By Molly Taylor
MARIE Valenzuela’s garden of blooming rose bushes and layers of greenery have long provided an eye-catching entry to the Penola township, with her hard work rewarded in the community’s annual Garden of the Year competition.
Ms Valenzuela’s Church Street property won judges over in the community competition, launched three years ago in conjunction with the Penola Spring Show to instill pride and healthy rivalry among the district’s green thumbs.
Each year, judges traverse the streets of Penola and select a standout garden, as well as a newly-established or renovated property with one main condition – they must not enter the property.
This method resulted in Mandy Giles and Tim Bruhn also being rewarded for their restoration works on the grounds of 130a Church Street.
When entering the town from the south, Ms Valenzuela’s home is among the first which can be spotted.
Ms Valenzuela said because of the prime location, she always felt obliged to keep her garden in tip-top condition.
“I feel as though there is that responsibility to make sure it’s presentable,” she said.
Drawing on her family roots, Ms Valenzuela said her passion for gardening was instilled through spending time with her mother.
“My mum was a keen gardener and even though we didn’t have a big garden, she was always out there and I would help when I could,” she said.
“I like how you can just concentrate on what you’re doing, it takes your mind off everything.
“I also enjoy the creativity you can have with it and the reward and outcome when things are flowing and look nice.”
When evaluating her property’s flora, Ms Valenzuela said her plan was always to have something to look at which was interesting all-year round.
“It looks the best at the moment during spring with everything blooming, but even during winter I still like how it looks,” she said.
“It has different shades of green which was actually some advice I had, adding the different layers.
“I have tried to keep it simple and manageable and I think I have got it to the point where I don’t have to do too much anymore other than keeping the grass cut and the weeds out.“
Ms Valenzuela said she was overwhelmed to have received the $1000 award and planned to spend the cash prize on trees for her backyard.
Sponsor spokesperson Glenys Mulligan said each year judges saw fantastic competition, but they were completely blow away with the standard this year.
“I don’t know whether it was because people had spare time and were gardening more, but we found some really stunning gardens this year,” Ms Mulligan said.
“It was probably the hardest year we have had to judge.
“We think it’s working to instill some pride in Penola. There are some amazing gardeners in town and beautiful places which have been newly renovated.”
Neutrog also donated sample bags for short-listed gardens.