Two free, public events at Fresno State this week target alternative landscaping solutions as Fresno-area residents prepare to face summer in the third year of drought-like conditions.

The first event, “Smart Gardens: How to be Water-wise in Times of Drought,” will be at 6:45 p.m. Friday, May 2 in Fresno State’s Henry Madden Library.

On Saturday, May 3 from 8 a.m.-noon, the sixth annual Water-wise Plant Exchange will be held at the Fresno State Horticulture Greenhouses (3150 E. Barstow Ave. on the northeast corner of Chestnut and Barstow).

The Smart Gardens event Friday night will feature presentations on transitioning traditional lawns to more drought-tolerant landscaping by landscapers John Valentino, co-founder and board chair of Tree Fresno, and alumna Susan Stiltz, landscape water conservation specialist with the City of Fresno Water Division.

They will discuss how to create a beautiful garden and landscape using flora that is able to manage in drought-like conditions found in Fresno. A question and answer session follows.

Valentino is president of Truxell and Valentino Landscape Development Inc., Sierra Madre Nursery Inc. and John and Bob’s Smart Soil Solutions. He earned a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture at University of California, Berkeley and is the longtime president of Fresno State’s Friends of the Arboretum and current chair of the Fresno Chaffee Zoo Corporation.

Stiltz, a landscape designer and consultant specializing in water-wise, low-maintenance plants, has a bachelor’s degree in plant science from Fresno State and is a certified arborist and a master gardener.  She is employed part-time by the city and also serves as the volunteer garden consultant for the Clovis Botanical Garden and as a board member for Fresno Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation.

A reception with hors d’oeuvres and a no-host wine and beer bar begins at 6 p.m. and will feature several community resource groups offering information about their organizations or companies: Aqua Cents Water Management, California Native Plant Society, Clovis Botanical Garden, Fresno Cactus and Succulent Society, Master Gardeners of Fresno County, SYNLawn, Tree Fresno and Valley Water Consortium.

The Friday event is presented by the Friends of the Madden Library and the Central Valley Water Awareness Committee.

At Saturday’s annual Water-wise Plant Exchange, multiple hands-on educational workshops will be available for participants (see full list below) and several master gardeners will answer any questions about gardening or a water-sensible landscape.

“We are so excited to be continuing one of the community’s favorite spring-time events,” said Nora Laikam, water conservation supervisor for the City of Fresno. “Every year, this event brings more partners and even more guests who are interested in learning about Fresno-friendly landscaping options that not only conserve water, but can save them money.”

Activities and crafts in preparation for Mother’s Day will be available for kids of all ages. Plants will be available at discounted prices at the greenhouse.

Attendees are encouraged to bring a drought-tolerant or water sensible plant to participate in the free “give and take” of water-wise plants. There will be special gifts given to those who donate water-wise plants for the exchange including bulbs, cuttings, seeds and trees.

Campus parking is free on weekends and after 4 p.m. Fridays.

For more information about the Smart Gardens event on Friday, contact Sharon Ramirez at 559.278.5790 or

For the Saturday event, call the City of Fresno Water Conservation Program at 559.621.5480 or

Educational Workshop Schedule

9 a.m.  Creating a cactus/succulent dish garden

9:30 a.m.   Compost

10 a.m. Topiaries

10:30 a.m. Micro-Irrigation and Drip Systems

11 a.m. Growing Veggies in a Drought

(Copy by Jodi Raley, University Communications news assistant.)

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