By Lynn Barber, Hillsborough County Extension

The Community Water Wise Awards are sponsored by Tampa Bay Water and recognizes individuals and businesses committed to conserving our water resources and protecting the environment by using Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ (FFL) principles. There are nine FFL principles which include: right plant right place, water efficiently, fertilize appropriately, mulch, attract wildlife, manage yard pests responsibly, recycle, reduce stormwater runoff and protect the waterfront. Many of these principles are used as part of the landscape evaluation process for this award program.

I’m pleased to announce the winners for the 2016 Community Water Wise Award Contest. For unincorporated Hillsborough County, the winner was Paula Stewart. The City of Tampa residential winner was Sherry Louer. The City of Tampa non-residential winner was The Learning Garden at the Florida State Fair, managed and maintained by Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful staff and volunteers.

There are several elements of all three landscapes that were positive examples of Florida-Friendly LandscapingTM water-wise practices. These include the planting of drought-tolerant trees and plants, self-mulching areas under trees, groundcovers versus turfgrass utilized in all or several areas of the landscapes, plants selected that are appropriate for your site conditions, grouping of plants with similar water and maintenance needs.

We were excited about Paula Stewart’s use of drought tolerant native landscape plants. And, we were impressed with Sherry Louer’s and The Learning Garden’s utilization of native, non-native adaptive landscape plants and raised bed gardens.

With 17 entries submitted this year, it was difficult selecting the 2016 Community Water Wise Award Winners. We hope you will consider entering this contest which you can do any time during the year at http://tampabaywaterwise.org. The deadline for entries is June 30, so you can complete an application now, submit it and get a head start!

For assistance with horticultural questions, call us at 744-5519 or visit us at the UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County, 5339 County Road 579, Seffner.