Josh and Whitney Thuma have invested immense love and significant time into their lawn at 705 Washington Park Dr. the last six years.
“We’ve made some changes,” Josh said. “There was a lot of ivy. We took out the ivy and put in grass.”
When Josh and Whitney purchased the home six years ago, most of the garden was already established, allowing them to spend more time maintaining the yard and adding to the flower beds.
“[The previous owners] had planted it (the garden) so that it would bloom year-round,” Whitney said. “We really just take care of it now and keep it up. Our first year here, we had so many (flowers) blooming that it was like a surprise every day what was blooming, because we had no idea.”
The Thumas do have one flower bed dedicated to annuals, testing new flowers in it every year. This year, they planted begonias and petunias.
Perennial foliage they have includes, but is not limited to: tulips, daffodils, daylilies, surprise lilies, irises, peonies, columbine, clematis, cone flowers, roses, honeysuckle bushes, hydrangeas, lilacs and hostas.
“My father is a big-time gardener,” Josh said. “So, I grew up with a perfect yard and a perfect garden that everyone would talk about. Back when he was in better health, there was never a weed in the garden, so that influenced me to keep a nice-looking yard.”
Their son William, 12, helps mow the yard, and they have someone fertilize it for them. In the spring, the Thumas mulch and weed it. They shop all over town to purchase the flowers they want, particularly for the annual flower bed and the window boxes.
Whitney said the window boxes are prime nut-hiding spots for squirrels, though vermin do not tend to hurt their yard otherwise.
Their daughters Kathryn, 4, and Elizabeth, 20 months, like to help plant flowers and dig around in the dirt. Kathryn said the roses are her favorite.
While the weather has not been ideal, the Thumas have made it work.
“It’s been a challenging year with all the rain,” Josh said.
He mentioned that the grass had not grown as quickly this season, but the flowers have been abundant because of the rain. Whitney works on the window boxes in between storms.
The family was amazed to receive the nomination because of their inability to spend much time in their yard, due to the weather and their full-time jobs. Whitney is a counselor at Emporia Middle School and Josh is an accountant at Agler & Gaeddert.
When Whitney graduated from Emporia State University with her Master’s in clinical counseling, Josh planted marigolds in black mulch in the shape of the “Power E.”
During the holidays, the Thumas go all-out for lawn decorations, too. For Easter, they place giant, wooden, cutout Easter eggs; for Halloween they have witchy decorations and line their walkway with jack-o’-lanterns; for Christmas, they deck the yard with boughs of holly and much more.
“I always tell Whitney I’m going to Griswold the house (for Christmas) and just cover the whole thing in lights,” Josh said. “It’s not practical. I don’t know that we’ll ever do it, but I always talk about it every year.”
They often receive cards from locals about how much they enjoy the Thuma’s lawn during the holidays.
One day, a photographer and a young woman celebrating her Quinceañera stopped by and asked if they could use the Thuma family’s yard for her photo shoot. At the time, it was full of surprise lilies. Their daughter Kathryn put on her princess dress to take a few photos with the young woman, too.
After the flowers bloom, they deadhead and cut back some of the plants, so there is not foliage around the yard to invite disease. There are many different opinions about how to and whether or not one should cut back plants, so they cut some and leave others.
Whitney said they are always working on removing the ivy, because of its tendency to dominate their yard.
“Every year it’s kind of a challenge to get through the maintenance and the upkeep on what we’ve got tamed,” Josh said. “Then we try to pick a spot that needs to be tackled. There’s kind of a no-man’s-land between our yard and the neighbor’s yard that I’ve been trying to get to for years, and I never seem to have the time.”
Before Josh helps tend his own yard, he takes care of his father’s.
The Thumas also grow some of their own vegetables. Because of the weather this year, they were able to produce tomatoes and peppers. In more gentle years, they have produced zucchini, green beans and corn, too. Josh enjoys canning the green beans, a practice he grew up with and is ingraining in their family.
With all of that hard work and challenging weather, the Thumas said it can feel like they are not accomplishing as much as they would like. But, when they take a step back, they realize they have done a tremendous amount of beautiful and meaningful work.
“Sometimes when you see it every day, you see the weed and you don’t see the flowers next to it,” Josh said.
Whitney said late March and April are when the most flowers are in bloom.
The June Lawn of the Month title is a small token of recognition for how the Thuma family and their yard bring smiles to Emporians all year long.