage at home and in landscaping,” said Christy Wilhelmi, a co-chair of this year’s Mar Vista Green Garden Showcase.

While attending the garden tour in 2013, the Sears connected with landscape designer John Bonny, who helped them translate their vision into action.

“We finally had the time to think about it and to actually do something about it now that we’re both retired,” said Mary Ann Sears.

“Some of the native gardens that we saw looked too plain and too weedy. I wanted color — and I wanted color not just in one season. I wanted all the seasons so that each season would produce something different, so it would be ‘showtime’ every season,” she explained. “We didn’t want to just pick plants that I liked — we wanted plants that would give the garden the ‘wow’ factor.”

Gone are ficus trees, grass and weeds of the past. In their place is a garden blooming with a mixture of different shades of greens and blues, oranges and reds, and a large rock for their grandson Ian to play on.

“Just to sit in the garden and watch the hummingbirds and the bees come and go is really wonderful. We have all kinds of little creatures in our garden that we didn’t have before,” Mary Ann Sears said.

Birds and insects are not the only visitors to the Sears’ reconfigured garden, now about a year old. Neighbor Laura Barris, whose home is also on the garden tour this year, stopped by with her 2-month-old son on a recent afternoon. “Mine’s not as impressive as theirs,” Barris said.

The Sears’ garden also features a lemon tree, and the couple will offer lemonade from its fruit to thirsty visitors during the showcase.

Mary Ann Sears said the changes in their garden are still exciting.

“I ask myself, ‘How did we live with the other lawn for so long?’” she said.

The Mar Vista Green Garden Showcase runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on April 25. Attendance is free. Visit for event information.