La Mesa Beautiful recognizes 13 residences with Spirit Award

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On July 17, La Mesa Beautiful presented 13 La Mesa residences with the Spirit Award. Each of them were recognized for beautification of their yards without using grass using drought tolerant landscaping.

The Spirit Award is so named, President Sharon Fitzpatrick explained, for the spirit of community demonstrated by these individuals. The award winners were each given a new permanent sign that can be placed in the yard or on a fence where others will see that the yard has been recognized by LMB.

On July 17, La Mesa Beautiful presented 13 La Mesa residences with the Spirit Award. Each of them were recognized for beautification of their yards without using grass using drought tolerant landscaping.

The Spirit Award is so named, President Sharon Fitzpatrick explained, for the spirit of community demonstrated by these individuals. The award winners were each given a new permanent sign that can be placed in the yard or on a fence where others will see that the yard has been recognized by LMB.

“Everyone likes a pat on the back every once in a while, and knowing that their yard is selected for special recognition makes these folks happy. They have all worked hard to make their home environmentally friendly and deserve a thank you,” Fitzpatrick said.

But the work has been fun. For example, two years ago, Joe and Connie Ottinger moved into their flipped house with peeling paint and an ugly yard. They got out the shovels and paint. They did not want grass, so they chose the kinds of plants they would have, and they put up a fence.

“Joe is an artist, so he painted pretty flowers on it. And now everyone is asking us if they can copy our example,” Ottinger said.

Glenice Steinberg’s yard certainly turns heads, too. When she began tearing out her lawn and designing a drought tolerant yard, she used things such as an old military trunk as a planter. Even the old gutted parking meters in front of her house have become planters for some sturdy succulents.

“My neighbors and friends began bringing me things to put in my yard, even a vintage baby stroller. I use everything. All the things that I’ve put together in my yard have saved me lots of water,” Steinberg said.

Taylor Long was the youngest to receive a Spirit Award for his work on transforming an abandoned house to a “dream house,” as he called it.

“I saw the house four years ago, but it looked like a haunted house right in the middle of a nice neighborhood. It was sad. But I told my dad that I would like to make it beautiful,” Long said.

Byron Long bought the house and let his son choose the plants he wanted for the yard. Now pretty Monarch and Swallowtail butterflies flit among the purple sage, brightly colored succulents and the magnolia tree. 

Long is renting the house as he finishes college pursuing a degree in art studies. “I’ll get to live in my dream house for the rest of my life,” he said.

Fitzpatrick congratulated the 2016 winners, adding that she plans to add an award in the future for the design of back yards in La Mesa. 

“So many people talked about the work they’ve done in their back yards as well, and most of us never get to see their work. I’d like to plan some back yard tours and awards in the future,” Fitzpatrick said. 

La Mesa Beautiful is involved in several educational and community efforts. Each year, LMB provides a tree to each school that has an Arbor Day program. The school plans the Arbor Day program, LMB donates the tree, the City digs the hole and the kids get to plant the tree and then see it grow as they continue to go to school there. Some of the trees are fruit bearing and the kids learn the value of trees in general and trees that provide fruit to eat.

In addition, LMB gives a scholarship each year to promising students at Cuyamaca College and El Capitan High School.

This year, LMB joined in partnership with the City of La Mesa, Jim Simpson of Clock Shop of La Mesa to buy and install the clock now standing at Lookout Park.

“It was a fairly large donation of our small budget but we are pleased to bring it as a thank you to all the people who help keep La Mesa beautiful,” Fitzpatrick said.

La Mesa Beautiful was organized in 1974 by a small group of community citizens who appreciated the beauty of gardens whether large parks or very small residential gardens.  Initially the plan was to increase public awareness of how landscaping improves property values but also improves neighborhoods. LMB provides educational programs, as well, teaching on the importance of trees to people and cities, increasing awareness of problematic thirsty lawns and the solution in drought tolerant gardens, and recognizing and dealing with pests in gardens.

The budget of LMD depends on its membership fees and money raised at the annual Plant Sale in May. The organization also receives many donations from horticulture departments, landscapers, nurseries and home gardeners who cultivate plants for LMB each year.

Membership is open to anyone.

“We need volunteers for our Board of Directors, for nominees for our Spirit awards and for working on our sale as well as city gardens,” Fitzpatrick said.

For more information, go to www.lamesabeautiful.org.

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