Ever heard of the Prince George’s Beautification Awards?
They were started in 1960 by the county’s Chamber of Commerce, and the program is now run by the county’s Beautification Committee (members include County Landscape Architect, garden clubs, non-profits and interested members of the community). The current chairman was first appointed in 1978. (!!)
More from the program’s website: “The Department of Public Works and Transportation was the agency responsible for oversight of the programs developed by the Committee, which was dedicated to the protection of the environment and the preservation of Prince George’s County as a healthy and pleasant place to live and work.”
Early years, the focus was on trees, including a planting every year at a school. Judging for the awards is done by the county’s Master Gardeners.
How It Works
First-year winners are awarded a Beautification Award Certificate. “Winners are then encouraged to submit their garden projects for the next five years and if they have maintained them well, they will be given a Golden Trowel Award and have their names entered into the County Horticultural Hall of Excellence.”
After receiving a “Year 1 Beautification Award Certificate,” gardens nominated and passing in years 2-5 are awarded a “Superior Sustained Maintenance Award.” Then if nominated and passing a sixth time, it’ll (finally) receive the Golden Trowel Award,” like the one being proudly held up by a 2022 winner in the photo above.
I love that this program is designed to reward long-term results – just the opposite of the instant make-overs we see on HGTV and other cable channels. And people have to really, really want an award to nominate their garden and keep it judge-worthy six years in a row!
Though the awards began in 1960, it looks like records weren’t kept of Golden Trowel winners until 1998. Anyway, here are the Greenbelters I recognized from the full list:
Greenbelt Aquatic and Fitness Center, Buddy Attick Park, Buddy Attick Park Bus Stop, Greenbelt Municipal, Building, Eleanor Roosevelt High School, Goddard Corporate Center, Capital Office Park Greenbelt, the Greenbriar Community Association and one gardener I happen to know is Evelyn Crellin on Lakeside Drive. She tells me that her garden actually was named the second best garden in the county this year (of the who-knows-how-many that were nominated). I’ve seen her garden and can see why – it’s amazing. (It’s also the first residential garden in Greenbelt to be Baywise-Certified.)
The GHI Office Landscape
I’ve “adopted’ a few gardens around Old Greenbelt and this last spring I nominated one of them – the landscape in front of the GHI Offices on Hamilton Place – for the award. Its make-over was about five years along and I deemed it to be judge-worthy, so why not nominate it? There’s no charge, and maybe some glory to gain. Not to mention a more worthy goal – to inspire other gardeners, and maybe teach them something about creating low-maintenance gardens that are both beautiful and eco-friendly. (Click here to see the make-over from 2018 to this year, with plants identified.)
All I knew about the award program was that I could choose between spring and summer judging and I chose summer, with judges coming any time during July or August and no heads-up as to when in that very large window.
If you’re a gardener, you know what it’s like to get your garden ready for a tour or garden party. Now imagine keeping it show-ready for two months. That didn’t seem so bad until I realized that though the front facade looks good, both ends and both sides of the building looked like crap – untended by me or anyone else in a very long time. So I spent most of the summer sprucing up one side (blogged about here) and then the other. It was my acknowledgement that that I could avert my eyes from the ugly bits, the judges’ eyes would see it all – the good, the bad and the ugly.
I took home (back to GHI) a Year 1 Certificate.
More Greenbelters Next Year?
When I saw this group of five winners from Cheverly it made me wonder if Greenbelters could gather for a photo like this someday.
So Greenbelters, consider nominating your garden next spring, or a Greenbelt garden that you admire. It costs nothing and provides motivation and encouragement, with the bonus of helping to motivate and educate others.
The program is pretty unknown, but publicizing it here, in the News Review and on social media should help remedy that. Then we can always share Greenbelters’ award results, maybe even showing off their gardens.
The deadline to nominate a garden next year is May 1, 2023, and I’ll publicize the application when it’s available. (The 2033 application is here. Pretty simple!)
Judging Criteria Revealed
The county provided me with its score sheet for judges, which lists all the criteria that a garden can get credit for. To my eyes, the list harks back to its Chamber of Commerce days, but with some newer items added that reflect modern environmental goals.
Overall, an encouraging note is that the program is designed for gardens to succeed. There’s no competition among nominees. If nominated gardens get enough points, they simply “pass.” A friend who’s served as a judge tells me she’s seen very few gardens fail to pass. “They have to look pretty bad.”
- Plantings Beautify the Neighborhood
- There are native plantings
- Native trees and shrubs
- Plants are mulch and bare soil is covered
- Trees and shrubs are well pruned
- Plantings are designed beautifully
- Grass and lawn area are minimized
- Grass is maintained at the right length (3”)
- Weeds are at a minimum
- Downspouts are directed to garden beds
- Plantings will attract pollinators
- Pathways to plots are neat
- Plots are well planted and productive
- Plots are well maintained
- Weeds are at a minimal in each plot
- Plants are healthy
- There are plants for pollinators
- Plots layout & effective use of space
- Garden has special features
- Area is well maintained
- Native Plantings are used (trees, shrubs, plants)
- Plants provide year-round interest
- Plants can be easily maintained
- Area is mulched
- Groundcover is used
- Weeds are at a minimum
- Stormwater is controlled on the property
- Rain Barrels are in use for each downspout
- Rain Garden
- Ponds, Fountains (other water features)
- Unusual or creative design
- Hardscape used (benches, stepping stones)
- Other features (figurines, hanging plants)
- Compost bins are being used