Fran Lambert loves trees. It was that passion which led her to also become a water conservationist. Today she’s committed to water conservation and creating sustainable landscapes as she is about saving trees. It’s a combination that goes hand-in-hand.
“I’m saving water to save trees,” says Lambert, who co-owns Mariposa Landscape & Tree Service, in Southern California, with her husband Bill. “Most of my jobs start with a sick tree. I’ve been an arborist for more than 25 years but wound up in the irrigation business because of diseased or failing trees. I’d be called in because a tree really shouldn’t have gotten sick, fallen over, or died. I would do a consultation and it almost always had at least something to do with irrigation. So in order to be effective at conserving trees, I needed to learn as much about irrigation as I could. Today I’m a certified arborist and a certified landscape irrigation auditor.”
Lambert says that being both a tree conservationist and a water conservationist is a complementary blend. She works to fill in the knowledge gap for those who don’t really understand how a tree needs to be irrigated. “It’s really a specialized profession,” she says. “You can be an expert in tree pruning but still not totally understand the way a tree needs to be properly irrigated to thrive. So often a tree gets too much water hitting the trunk and not the deep and infrequent irrigation it really needs. Crews water a tree like they water grass but it just doesn’t work the same way. Over-irrigating a tree can lower the population or even kill the beneficial microorganisms that help make trees healthy.”
Though she began her water conservation efforts with saving trees as the primary goal, Lambert says she’s become equally passionate about saving water. When she goes out for a consultation, she puts a lot of value on the education of the customer. “We teach the client about the trees and the importance of giving them the right amount of water,” says Lambert. “Often, we convert the entire landscape to high efficiency irrigation with the use of a smart controller and work to educate the customer on why these things are so important.”
Connected to the land
In Southern California, water conservation is of increasing importance as the area faces a strain on its imported water supply. “We have an increasing population and that’s made it even more important to focus on saving water,” Lambert says. “Water is going to get scarcer and more expensive as time goes on, so we need to learn now how to conserve better and how to live with less water.”
Lambert says that trees are really a good value for the amount of water they use. “Trees give you a lot of plant material for the comparatively small amount of water they actually use,” she says. “They are incredibly efficient at water use, and you can get a great deal of landscape benefit if you make trees your top priority.”
Her appreciation for water’s importance began as a child, says Lambert, whose father was a civil engineer for the county of San Diego. He worked on a lot of projects that dealt with water and Lambert credits him for her understanding of water’s value. Having grown up in the region, she says she’s also developed an appreciation for the native plants that live and grow naturally in her area. “I’ve spent my whole life hiking around the local mountains and deserts and have developed a sense of how important our water supply is, that’s always stuck with me,” she says. “That’s why I believe that re-landscaping and using more trees or native plants that don’t consume as much water makes sense. You can still have a pleasing landscape with a variety of water-wise plant life. It’s not really a sacrifice.”
Awarded for her efforts
In addition to helping with the water and tree conservation efforts through her daily work, Lambert has also volunteered her time and abilities. She was recently recognized by the California Urban Water Conservation Council for her work with the Rancho Santa Fe Garden Club in creating a demonstration garden where homeowners can view sustainable and water-wise landscape practices. “When the Garden Club requested help with their irrigation, I knew that as a nonprofit they didn’t really have the funds to fix the problems,” Lambert says, adding she worked with an irrigation controller manufacturer to obtain a donation. “Our company donated the labor and installation of a retrofitted system with high efficiency products. We brought it up to a higher standard and put signs on all the water-wise plants so that the public could be educated. They do a lot of education there, letting the public see what water-efficient irrigation can look like – it doesn’t have to be a stark desertscape.”
In a second pro-bono volunteer project, Lambert helped the Rancho Santa Fe Senior Center with their irrigation problems. “A second retrofit donation from (another manufacturer) allowed us to completely turn around their garden,” she says. “We did a lot of tree work and replanting involving our local Rotary Club. In the end, it was something the whole community could enjoy. It’s an opportunity for them to see what kinds of wonderful products are available from irrigation companies and to see that saving water and having a beautiful landscape is possible.”
Grangetto’s Farm and Garden Supply also recently recognized Mariposa as their Green Partner of the Year. “Grangetto’s is one of our top vendors and has helped procure a lot of the donations we’ve used in volunteer projects,” says Lambert. “We’ve become partners in the sense that they refer a lot of tree and irrigation questions to me and I’ve become part of their education network.”
And in addition to educating the customer, Lambert whole-heartedly embraces continuing education for herself and her staff as well. As someone that truly loves what she does, Lambert is always looking to grow. That’s why she puts a lot of value on certifications. “As business owners and professionals, I really believe in becoming certified in everything you possibly can in this ever-changing field,” she says. “This requires you to pursue continuing education in order to maintain your credits and certification. That’s a wonderful thing to do for yourself and for the industry. And it shows your customers how much you value the business. I believe in making that commitment. It makes a difference.”
This is one of three stories that appeared in Lawn & Landscape's Water Works e-newsletter. To continue reading about Fran Lambert and Mariposa Landscape & Tree Care:
Watering lessons: A successful sustainable landscape involves the right irrigation as well as the right plants.
Hands-on management: The owners of Mariposa Landscape & Tree Service can be found on every job site.