Green Thumb Garden Club presents the annual American Pride Landscape Awards process for 2013.

This lengthy endeavor begins with nominations and/or applications from both commercial and residential gardens of South Walton. Standards for evaluating the landscape designs are very specific and must follow guidelines from the National Council of State Garden Clubs. 

Approximately 20-25 members of the Federated Green Thumb Garden Club help screen from a list of nominations to narrow down the competition. Four residential gardens and five commercial gardens made the cut. These nine gardens were visited by the judges on April 21 to help choose the winners. Notifications and a slide presentation of awards will be at the garden club meeting on May 15. 

As the suspense builds, I have received permission from Tina Burke, president of the Green Thumb Garden Club, to give you an inside view of some of the gardens being considered for the awards. Due to space restrictions, I can cover only residential gardens.

First garden on the list belongs to Fran and Len Ross. As I arrive, the afternoon is heating up with welcome sunshine. The judges enter a back yard garden of cool and shady areas. White sand, pink flamingos and a cool flowing water fountain create a cool oasis. Upstairs on the sun drenched porch, several tomato plants promise a mid-summer yield.

The next garden I visit belongs to Marisa and Jay Benton. They have aptly named their lovely home and garden "Our Point of View." Bird houses galore adorn the front yard, and I think I spot a hen house of Ameraucana chickens.  Marisa calls them, “The girls.” Light blue and green eggs are waiting for breakfast. The view out back is first the Hewett then Hogtown Bayou, which blends into the bay on the far horizon. This scene must be breathtaking in the marvelous sunset hours.

When I arrive at the next location, the In the Oaks home of Bob and Polly Caps, I find that this is the place dreams are made of. On the bayou, nestled serenely among towering oaks are a profusion of azalea bushes. Situated close to the house is a potting shed for puttering around in the joys of earthly endeavors plus a small towered house, English garden style. Polly says, "This tower house is known as The Pouting House.” Growing up, if the kids pouted about some perceived injustice, they could go here until it blew over.  I think I could happily pout in here for hours on end.

The last home and garden belongs to Lois and Bill Berbrich of Sandestin. Under large trees we find a well manicured yard with enclosed swimming pool in the back.  I see several pots of flowers mixed with vegetables on the lanai showing hopes of things to come.  On the right side of the house, I find a raised bed garden with vegetables and herbs.  Lois and Bill take care of all the yard maintenance by themselves. 

You can tell these gardeners have joy in their hands and hope in their hearts. Their many hours of dedicated work have taken these gardens to the top.  We will announce the winners as soon as we hear from the judges.

Laura Hall is a longtime gardener and Destin resident. She explores area gardens and other local topics with her cavalier spaniel Annie. If you would like to show off your garden or be profiled in a future column, contact Laura at