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Meet the Green Gardeners

Meet Shelkie Tao | Green Gardener Spotlight

Rain garden

Shelkie loves that California is a biodiversity hotspot, with a wide variety of native plants to choose from.

Shelkie Tao of Water Efficient Garden is a professional landscaper, sustainable gardening enthusiast, and a recent graduate of the Santa Clara Valley Green Gardener training program.  Shelkie enjoys gardening as a way to relax, stay healthy, and connect with nature – and all while adding beauty to the world.  She describes designing landscapes as akin to painting or writing.  “When the plants have grown and bloomed, it feels a little like what an artist might feel who has just finished a satisfactory piece.”  In her craft, Shelkie works to help her customers create yards that are beautiful, practical and environmentally-friendly.

Average home with barren front yard

Before: A large, barren plot of sand.

Green Gardener participants learn effective ways to reduce air pollution, water pollution, and water runoff while gardening.  For instance, growing California native plants is a great way to minimize pesticide and water usage because they have adapted to the local climate and ecology.  Many of Shelkie’s favorite flowers are natives, including California Lilacs (Ceanothus spp.), Seaside Daisy (Erigeron glaucus), and Western Redbud (Cercis occidentalis).  She says that these and many other native plants make wonderful elements in a garden.

Average house with California native plants

After: A rain garden with hardy plants like California native Sticky Monkey Flower (Mimulus aurantiacus). For more details on this garden, read Shelkie’s blog post.

Shelkie’s specialty?  Low-water landscapes and rain gardens. If a customer wants a new lawn or yard design, Shelkie uses drought tolerant grasses and native plants whenever possible. For pavements, she discusses the option of permeable surfaces to capture water and reduce runoff. For irrigation, she recommends smart controllers with rain sensors to prevent overwatering. Shelkie explains that water-efficient gardens can have many benefits: enhanced property values, lower water bills and maintenance costs, and a positive impact on the environment.

Shelkie treats water as a precious resource in all areas of her life. In 2017, she ran in the New York Marathon by fundraising for a sustainable water organization.  And whenever planning a landscape, Shelkie always considers eco-conscious water usage. Her home garden includes many drought-tolerant, native plants and a small rain garden to help store rainwater, reduce urban runoff, and prevent polluting local waterways. Shelkie believes that, with the right approach, we can all do our part to protect the vibrant, beautiful ecosystem of San Francisco Bay.

Front of newly landscaped home.

Read gardening tips on Water Efficient Gardens’ Blog, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook.

Water Efficient Garden is in the South Bay Area.  Learn more about Shelkie’s landscaping design services, low-water garden planning, and sustainable landscape rebate programs at WaterEfficientGarden.com

Maryanne Quincy Q-Gardens Landscape Design | Green Gardener Spotlight

Mary likes to incorporate pervious surfaces and native grasses in her garden designs

Mary likes to incorporate pervious surfaces and native grasses in her garden designs

With more than 20 years of experience in the field of landscape design, Maryanne Quincy knows how to incorporate both her clients’ visions and her knowledge of horticulture to deliver comfortable, beautiful and sustainable garden spaces. Her business, called Q-Gardens, focuses on residential landscape design, garden layout, and fine gardening.

Maryanne incorporates sustainable practices in her designs. Her clients appreciate her use of plants with low-water requirements. Many of her clients even participated in the 2015 water rebate program, switching to low-water and low-maintenance landscapes in their yards and home gardens. “People were ready to change to something new,” Maryanne says, “which was exciting to see.” She is happy that her landscape designs help reduce human impacts on our natural environment, including local creeks and the San Francisco Bay.

GG Maryanne Quincy 3Maryanne participated in Green Gardener training in 2008. She says the Green Gardener program taught her a lot about organic fertilizers, pest management, and sustainable ways to eradicate and suppress weeds. “These choices also lead to financial savings,” Maryanne explains, “a more sustainable garden saves money.” By using mulch, integrated pest management, and low-water plants, clients initially save money on fertilizer costs and water bills, and prevent pest problems down the road.

At the end of the day, Maryanne likes the reward that gardening gives you. “You see the results of your work and you’re affecting all the people that live around that garden,” she says. In addition to being a Certified Green Gardener, Maryanne also has a degree in ornamental horticulture and is a Certified Member of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD®).

Using mulch...

Using mulch…

For more information about Maryanne Quincy and Q-Gardens, visit her website at:

Mark R. McCabe Landscape Contractor | Green Gardener Spotlight

Mark uses pavers and gravel to reduce paved surfaces and allow water to soak into the ground

Mark uses pavers and gravel to reduce paved surfaces and allow water to soak into the ground

Mark McCabe installs landscapes with beauty, function, and value in mind. Mark has more than 40 years of experience. His firm, Mark R. McCabe Landscape Contractor, offers full-service landscape installation, specializing in small to medium-size single-family homes and condos.

Serving San Jose and the surrounding area, Mark’s work features native and low water use plants. He also provides irrigation system installation services. “Water is a shared, limited resource. We reduce runoff, pollution and water bills, and improve plant health by properly designing, installing, and maintaining an irrigation system (drip or spray),” Mark says.

A Bay Area native, Mark has enjoyed gardening since childhood. Over the years he’s gathered a wealth of horticultural knowledge and practical landscape installation skills. While holding college degrees in both ornamental horticulture and business administration, he enjoys continuing his education through books, magazines, and training such as the Green Gardener program. Mark enjoyed the Green Gardener training, and the program has had a positive effect on his business through client referrals.

Mulch can prevent weeds and reduce watering.

Mulch can prevent weeds and reduce watering.

Mark’s team has the knowledge and tools to evaluate and improve the physical and biological conditions of your garden’s soil. He also uses techniques taught in the Green Gardener program to make your landscape healthier and more resistant to pest problems. He believes that when a garden is built the right way, with proper soil preparation, mulching and a good irrigation, it will need less maintenance and save his clients time and money. He also places special emphasis on choosing the right plants. “Proper plant selection and placement is one of the most important ways to conserve resources and prevent pollution,” he says.

Learn more about Mark’s services and environmentally conscious practices at markmccabelandscape.com

Bonnie Brock Landscape Design | Green Gardener Spotlight

Beautiful backyard without lawns

Beautiful backyard without lawns

As the owner of Bonnie Brock Landscape Design (BBLD), Bonnie has been practicing proactive water conservation strategies since she established BBLD in 2005. Her comprehensive design services include everything from conceptual drawings, budgeting, permitting, and project management. She can work with your contractor to implement the landscape design or introduce you to landscape installation professionals.

Beautiful backyard without lawns

Beautiful backyard without lawns

Bonnie became a Green Gardener in 2010. She thinks that one of the best qualities of the Green Gardener program is that it teaches hands-on, practical approaches to all facets of gardening. “I paid for two of the people I work with to do the training in Spanish too, because I think it’s a great program,” she says. In addition to being a certified Green Gardener, Bonnie is also a Certified Irrigation Auditor and a Bay Friendly Qualified Professional.

Bonnie uses mulch and stones to reduce hardscapes

Bonnie uses mulch and stones to reduce hardscapes

Since 2006, Bonnie has helped more than 200 clients obtain rebates from the Santa Clara Valley Water District’s Landscape Rebate Program by converting high water-using landscape to low water-using landscape. Through the selection of drought tolerant plants, efficient irrigation components, and soil amendment practices, Bonnie is able to demonstrate to her clients that they can have a positive impact on the environment, which encourages them to look for even more ways to conserve water.

Bonnie uses mulch and stones to reduce hardscapes

Bonnie uses mulch and stones to reduce hardscapes

Her customers appreciate her beautiful creations and water-saving design skills. “She developed a vision of what my yard could be, and brought that vision to life in a way that far exceeded any of my expectations,” said Barbara from Menlo Park of Bonnie’s services. “After getting to know me, she intuited that I really needed a low-maintenance garden. Boy, did she ever come through! All the plants are on timers that are connected to a weather station, so the amount of water they get is automatically adjusted depending on the weather! I couldn’t be more delighted with the garden she designed and had built for me. “

Bonnie Brock Landscape Design is located in Palo Alto and services the surrounding area including Menlo Park, Los Altos, and Mountain View. Learn more about Bonnie’s landscaping design services at her website: bbrockdesign.com or 650-465-9073 .

Brian Debasitis | Green Gardener Spotlight

Brian Debasitis – Owner, Mauby Landscape Service

Brian pictured with impressive pumpkins, grown without fertilizers.

Brian pictured with impressive pumpkins, grown without fertilizers.

With more than ten years of experience in the landscaping industry, Brian Debasitis is more than a capable and passionate landscape designer – he understands how to make a landscape healthy. “Everything that I do came from what I wanted to do in my own garden,” Brian explains. When tending to Bay Area landscapes, he uses a natural approach to create beautiful spaces that are inviting to people as well as bees, butterflies, and birds.

Mauby Landscape Service provides garden layouts, landscape maintenance and construction, irrigation design and maintenance, and soil work including specialized compost creation and application. Brian also leads his own workshops on the benefits and values of using native California grasses in your landscape.

A work-in-progress: Designing a natural rain detention swale in a homeowner’s yard to collect roof runoff.

A work-in-progress: Designing a natural rain detention swale in a homeowner’s yard to collect roof runoff.

Brian’s healthy gardens and landscapes literally start from the soil. By managing soil health through his expertise in soil microbiology, composting and soil ecology, Brian creates gardens that retain moisture and don’t require synthetic fertilizers. He also enjoys using native plants in his gardens. Native plants generally require less water, and produce less waste (from pruning). Jake Voit, one of Brian’s clients, described Brian’s practices as collaboration rather than a competition with nature. “This leads to long-term benefits and savings for managing gardens and landscapes. His work is the first step to a healed environment. He has helped us to understand the soil that we manage and how to make it alive with abundance and opportunity for improving our water, air, plant, and ecosystem health.”

A long-time supporter of the Green Gardener program, Brian has applied eco-friendly principles in his work throughout the Bay Area. “All the practices are just about trying to make your yard work better – work in a more natural manner,” he says of the program. In fact, the Green Gardener program is highly aligned with Brian’s own goals in landscaping.

“All the practices are just about trying to make your yard work better – work in a more natural manner,” he says of the program.

“I want to keep as much stormwater in your yard as possible,” Brian says. He uses swales and contours to slow water so that it can permeate into the soil instead of flowing into storm drains and the Bay.

Brian inoculates the soil in the historic orchard at Guadalupe River Park and Gardens in San Jose.

Brian inoculates the soil in the historic orchard at Guadalupe River Park and Gardens in San Jose.

Sara Skiwski describes Brian’s service as both economical and revolutionary. “His knowledge and expertise in the field of soil health is truly amazing,” she says. “I highly recommend his service, which is quick, safe and produces outstanding results.”

To contact Brian and learn more about Mauby Landscaping, visit his website: www.mauby.com.

Brian Debasitis
Mauby Landscape Service
(408) 256-3402