Garden Masters Judges

Each year the San Diego Horticultural Society invites a panel of judges for the garden displays, who are experts in their fields of design and horticulture. This year the panel includes:

David Clarke

Association of Professional Landscape Designers, San Diego Chapter

David Clarke, APLD, is a native Southern Californian and has been inspired by the climate, terrain, and lifestyles of this unique region since childhood. He founded David Clarke Design in 2009 to offer clients quality landscape design services that reflect this appreciation and understanding of our Mediterranean climate and our ever increasing need to conserve water.

He is a graduate of San Diego State University and holds an Associate of Science degree in Landscape Design from Cuyamaca College. He has designed custom residential landscapes throughout much of San Diego County, and has volunteered pro bono landscape design services for groups including Azalea Park Water Conservation Garden, Community Housing Works Facelift, and Earthlab Conservation Garden.

Professional qualifications include:

  • Certified Professional Member of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers
  • Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper (QWEL) (an EPA Watersense-labeled program)
  • G3-certified Watershed Wise Landscape Professional (an EPA Watersense-labeled program)

He is President of the San Diego District of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers, and is a member of the California Native Plant Society.

Michael Brennan

American Society of Landscape Architects, San Diego Chapter

Michael Brennan is co-owner of Carson Douglas Landscape Architecture with William Carson Joyce, his East Coast partner. Carson Douglas is a boutique design firm focusing on high-end residential and commercial clients in Southern California and New England. “Working on both coasts represents certain challenges in adapting to the regional aspect of projects, but more interestingly it is a vast opportunity to develop a fusion of styles.”

Some of Brennan’s notable work includes Orchid Award-winning Sofia Lofts, a LEED platinum development centered around a renovated historic residence that will become CDLA’s new office location; Alcazar Court, the historic bungalow court renovation in the heart of Hillcrest and SOHO preservation-award winner; and the Hillcrest Pride Flag and LGBT Monument, a cultural landmark at the intersection of University Avenue and Normal Street. Carson Douglas is also on the team developing Solana 101 in Solana Beach, a mixed-use development proposed by client Zephyr Partners.

With a degree from CalPoly San Luis Obispo, Brennan previously worked at Urban Green, Gillespie Moody Patterson, Inc., and Lightfoot Planning Group. He has received many awards including ASLA’s Student Design Award in 2002, Circulate San Diego’s Momentum Citizen Award in 2016, San Diego County Bicycle Coalition’s Advocate of the Year award in 2017, CLCA’s Trophy Award first place for the Alpine Special Event Site in 2011.

Brennan is also an elected representative serving on the Uptown Planners city planning group and former appointee on the City of San Diego’s Bicycle Advisory Committee.

Steve Gerischer

Pacific Horticulture Society

Steve Gerischer, an award-winning landscape designer, teacher, and former president of the Southern California Horticulture Society, has been gardening locally since childhood. He has appeared on HGTV’s ‘Landscaper’s Challenge (where his was the design chosen and installed) and formerly worked and lectured at Smith & Hawken in Beverly Hills, and Hortus, in Pasadena. He now divides his time between creating landscapes with his company, Larkspur Garden Design, and lecturing on a wide variety of topics relating to gardening in Southern California. Current motto: “Get rid of the lawn”

Past Lecture Topics: Containers for the Mediterranean Garden (Gardening under Med. Skies Symposium, 2004), Hypertufa Pots and Troughs (Arboretum/Descanso/SOKA), Rose Pruning and Care (Various), Designing with Foliage-Form and Texture (Greystone LA Garden Show/Arboretum etc.), Orchid Care, Topiary, Bulbs (Spring and Summer), Bareroot Plants, Pest Control (Organic Methods), Organic Gardening, Getting Rid of Your Lawn – All for Smith & Hawken (1994-1997), Hortus (1997-2000), Arboretum, Covina Valley Adult, Descanso etc. (2000 to present)

Frank Mitzel

San Diego Horticultural Society

Frank Mitzel is the current President of the 1100 member San Diego Horticultural Society.  Frank received his Bachelors degree in Landscape Architecture from Texas A&M in 1981 and has been designing both commercial and residential landscaping projects for over 35 years in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Europe through his landscape firm – Aesthetic Landscape Design.

Frank’s work has been published in many periodical’s including; The San Diego Union Tribune, the Detroit Free Press, San Diego Home/Garden Magazine, Sunset Magazine, Fine Gardening, Better Homes and Gardens, and several books about landscape design and gardening.

Stacey Sturnot

Stacey SturnotTerra Pacific Landscape, CLCA San Diego Chapter President

Stacey is a self-confessed “Plant Nerd” with over 24 years’ experience in the Green Industry, beginning her journey installing yards for her father’s home building business in high school. She furthered her passion in high school with Horticulture classes that included Garden Design and Plant Production. This turned into a career path as she attended Milwaukee Area Technical College, earning the Associate of Applied Science degree in Landscape Horticulture. She became certified in all tracks of this degree including Design/Build, Maintenance Arboriculture, and Garden Center/Production. The skills learned at MATC and in various positions with Garden Center Sales, Production, Landscape Maintenance and Interiorscaping, led her to ValleyCrest Companies as a college recruit in 2000. She began working in the San Diego Branch supporting and managing the design, enhancement and account management teams. Stacey has spent her 16 years in San Diego working in various roles of landscape management; maintenance, construction, sales & marketing, and operation departments, including production and inventory planning at Miramar Nurseries. Stacey has been in the Branch Manager role for over 5 years and currently is managing maintenance, construction and tree care for the San Diego region at Gothic Landscape. She holds a California Qualified Applicators License, is a Certified Water Manager, member of the San Diego Horticultural Society, SD Native Plant Society and is a Past President of the CLCA – San Diego Chapter.

Stacey has won various Landscape Design awards as a student and through her work in San Diego. She is honored to be a part of the esteemed panel of judges.

The nomenclature awards team

Nomenclature is an important element in the ability to find and attain the right plant for the landscape and garden. As part of its mission of education, the San Diego Horticultural Society evaluates the botanical nomenclature on all of the display gardens. The nomenclature awards team includes:

John and Serena Noble
Coastal Sage Gardening

Award Criteria for Garden Masters Exhibition

Execution of Purpose
Gold, silver or no award based on Statement of Purpose.

Judges’ Choice
Awarded to the garden selected from among the judge’s favorite gardens.

Peoples’ Choice
The public will be allowed to vote for their favorite garden electronically by registering their email. One vote per email address.

Pacific Horticulture Award for Horticultural Excellence
Awarded to a garden with outstanding horticultural display by Pacic Horticulture magazine.

Design Excellence Award
Awarded to a garden with outstanding design.

Water Smart Award
Awarded to the garden with the best design for education in landscape water conservation.

Award of Excellence (up to 16)
Awarded for outstanding features best meeting the award description and demonstrating excellence in the category. If no garden presents a strong value in a category, that award will not be presented. Judges have the discretion to add awards if a garden demonstrates a strong aspect not covered by categories specified.

  • Most Educational
  • Most Dramatic
  • Best Appeal to Children
  • Best Specialty Garden
  • Best Interpretation of Theme
  • Compatibility of Plant Materials
  • Combination of Plant Materials
  • Best Home Landscape
  • Best San Diego Adapted Garden
  • Most Creative Use of Space
  • Best Intimate Garden
  • Best Water Feature
  • Best Use of Hardscape
  • Best Interpretive Signage
  • Best Topiary

Perfection in Nomenclature
Awarded to each garden that perfectly identifies and labels all plants in its garden with proper botanical nomenclature.

Outstanding Plant Specimen
Additional awards will be made by a team from the San Diego Horticultural Society for outstanding plant specimens. Criteria include health and overall appearance of the plant, rarity, and horticultural merit.

Judges decisions will be final