For the third time, Frank and Joan Travers of Bristolville have taken first place in the Tribune Chronicle and Ohio State University Extension Master Gardener Amateur Garden contest.
After spending a busy summer giving tours to garden clubs, churches and other organizations, the Travers have decided this is the last year they will be entering the contest.
''We don't plan to stop gardening by any means,'' said Frank Travers. ''But I think our focus now is on the tours.''
Tribune Chronicle photos / Kathleen Evanoff
Joan and Frank Travers of Bristolville were the first place winners in the Tribune Chronicle and Ohio State University Extension Master Gardener Amateur Garden contest. This is the third time the Travers have won the garden contest. To view or purchase these and more photos, visit cu.tribtoday.com
This is the eighth year that the Tribune Chronicle has sponsored the contest, which is open to all Trumbull County amateur gardeners. Throughout the month of June each summer, amateur gardeners in Trumbull County can send in their entry form to the Tribune. Entry forms are available in the newspaper several times a week during the month and entries generally close at the end of the month to allow sufficient time for judging. Gardens are judged by certified Trumbull County Master Gardeners, chaired by Master Gardeners Nancy Kovach and Betty Bailes, both of whom are certified flower judges with Landscape Consultants through The Garden Clubs of America.
In addition to Kovach and Bailes, certified Master Gardeners involved in this season's judging were Patricia Gojdics, Carol Caronite and Kadey Kimpel.
Judges visit each garden entered and evaluate them using a form from Landscape Consultants through the Garden Clubs of Ohio. Judging is done by a system of points that evaluate gardens based on color, design, use of structures, planting material, maintenance and overall aesthetics. The forms are gathered from each judge and the points are averaged to determine the first and second place winners in the contest.
Joan Travers, a lover of annuals, designs individual garden beds each summer in the front and along the side of the property. Her love for annuals is bigger than the work involved in keeping the ever-blooming flowers looking nice each summer. The use of annuals gives Joan the opportunity to change the look of her beds each season.
''I start getting ideas right away,'' Joan said. ''Right now, I have ideas for changing things around for next year.''
Her husband, Frank, an avid perennial gardener, also loves to change things around, but his changes lean more toward hardscape projects. This is evident in the changes that take place in the backyard garden this season, including the addition of a small patio area at the front to a second seating area with fire pit at the back. Another addition this year was a picket fence with an entryway revealing the winding pathways that travel through and around each individual perennial bed.
Frank, who uses no mulch in his gardens, swears by soil amendments and his daily routine of breaking up the soil in each bed for keeping weeds out of the gardens.
''I spend about two hours a day early in the summer and about an hour a day after that,'' Frank said. ''I really don't have much problem with weeds.''
Second place winner, Cheryl Elliott of Cortland, also averages about an hour each day working in the many gardens on her property on Phillips Rice Road.
Cheryl and her husband of 10 years, Larry, were married on the back deck of the residence. Since then, several changes have taken place that include the addition of a sunroom and Larry's construction of a brick pathway leading from the deck to the garden shed, a large structure with windows that are graced with window boxes he built for Cheryl.
''When I was little and drew my house, I always included window boxes,'' Cheryl said.
In early spring, the window boxes are filled with lettuce and spring greens, but when the heat of summer takes over, Cheryl replants the boxes with colorful annuals and trailing vines.
A three-year survivor of breast cancer, Cheryl attributes working in her gardens as part of her therapy.
''I love digging in the dirt,'' she said. ''I feel like I'm nurturing life.''
Cheryl enjoys doing her regular yoga routine in her gardens, among what she calls the ''constantly unfolding color.'' The Elliotts also take their dog, a goldendoodle they call Barnabus, on a daily garden walk around the property.
Cheryl, an RN with the St. Joseph Pain Management Center, enjoys taking fresh flowers to her co-workers from her cutting garden.
''They call me Martha Stewart,'' she said, smiling.
She gets many of her ideas from the bed and breakfasts they sometimes visit, Cheryl said. Larry, a hobbyist woodcarver, has carved a wood spirit face on a tree in the backyard and gets ideas wherever he happens to find them, he said.
A recent idea came from a visit to garden center where he spied a planter with boots as legs, giving the appearance that the planter had feet.
''I figured I could make that,'' he said. And he did.
The ''foot'' planter now sits among several other container gardens on the Elliott's deck, many of which include tropical flowers that bloom outside in summer, but are moved inside for the winter.
Family plays a large part in the gardens that Cheryl and Larry have created in their landscape. Containers of a blooming plant called ''Fairy Lily'' (Zephyranthes grandiflora), was given to Cheryl by her grandmother, who passed away several years ago. Her garden also contains a hot frame and garden bench planter built by her father.
The Elliotts have four grandchildren from Larry's three children, as well as several nieces and nephews, all with whom Cheryl enjoys sharing her gardens.
''Our grandsons Jake and Kyle are nature-lovers,'' Cheryl said. ''They love bugs and find them all over out here.''
''We are so blessed,'' Cheryl said.