Congratulations to The Garden Club of Kent's 2023 winners!
There are some pretty spectacular gardens in our midst, as Cheryl Grimm and Mackenzie Fuller, co-chairs of the Community Beautification committee, discovered this summer. They spent several weeks looking for winners of this year's Community Beautification Awards. Winners were announced at the Nov. 27 monthly members meeting.
The Garden Club of Kent's annual Community Beautification Awards recognize aesthetics, creativity, maintenance and sound environmental practices in home gardens. Awards are conferred in the following categories:
Residential Gardens - Front Yard, Side Yard, Back Yard
Wildlife Habitat Gardens
Home Vegetable Gardens
Renee & Randy Ruchotzke, Kent
Renee and Randy Ruchotzke changed a 50'x100' concrete covered backyard city lot into the extremely fertile habitat it is today, filled with fruit trees, berries, currants, vegetables, herbs and mushrooms. Their front yard is a native flower oasis for hungry pollinators that is also visited by a nearby entomologist in awe of the plethora of visitors he finds feasting there. Their success is achieved by using permaculture methods and low-cost soil-building techniques, allowing the garden to dictate its needs to them. Being involved with the Kent Environmental Council shows their commitment to being good stewards to our earth and sharing what they have learned.
Walls Elementary School, Kent
Community Beautification committee co-chair Cheryl Grimm happened upon the Walls Elementary garden when dropping off plastic caps for a recycle project the school was working on. She spent a good 20 minutes walking around their beds, taking pictures, reading the various signs and just smiling at all they have done. And this was off-season. "This is the kind of playground every school should offer as an alternative to seesaws and monkey bars," said Cheryl. "Their greenhouse and compost bins are stellar, as are the enclosed vegetable and flower beds."
A gathering area and varied sensory stops make it a fun visit, at any age. Affiliated with Let’s Grow Together, it’s a vital learning experience in need of more school participation.
Samantha Loeffler, Kent
Samantha Loeffler is building her garden areas with gusto. Taking out her front yard and planting it up with mostly native shrubs and blooms, she also adds in found objects for decor. This segues into her back yard, which is lined with shaded area plantings and varied container beds of vegetables, herbs and berries on the sunny side. Leaving room for her two children and dog to romp is getting more challenging each year, as her enthusiasm fills yet another niche with an edible or an eyeful.
Elisa Harris, Streetsboro
Elisa does have an impressive permanent garden on The Garden Club of Kent grounds (check out permanent garden #1), but she also allowed the committee co-chairs to visit her home garden. She doesn’t have a lot of space, but she uses it to the fullest potential. Elisa told Cheryl and Mackenzie how much gardening means to her and how therapeutic it is for her. She works so hard for her garden and for the club, so they were incredibly happy to announce her as a winner. She's pictured here with Garden Club of Kent President Melissa Davis.
Bonnie & John Zuchniak, Streetsboro
Sometime mid-summer, Mackenzie was out looking at the community gardens and decided to drive around without direction, just to look at more gardens in the area. After she left The Garden Club of Kent, she was out for maybe another 20 or 30 minutes mindlessly driving. Then she took a turn on a road she didn’t recognize at first and saw the most beautiful garden. She thought, “I have to stop and add that one to the list,” only to realize she was back at the club's property and the garden that made her almost crash belonged to Bonnie and John Zuchniak. John and Bonnie's backyard is a veritable sanctuary with a combination of in-ground and potted plants and a beautiful pond centerpiece with a cascading waterfall.
Carla Owens & Chris Kirtley, Kent
Carla Owens and Chris Kirtley turned their three-acre lot into a multi-faceted food source, consisting of common and unique vegetables, berries, fruits, nuts, herbs and pollinator-enticing flowers.
Aside from the food element, there is a cutting garden and a 50+ variety bed of dahlias. Their ever growing flock of chickens and expert canning abilities leave them little need to hit the grocery store. They also have plans for a native wildflower meadow, along with even more additions to their nut forest and vegetable beds. Gracious hosts, they often allow samplings from the fresh garden, and if timed right, from the dishes created from such. An impetus to a local Home and Harvest Food Swap, they are keen to share their bounties and knowledge.
With only six years behind them, one can only fathom the bounties as yet to be had. Congratulations, Carla and Chris!