Cool summer doesn't deter Westlake's gardeners

Westlake mayor Dennis Clough presents the award for Residential Landscaping, Large – Entire Yard, to Greg Kolarik, who also won the Lu Walter Best in Bloom award.

Awards presented at 2013 Westlake in Bloom ceremony

The yards and streets of Westlake blossomed with creativity again this year for the city’s annual Westlake in Bloom community beautification program. Green-thumbed residents and businesses alike planned and planted in hopes of winning bragging rights and a gift certificate to one of Westlake’s four garden centers.

The Hilliard Boulevard flower boxes and Evergreen Cemetery fence gardens burst with color, while more than 100 entries were submitted in 21 residential and commercial categories – nearly triple the number of participants in the first Bloom competition 12 years ago. Winners were announced at an Aug. 7 awards reception at LaCentre.

The ceremony marked the first emcee engagement for Westlake’s new planning and economic development director, Jim Bedell, a self-described “avid gardener” with a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture. It also served as an initiation for planning secretary Kate Tate, the new Bloom coordinator, mentored by the retiring Jean Smith.

As always, the evening was filled with oohs and aahs as professional-quality photos of the winning gardens were displayed on two large screens flanking the stage. Retired planning director Bob Parry reprised his role as chief photographer, on a voluntary basis this year.

The winner of the coveted Lu Walter Best in Bloom award went to Greg Kolarik of Dover Center Road, who also won in the Residential Landscaping, Large – Entire Yard category, sharing first place with the Bain family of Westwood Road.

Awards of distinction were bestowed upon three honorees this year: the Westlake Kiwanis Club for community involvement, Woods of Westlake for landscaped areas and Hyland Software for urban forestry in its Building No. 2.

The competition continues to attract new gardeners, although one of the awards ceremony’s highlights is to see repeat entrants climb the ranks as they learn from past judging and improve their displays. Ten of the 23 categories saw at least one competitor move up one or more spots from last year’s contest.

Perennial powerhouse (pun intended) Rae-Ann had another strong showing, sweeping this year’s awards for Nursing Home, Assisted/Independent Living with a first-place finish for Rae-Ann Suburban, second place for The Belvedere of Westlake and third for Rae-Ann Westlake. The competition is personal for the Griffiths siblings, John, Cindy and Sue, owner/operators of the three Westlake facilities, as they try to best each other every year with bigger and brighter designs.

The judges for this year’s competition were Bob Heidelman, Sally Knurek, Will Krause, Judy McNamara, Rosalie Mueller, Robert Pearl, Terence Poje, Judy Torma and Christine Zust. Gardens were judged on a 100-point scale, with first place requiring at least 90 points, second place 80 points, third place 70 points and honorable mention 60 points. Because of the points system, some categories had more than one winner per award, while others had zero.

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Volume 5, Issue 17, Posted 10:23 AM, 08.20.2013