July Lawn of the Month winners Mary Beth and Craig Gumfory have a yard filled with beautiful and practical plants.

The back yard at 119 Exchange St. holds a vegetable garden, the produce from which Mary Beth regularly preserves. Though the couple didn’t set out to have a pollinator garden with native wildflowers, they have a sun-filled patch with, among other things, purple coneflowers and yarrow. Bees and butterflies flock to it.

“A lot of people don’t know what’s back here,” she said. “You’ve got the flowers and stuff up there, but we do have a few more things in back than what people realize.”

Mary Beth said she tends the garden every day.

During the school year, she works as a teacher’s aide through USD 253, but now she’s on summer vacation and can take time to water every day and handle the weeds. Craig spends a lot of time tending the lawn as well, mowing and doing other such maintenance.

They took up gardening roughly 30 years ago because, as new homeowners, they felt it was what they ought to do.

The purple coneflowers, which reside in the back yard, have been part of the lawn for a long time, according to Mary Beth.

“It was trial and error at first,” she said of the garden. “So it’s not the way it was back then, but the coneflowers have probably been in a good 20 years.”

The wildflower is easy to replant.

“Once those cones die, you just pinch them off and you throw them,” Mary Beth said.

The seeds take care of the rest.

The yarrow is a new addition, brought into the mix last year, but one Mary Beth loves.

The native flowers are mixed in with others, such as spiderwort, ferns and other perennials — whatever is attractive and affordable.

“We just wanted to beautify the yard,” she said. “We like looking at it. We sit out on the patio when it’s cooler.”

In any case, the plants attract a variety of bees and butterflies, which the couple also enjoys seeing.

“I like it all filled in, I like the lush (look),” Mary Beth said. “I’m more of a shade garden person.”

She has a shady area on the other side of the back yard, where the couple also has their vegetable garden. This years’ crop includes beets, onions, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers and kohlrabi, the latter of which she said hasn’t turned out well this year. This year’s corn crop, too, didn’t do so well.

“We put beets in every other year,” Mary Beth said. “We don’t eat a lot of them, but we like them pickled.”

A year’s beet crop, for them, yields two years’ worth of pickles, which she stores downstairs in a cellar-like area among other home-canned items such as jams and jellies, vegetables and green tomato salsa, much of which contains items from the garden.

It’s a time-consuming process that can heat the house, taking two or three hours a day.

But it adds a little taste of summer to their diets in winter, even when it’s cold and snowing outside. She said the home-canned goodies made for a good Christmas stocking stuffer as well.

Hail may have gotten to some of the yard’s flowers — including some tiger lilies in the vicinity of the shady spot — but it’s still bright, lush and well-maintained.

Craig has created many additions to the home, building wooden steps for the front of the house with help from his brother and fashioning wooden boxes that hang on the fence in the back yard, holding a bottle and a mason jar.

The porch is filled with flowers, but plants placed on the shelves get knocked over by squirrels.

Upon learning they had received July Lawn of the Month, Mary Beth said, they were “pretty darn excited.”

They’re still not sure who nominated them. Craig gets a large number of compliments from those who see him out working in the yard. This includes complete strangers — people who attend the church across the street from their home and people who, seeing him out working, pull over just to make a kind comment.

“He works hard on his yard,” Mary Beth said.

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