OTTUMWA — For some Ottumwa residents, summertime is about trimming hedges around the deck rather than flipping burgers on the grill.
The "Yard of the Month" winners properties are filled with contrasting shrubbery and bright flowers tucked neatly behind landscaping rocks.
According to Chamber Executive Director Tim Kurtz approximately six or seven yards are nominated each month. Once a yard is nominated, a selection committee consisting of one chamber representative and one City of Ottumwa representative will choose two yards that fit the criteria.
"We didn't know about it," said this month's winner, Joyce Banyas, "but we were honored that someone would nominate us."
Joyce and her husband Steve were presented their award by the Chamber earlier this month, along with Marvin and Joyce McCarl.
The selection committee choose properties that promote beautification to the community. The award is designed to recognize community members for their hard work as well as inspire members of the neighborhood to enhance their yards as well.
"We get a lot of neighbors that appreciate the yard and people that drive by and comment on the flowers along the driveway. That's what people really notice, all the flowers," said Banyas.
In order to be a "Yard of the Month," homes must have eye-pleasing yards that make a good first impression. In addition, the plants must be of varying colors, textures and heights. Previous winners have front yards filled with the broad leaves of the hostas accompanied by peonies or rose beds growing out of freshly laid mulch.
Banyas says the secret to winning the award is "a lot of hard work." She said she spent all day Monday out in the yard trimming hedges and that she still had plenty of work ahead of her.
"I really don't spend enough time out there," joked Banyas. "I was a little under the weather early in the spring, so it set me back, but Steve mows the yard two or three times a week, and that's what keeps it looking nice."