Six green-thumbed Dorchester residents were among the winners in the Mayor’s 22nd Garden Contest, an event that recognizes gardeners whose plantings have helped beautify Boston’s neighborhoods.
Errol and Jan Uys won first place for their shade garden; Rick Kuethe took home a third- place prize for his senior garden, awarded to participants aged 65 and older; Daryl Johnson and Rick Smith came in first in the large yard category; and Jim Anderson finished in second place for the large garden category.
As first place winners, Johnson, Smith, and the Uys received the coveted “Golden Trowel” award from Mayor Martin Walsh in addition to prize packages from the Parks Department, Mahoney’s Garden Centers, and other sponsors at a closed awards ceremony on Aug. 14 in the Public Garden. They also have the chance to win the grand prize: roundtrip flights for two to any nonstop destination from Boston, per JetBlue.
“The gardeners love it,” said Jennifer Widener, program manager of the Boston Parks and Recreation Department, of the contest. “They’re getting recognized for their hard work, something that they’re passionate about and that they love.”
The event originated under Mayor Thomas Menino as a way to bring communities together and help keep the city attractive. Today, over 100 hundred applicants annually submit photos of their green spaces, either by mail or online. The number is eventually narrowed down to a small group of finalists who are placed in one of nine categories based on type of garden: a storefront or organization’s garden; a community garden; a vegetable or herb garden; a porch, balcony, or container garden; a senior garden; a shade garden; and finally, small, medium, and large gardens.
A panel of judges made up of members of the Garden Contest Hall of Fame, staff members of the Boston Parks and Recreation Department, and local open space advocates then spends two summer nights, usually in late July, evaluating the gardens on criteria such as their use of color, neatness, and sustainability.
For many participants, the competition offers much more than the chance to take home another trophy. “Some of these people, they meet at the ceremony, make friendships, and go to each other’s gardens,” said Widener. “It really brings people together. Even if they don’t come in first, just coming together and learning from each other is awesome.”