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BRAINERD IN BLOOM: Judges’ comments help north Brainerd yard win contest

Garden enthusiast Gwen Anderson stood Wednesday under the arbor at her north Br1 / 4
The Fine Line Salon & Spa, decked out in flowers, tied for first place in the no2 / 4
A trumpet flower sits among many perennials and annuals in Gwen Anderson’s flowe3 / 4
The Memorial Flower Garden at Kiwanis Park in Brainerd tied for first place in t4 / 4

A labor of love can be seen in Gwen Anderson’s front yard in north Brainerd. 

Anderson says she’s not a master gardener, but seeing her charming flower garden filled with antiques, such as a table and chairs with a “lemonade for sale” sign, one would think so.

“It’s a passion of mine,” said Anderson. “My mom always had flower gardens and this garden is full of a lot of people’s flowers.”

Anderson shared her passion of her garden by entering the Brainerd in Bloom contest, where she took first place this year in the residential category for flower gardens. Last year she took third place.

“I made some changes in my garden this year to improve it,” said Anderson. “Last year the judges in the contest gave me some constructive comments and I applied them to my garden this year.”

Anderson said she got rid of the rubber chips that she placed in her flower gardens and this summer the soil around the flowers is all natural with black dirt.

Anderson added a classic white picket fence with an arbor arch in her front yard that is surrounded by many perennials and some annuals. The fence adds to the curb appeal.

“A lot of people who drive by stop and say, ‘I love your garden,’” said Anderson. “My neighbor across the street is the one who encouraged me to enter the contest. At first I didn’t want to make my passion a competition because I am not a master gardener by any means.”

There were 11 submissions in the Brainerd in Bloom contest this year, said Jackie Froemming, Master Gardener program coordinator in Crow Wing County. Brainerd in Bloom is a copy of America in Bloom, a grassroots program that believes connecting people and plants is important to everyone’s quality of life and enhances cities to make them a better place to live. 

Brainerd in Bloom’s campaign was developed in 2010 to recognize Brainerd residents’ efforts to beautify their yards. 

Three judges went around Monday to judge the gardens. The judges were Joyce Mikesh, Judy Saari and Joan Simonson, University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners from Crow Wing County. There were four categories — shade gardens, container gardens, flower gardens and vegetable gardens — but there were not submissions for every category. There also were divisions for residential sites and non-residential sites for churches, businesses and schools.

The results of Brainerd in Bloom:

• Residential/Flower Garden category: First place, Gwen Anderson with 56 points; second place, Laurel Brusseau, 45 points; and third place, Betty Holden, 40 points. 

• Non-Residential/Flower Garden: First-place tie with The Fine Line Salon & Spa and Memorial Flower Garden at Kiwanis Park with 52 points; third place, Brainerd Dispatch, 49 points; and fourth place, Bethlehem Lutheran Church, 44 points.

 • Non-Residential/Container Garden: First place, BN Credit Union, 52 points; and second place, Bill Ebinger Memorial Flower Garden at Lum Park, 50 points. 

• Non-Residential/Vegetable Garden: First place, The Garden of Leaders at Washington Educational Services Building, 45 points.

 • Residential/Vegetable Garden: First place, Sonya Chamberlain, 28 points.

“I think the contest went well,” said Froemming. “It was nice to see new applicants and people who applied last year.”

Froemming said the main purpose of the program is not to win prizes — even though the winners will receive a $20 gift card at the gift shop at Northland Arboretum — but it is more to showcase gardens and to receive helpful gardening tips form master gardeners.

Froemming said it was nice to see that some of the returning applicants applied some of the judges’ tips last year in their garden this year, like Anderson did.

Froemming said she hopes next year they will receive enough submissions for all categories of the contest. She said there is no application fee, so she hopes gardeners will take advantage of that.

 There will be an awards ceremony Sept. 8 at the Northland Arboretum that the public is invited too. A social gathering will begin at 7 p.m. and the ceremony will begin at 7:30 p.m.

Sponsors of the program are the Brainerd Main Street program, Brainerd Garden Club, Northland Arboretum, Crow Wing County Master Gardeners and County Extension Office and Lakes Printing. 

JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at or 855-5851.