The start of August is an exciting time for Yorkton's gardeners and horticulturalists: not just the season to enjoy the blooming results of their labors, but also a chance to find inspiration in the most beautiful yards in the city.
This is the time of year that the winners of the Yorkton in Bloom Local Grounds Competition are announced. At the conclusion of the 16th annual competition on August 1, awards were issued in 15 categories, including five "Golden Bloom" awards for those 75 years and older.
On Thursday, residents of Yorkton and surrounding areas packed two buses on a pair of free tours of the winners' yards.
For the second year running, the winner of the Best Home Grounds (Front Yard) award was Bev Yaschuk, who lives on a 1.25-acre property on Pleasant Avenue at the western edge of the city.
Yaschuk's yard, developed and decorated from end to end, is the product of 26 years of work.
"Every year you pick a corner and start digging," she says. "It's always a change. Every year the weather is different, and different plants do better."
Yaschuk's backyard is a sprawling arrangement of vegetables, beds, trees, and fountains. Her winning front yard features row upon row of planters and ornaments.
"This year I went a little bit crazy with pots. There's 225 on the yard. There's probably 25 flower beds, and every kind of plant you can think of is here."
Yaschuk enjoys collecting ornaments from garage sales or creating them from old materials and finding the perfect place for the pieces among her plants.
"It all kind of fits into each other," she says.
Winner of the Golden Bloom Award for Best Home Grounds (Front Yard) was Sonja Pawliw of Wellington Avenue.
Pawliw, another repeat winner, has a collection of unusual plants featured in her yard, including cacti, grapevines, an apricot tree, and a kiwi vine.
Many people are surprised to learn that these plants can even grow in Saskatchewan, but despite her share of failed experiments, Pawliw says she enjoys the challenge of growing exotic plants.
"I like plants that are a conversation piece."
Her apricot tree, a single self-pollinating eight-year-old plant, regularly produces large numbers of full-sized fruits.
"They're very hardy. They're a Siberian apricot," says Pawliw.
The small, smooth products of Pawliw's kiwi vine might not look much like the kiwis found in the grocery store, but she says they're very sweet in the fall.
"I got it thinking that even if it doesn't bear fruit, it's a nice vine, because in the fall it has little burgundy edges on the leaves and burgundy stems. But it bears fruit, and the fruit is very nice.
"I don't have to protect it through winter or anything."
Athen and Emily Gazdewich of Willow Crescent won the coveted Best Home Grounds (Back Yard) award after entering the competition for the first time ever this year.
Emily Gazdewich says she decided to show off her yard this year because her new retirement has left her "more time to fuss" over the grounds—whether it's extra time weeding or the complete rebuild of the backyard perennial garden she and her husband undertook this spring.
"Every year we do something more—add something," she says.
The contents of the Gazdewich yard are restrained, but carefully placed and maintained. Statues flanked by flowers act as the centerpieces to open spaces, and neat paths are cut through the denser patches of vegetables and perennials.
"There's a lot of hard work between us both," says Gazdewich, "but it's work that we enjoy."
The Yorkton in Bloom Competition is a partnership between the City of Yorkton Community Development, Parks & Recreation Department and the Yorkton & District Horticultural Society.