Kenners receive Yard of the Month

Lani Kenner stands in one of the flower beds that border the Kenner home. (Empire Press photo/Karen Larsen)


By Karen Larsen
Empire Press Correspondent

A planted sculpture of farm equipment decorates the parking strip along Birch Street next to Lani Kenner’s vegetable garden. (Empire Press photo/Karen Larsen)

The yard of Steve and Lani Kenner is an attractive combination of gravel, lava rock, flower beds, trees and a productive vegetable garden. It was awarded Yard of the Month for September by the Waterville Tree Board.

Lani Kenner took out the lawn several years ago and put in a rock-based front yard. She got the idea to do this after travels to Arizona, where she noticed that was the norm. She had been frustrated by her difficulties in getting her lawn in Waterville to thrive, and she thought that maybe the rock yard was the best way to go in this northern desert, too.

Kenner said that it was a big project to put the rocks in, but now that the job is done she enjoys no longer having to water, mow or perform other lawn care functions. Also, the change has reduced the household summer water usage by about half.

A large and healthy Mount St. Helens plum tree grows in the middle of the rock yard area. The maroon-colored leaves of the tree add an attractive color accent.

Lani Kenner’s vegetable garden is an attractive part of the overall yard. Here it is shown with the rock yard, the flower beds and the home in the background. (Empire Press photo/Karen Larsen)

The rock yard is bordered by flower beds, with geraniums and zinnias being especially prominent. Kenner starts all of her own flowers each year with seeds or cuttings that she saves from previous years.

Other sides of the yard are surrounded by beds of shrubs and trees lined with wood chips. These are also accented by a variety of yard art. The largest yard art item is a sculpture of a piece of farming equipment made up of flower planters. The sculpture was created by neighbor Jeff Zollman.

The beds lined with wood chips do fine without irrigation. The flower beds are irrigated by a drip system.

In a fenced area to the side of the house there is a greenhouse and a vegetable garden made of raised beds. The garden provides a continual bounty for the kitchen table and pantry throughout the spring, summer and fall.

Now, at the end of the growing season, squash and pumpkins have reached full size and remain on the vine awaiting the first frost. A row of carrots has also been left for when cold weather can concentrate sugars and bring out full flavor. Kenner continues to harvest beets, green beans and herbs. Most of the summer plants have been harvested and the beds are ready for planting later this fall or next spring.

The front yard of the Kenner home has minimum water and maintenance requirements. (Empire Press photo/Karen Larsen)

Kenner said that gardening provides an important creative outlet for her. She loves the process of seeing seeds come up and plants thrive. She also loves eating the vegetables that are harvested. As a cook, it is fun to find creative ways to use these vegetables in the kitchen.

Kenner has enjoyed gardening for much of her life, but has found it to be a hobby involving a good deal of trial and error. Having moved here in 1994 from northern Idaho, she had to become accustomed to gardening at a higher elevation.

She started out by planting rhododendrons and azaleas, plants that she had enjoyed in some of her previous residences. These did not do well, but she discovered that she also enjoyed geraniums and they did do well.

“You just have to find out what’s good in your area,” Kenner said.

She also tries to stick to plants that don’t need to be sprayed with pesticide.

Kenner loves having bees visit her yard and she does some of her planting especially with these winged friends in mind. Mint, hyssop and Russian sage are all plants that she includes partly because they are attractive to bees. She is rewarded with a large range of bee species that visit her yard each summer.

As a newcomer in Waterville, Kenner was helped in her gardening efforts by her neighbors Alex and Elsie Tittle, who had a beautiful yard and generously shared their gardening knowledge.

Kenner said that though portions of her yard took a lot of work to set up, they do not take a lot of work to maintain. She enjoys spending a part of each day working in her yard or greenhouse.

Other yards that were nominated in September were that of Dale and Kathryn Gormley, Bob and Betty Jones and the Waterville Federated Church.

This is the last Yard of the Month for 2017. The awards will begin again next May.