The gardens were visited and viewed, the points were tallied, and for the first time in the annual Tribune Chronicle and Trumbull County Master Gardeners Amateur Garden contest, a tie was declared for the second-place position.
Finding two gardens with exact scores is not in the odds. Certified Ohio State University Trumbull County Master Gardeners use professional scoring methods to determine first and second-place winners when they travel throughout the county each summer to find the best gardeners. Two of the four judges also are certified flower judges, and the method used to choose the best of the best from all the entries is based on a point system. Each judge rates the gardens according to the criteria, such as design, choice of plants, use of structures and other factors. Perfect scores for all criteria combined add up to 100 points.
No garden has ever received a perfect score, although some have come close. Due the wide range of points involved, it is not common for ties to occur.
Tribune Chronicle photos / Kathleen Evanoff
The first-place award for the 2010 How Does Your Garden Grow??contest goes to Bob and Joyce Gardner of Cortland. True to their name, the Gardners have created a landscape that not only captures the essence of the property, but also the personality of the gardeners involved.
This year the first-place winner was a clear choice by all judges, but the second-place winners beat those odds and resulted in a tie.
MEET THE WINNERS
The first-place award for 2010 goes to Bob and Joyce Gardner of Cortland.
True to their name, the Gardners have created a landscape that not only captures the essence of the property, but also the personality of the gardeners involved. In the case of the Gardners' garden, family is the main component that brings the landscape together.
In one garden near the driveway, statues of five children playing are lined up according to size.
"These represent our five grandchildren," Joyce said.
Although the majority of the landscape design is less than 10 years old, the family has always dabbled in gardening one way or another.
"Most of the gardening we did when we were younger was vegetables," said Bob Gardner. "Now we have a few tomato plants, but most of our neighbors provide us with fresh vegetables, and we go to the farmers markets."
The Gardners built their house in 1966 and although they didn't concentrate on original landscaping while they were working and raising their family, once retired, they began to look at various garden designs and decided what they really wanted in their own backyard.
"I thought the commercial landscaping blocks were too expensive," Bob said.
Instead, he created a mold for his own concrete blocks and each morning he made a few rectangular blocks for the garden wall that now winds across the front of the house. It took all summer, but by the time he was finished, Bob handmade 511 concrete blocks.
The garden pond, complete with tiered waterfall and surrounded with ornamental grasses and bog plants, was dug completely by hand. A perfect spot was chosen for the pond at an angle near the back of the property.
"I can be out in the kitchen working or on the sun porch and can see the pond," Joyce said.
Standing water issues were resolved with drainage tile that reverts runoff to the back of the property and a dry creek bed to cover the tile curls around the pond. To dress the creek, Bob built a wooden bridge near the back side, and at the entrance, a water wheel over a pondless fountain adds charm to the entire effect.
Nearly everything that dresses the Gardners' landscape is hand made, including the mosaic walkway created to make it easier to bring wheelbarrows of stones to form the creek bed.
After acquiring slabs of concrete from a demolition project, Joyce used broken floor tiles to design a mosaic on top of the plain sidewalk.
Not wasting time since retirement, the Gardners have worked to create a garden oasis they can enjoy in their own backyard.
Second place winner Debi Allen also knows about doing things by hand to get the effect she wants. A long-time country dweller, Allen moved to Warren a few years ago and enjoyed the convenience of having things close by. But she missed the solitude of the country.
"I knew I could live in the city and still get the feeling of being in the country," Allen said.
It wasn't long before she began her project. Large pergolas covered with wisteria and other flowering vines mark the entrances to the back and one side of the house she shares with her husband, Jeff, and two little dogs, Charlie and Lucy.
A koi pond, which Allen built herself with the help of her stepdaughter, fills a corner of the backyard. Garden art from metal-cast flamingoes to glass tropical fish adorn the stones that line the pond, as well as a concrete bench where Allen often sits with her morning coffee.
Ornamental grasses and flowering plants, including winter sensitive perennials bougainvillea and brugmansia, which Allen brings indoors at the end of summer, give the entire landscape a tropical feel. Allen also plants several varieties of Datura. Both plants are nicknamed "Angel's Trumpet" for their large drooping bell-shaped flowers, however Datura is an annual that is easily grown from seeds inside the large, prickly-covered seedpods formed after the flowers fade.
Alice Campbell of Bristolville was surprised when she found out her son had entered her garden in the contest. She was even more surprised to find she had tied for the second place prize.
Campbell moved to the 150-year-old country house with her family in 1987 and immediately began transforming the yard with her flowers.
"I love to just sit and look at them," Campbell said. "I enjoy all the different birds that come into the gardens."
Campbell's gardens flow around the back of her property and around every structure, including a small shed, a large garage, and around every stand of evergreens.
The main bed at the back of the yard is edged with a white picket fence where a border representative of an English cottage garden bursts with color every month of the season, starting with flowering bulbs in spring and culminating with black-eyed susans, cleome and snapdragons in late summer.
Getting her love of flowers from her grandmother and mother, Campbell's favorite place is her back porch where she often sits and snaps beans in summer and takes in the colors of her gardens and watches the birds that visit the many feeders.
From the cardinal that has come back to the farm for years feasting on the corn Campbell provides on a feeder mounted to a shed wall or the robin that takes its shower in the bird bath, Campbell enjoys every moment she can outdoors and in her gardens.
"You have to love the smell of that dirt turning over in your hands," Campbell said.