Three Oakdale properties recognized for landscaping

City presents Acorn Awards

Every year Oakdale city officials recognize three properties in the community for their above average landscaping and curb appeal. The winning property in the residential, commercial and public categories gets a sign posted in the garden for several weeks, and the owner is given a gift card to a local nursery.

The winner of each category was announced June 27 at the Oakdale City Council meeting.Karen Carlson received the Residential Acorn Award, Beacon Shores Office Park received the Commercial Acorn Award and a group of polyculture gardens in the Oakdale Nature Preserve received the the Public Acorn Award.


A wildlife-friendly winner

This year the Residential Acorn Award went to Karen Carlson for her property at 6044 47th St., where she’s lived for 11 years.

“The property has an expansive front yard and offers a variety of gardens — shade, pollinator and container to name just a few. All of these are then intermixed with trees shrubs and vines including the wisteria draping a pergola,” said Oakdale Mayor Paul Reinke before presenting Carlson her award at the meeting.

“I’m not a formal gardener,” Carlson said, adding that she doesn’t really plan her gardens and she doesn’t follow any gardening rules. She said she just plants what she likes, often getting plants from family members, friends or the clearance section at various stores.

Problem solving is a common theme among several of Carlson’s gardens. For example, the thin strip of grass next to the driveway was a hassle to maintain and the grass next to the curb usually looked brown because the road was too hot. To solve the problem, she took out the grass in both locations and little by little added various flowering plants that were better suited for those spaces. She said her favorite part of the garden is the pollinator section next to the driveway.

In general, Carlson favors perennials and self-seeding plants for a low maintenance garden. She said although gardens are typically ongoing projects, she is pretty satisfied with how her’s have ended up. In the future she may take out some more grass here and there or relocate some plants that have been shaded out, but she has no major garden changes planned at this time.

Due to the pollinator friendly plants, birdbaths and other wildlife-friendly features, Carlson has seen numerous animals visit her yard over the years including a hawk, a heron, turkeys, deer, ducks, hummingbirds and butterflies.

Jane Klein, president of the Oakdale Garden Club which judged the competition, said the pollinator and wildlife-friendly features of Carlson’s yard as well as her successful work with the yard’s odd shape contributed to it being selected for the Acorn Award. 

Carlson, who works as a certified athletic trainer at Mahtomedi High School, typically has the most time to work on her garden in the summer when she is not so busy at the school. She even comes home on her lunch break some days to get extra garden time in.

Carlson said her mom was her initial “gardening buddy,” but since moving to Oakdale, her neighbors, who are also avid gardeners, have kept her inspired. One of her neighbors even built her the Free Little Library and plant stands that can be seen in her front yard.

“Thanks to the person that nominated me. It makes me work a little bit harder now — weed a little bit harder and do a little bit more work, so hopefully I make Oakdale proud,” Carlson said at the meeting.

Curb appeal

“The landscaped area at Beacon Shores [Office Park]— are exceptionally maintained,” Reinke said and noted the property has “colorful plantings and a variety of trees and shrubs that greatly enhances this highly visible area in this community.”

Jeff McComas, a Beacon Shores business owner, accepted the Commercial Acorn Award on behalf of the business park. 

Beacon Shores Office Park is located at the corner of 10th Street and Inwood Avenue, and includes several gardens that can be seen from either road. Each garden includes plants of varying heights and colors, while maintaining a consistent aesthetic throughout the overall property.

John Lamy, president of the Beacon Shores Office Park association, explained that the complex was built in 2005 and most of the gardens were planted at that time. However, over the years, they’ve added to the original plantings.

“Most recently, different colored lilies were planted,” he said.

Lamy added that his favorite part of the landscape is the garden bed surrounding the monument sign with all of the business plaques on it. This garden, he said, is more expansive than the others and acts as the focal point of the complex.

Although many of the original plantings were added 12 years ago, Lamy explained that the property has been maintained by Brian and Sons Lawn and Snow Removal for the past four years. He added that there are no specific plans for improvements, but the association has budgeted funds to maintain the gardens and switch out plants as needed.

In addition, there are two more buildings being built in the complex, and although they are not a part of the association, the owners of the new buildings have agreed to maintain the same look and character of the complex, according to Lamy.

“We certainly all enjoy the nice curb appeal, and we’ll continue to keep it up,” he added.


A two-time winner

Last year, the forest garden in the Oakdale Nature Preserve was awarded the Public Acorn Award, and this year the nature preserve was honored again — this time for a series of polyculture gardens located on either side of the Mud Lake boardwalk, the largest garden being located between the boardwalk and Castle School.

A polyculture garden features multiple, compatible plants in the same plot of land that benefit each other and mimic the biodiversity found in natural ecosytems.

Klein explained that the gardens that were recognized for the Acorn Award include linden, oak and river birch gardens with compatible and complementary plants in each.  

“This garden adds yet another superb feature to the 250 acre park. Thank you to the Oakdale Public Works Department and to the environmental services and forestry division for creating and maintaining this garden,” Reinke said.

Public works superintendent Brian Bachmeier accepted the award on behalf of the former city forester, the forestry and environmental services crew and the public works crew.

“Without them it wouldn’t have been done. It was their vision, their inspiration, their sweat and equity that went into it, so they did a nice job,” Bachmeier said.

Former Oakdale City Forester Chris Larson designed these gardens, as well as the forest garden, to be regenerative and supportive of local fauna. He said in a recent interview that his favorite part of these polyculture gardens is the summer pollinator plantings such as linden, false spirea, butterfly weed and dwarf bush honeysuckle.

“These plantings were inspired by the need to support pollinators and the need for novel plantings that can thrive in wild settings,” Larson said.

He explained, each individual plant was selected based on its overall functionality, mutually beneficial partnerships, ability to support pollinators, general aesthetics and resistance to deer browse, and the garden locations were selected for their public visibility and because they were important areas for ecological restoration.

Although Larson designed the gardens, he said there were many helping hands. The gardens were planted by many community members including Oakdale Public Works staff, Oakdale Tree Board members, Washington County Master Gardeners, Oakdale-Maplewood Lions Club members, North High School students and others. The project was supported by the Washington Conservation District and the Valley Branch Watershed District.


More nominations needed

Klein said the Oakdale Garden Club members who judge the properties look at only the landscape that can be seen from the road.

“We want people to drive by and see the front. We don’t want people going back into people’s back yards,” Klein said.

She added that in addition to curb appeal, garden club members look at how pollinator friendly and wildlife friendly the properties are.

She also indicated that more nominations are always appreciated.

“There are a lot of [properties] in Oakdale that are absolutely stunning, but unless they are nominated, we can’t judge them,” she explained, adding that the nominations also have to come in on time.

This year there were 10 nominations over all the categories.

“When you look at these, you’ll typically have two [in each category] that pop out at you,” Klein said. “Once you go through that checklist, it’s a no-brainer.”

Nominations for the 2018 Acorn Awards are already being accepted. To nominate a neighbor, business, public space or even yourself, go to, click on the “Living Here” tab, and submit nominations on the “Acorn Award - Property Recognition” page.


Aundrea Kinney can be reached at 651-748-7822 or


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