Oakdale’s Acorn Award program grows

Aundrea Kinney photos/Review • The City of Oakdale recognizes its most beautifully landscaped properties through its annual Acorn Award program. Aundrea Kinney photos/Review

Aundrea Kinney photos/Review • Dave Kircher’s and Becky Buckner’s home at 6532 49th St.

Aundrea Kinney photos/Review • The TLC Veterinary Hospital property at 1490 Helmo Ave.

Aundrea Kinney photos/Review • Echo Ridge Senior Living property at 1033 Gershwin Ave.

Aundrea Kinney photos/Review • Oakfield Park located off Helmo Avenue in the Olson Lake Estates neighborhood.

Four properties recognized for landscaping achievements


Acorn Awards were once again distributed in Oakdale to the most beautifully landscaped properties in the city. 

However, this year, instead of limiting the awards to three categories, four different types of properties were recognized.

Winning properties for 2018 are the residential property of Dave Kircher and Becky Buckner, the commercial property of TLC Veterinary Hospital, the multi-family property of Echo Ridge Senior Living and the public property of Oakfield Park. 

Representatives from all four were presented awards at the June 12 Oakdale City Council meeting, following a council visit to each one.

Jane Klein, president of the Oakdale Garden Club, said that nominations are judged by a group of garden club members and Washington County Master Gardeners.

“They are judged on making the property look attractive or special above and beyond the normal,” said Klein, adding that the only part of a property that is judged is the area that can be seen walking or driving by on the road.

She said the residential and commercial awards are standard, and in the past the third award has gone to either a public property or a multi-family property.

“This year we had a lot of nominations for the multi-family — the Echo Ridge — [property], and we also had the beautiful community planting at Oakfield Park, so it was really hard to choose of those two, so the decision was made by the [city] council to go ahead and do the four awards,” Klein said.

The owners of the winning properties received a gift card to an area nursery, a visit from the Oakdale City Council and an Acorn Award sign posted on the property for several weeks.






Kircher and Buckner said they were surprised when they found out their property, located at 6532 49th St., won an Acorn Award because, at the time, they weren’t even familiar with the city’s annual honor.

“Dave and Becky’s property offers the perfect balance of hardscapes and soft plantings,” said Mayor Paul Reinke at the June 12 city council meeting. “A flagstone wall, granite stairs, large rocks tucked amongst plants and [a] distinctive flagstone ledge intermingle with an array of shrubs, trees and perennials that perfectly complement this charming home.”

Kircher said the property’s gardens were put together little by little over the past 14 years. “He does all the hard work. I’m the maintenance crew,” Buckner said with a chuckle.

Kircher, who does concrete and block work by trade, explained that he began his work on the property by installing the limestone walls into the steep slope in the front yard shortly after purchasing the property.

“I decided that I was going to do that whole front hill just in landscaping, because I thought that it was going to be easier than cutting grass, and I found that that’s not the case anymore,” he said, pointing out it takes a lot of time to keep up on weeding, pruning and other maintenance.

Kircher said that after initially tackling the front yard, he slowly worked his way toward the back of the property. 

Although the judging for the Acorn Award only includes what can be seen from the road, both Kircher’s and Buckner’s favorite part of the property is the patio located beside the house, which is surrounded by a variety of shrubs, brightly colored lilies and a water feature, as well as the occasional chicken wandering through the plantings, searching for insects in the mulch.

Kircher and Buckner said that after years of improvements to the property, they think they have met their landscaping goals, though they admitted there may still be some puttering ahead, such as relocating plants that get shaded out or refreshing mulch. 

The property was nominated for the award by a friend who was impressed by their hard work.



TLC Veterinary Hospital, located at 1490 Helmo Ave., opened in November 2014, and according to manager Emily Watters, it was important to have the property landscaped beautifully “to form a nice welcoming to our clients and their pets.”

Reinke described the property’s successful landscaping at the meeting.

“Landscaping at the new TLC Veterinary Hospital ... included dozens of trees and shrubs, a manicured lawn, a stone riverbed and a monument sign. Formerly vacant property, the many enhancements instantly draw your gaze to this attractive site,” Reinke said.

Abrahamson Nursery completed all of the landscaping at one time, though the specific plants were chosen by the hospital’s doctors.

Watters said her favorite part is “[t]he natural look of the property and how the landscapers were able to incorporate the rocks found on the property.”

Klein noted that typically commercial properties are nominated by other businesses, but nominations can also come in from people with residential homes nearby, as did the nomination for TLC Veterinary Hospital.



Echo Ridge Senior Living, a Presbyterian Homes community located at 1033 Gershwin Ave., is landscaped with the help of many of its residents, who pick out the flowers for the property’s three large garden beds and help plant the various planters around the property, said Housing Director Deb Lawrence. The large garden beds are planted with the help of Lyndale Plant Services, she added.

Several Echo Ridge residents were photographed with city council members during the council’s tour of the property. 

“The Echo Ridge residents take much pride in making sure their property has curb appeal, is well maintained and invites strolling the grounds or sitting and taking in the scenery,” Reinke said. “The property offers a tidy lawn, assorted trees and shrubs and colorful and cheery flower beds.”

Lawrence explained that the gardens, which are planted with annuals, are “not a cookie cutter that we’ve done the same every year.” She added that each year, residents are invited to join in with the planning and some of the planting, if they want to, and every year a different group takes an interest.

“Although annuals are more expensive than perennials, it gives [the beds] a lot of color and a whole summer of full color, and that’s what they want to see ... that instant color,” Lawrence said.

She explained that the planning process is very informal and the beds are usually planted with a combination of all the plant suggestions. Sometimes residents suggest colors they would like to see incorporated, while other times residents suggest flowers that have special meaning to them or flowers they enjoyed growing in gardens at previous homes in which they lived.

“That’s really the fun of a community property, it’s that you want to hear everyone’s ideas, and you have an opportunity to use everyone’s ideas in a garden because you can have so many varieties,” Lawrence said.

Echo Ridge received numerous Acorn Award nominations from its residents.



“Oakfield Park, located on Helmo Avenue in Olson Lake Estates, was this year’s park beautification project,” Reinke said. “Over 80 volunteers joined forces with the Oakdale Tree Board and the Forestry Division to plant the trees, shrubs and plants for the enjoyment of all those who visit the park’s playground, shelters and athletic fields.”

Klein explained that some Washington County Master Gardeners, as well as North High School students, helped plant the native, pollinator friendly plants along a hill at the property’s edge. 

She added that the goal of the landscaping was to give residential neighbors a nice view of the park, to provide an education piece for the community and give “a nice piece of property ... something a little more special” than the grasses that were there previously.

“That nomination came in because the people who were working that day and the neighbors mentioned how great of a project it is ... and how all the planting and all the community involvement deserved an award,” Klein said.


Future winners

This year there were only about a dozen properties nominated, Klein said, adding that although Oakdale has a great many beautiful properties, only the properties that are nominated will be judged.

Klein said that nominations are accepted year-round for the Acorn Awards, so nominations are currently being accepted for the 2019 awards, and to be eligible, properties must be nominated by June 1, 2019.

She added that residents can even nominate their own properties if they would like.

“The city of Oakdale set this up years ago, and we have the best properties to judge,” Klein said. “People have worked so hard on their yards to make things pretty and be pollinator friendly. It’s just a shame that more people don’t nominate those beautiful gardens, so we can be aware of them and recognize them.”

To nominate a property, visit www.ci.oakdale.mn.us and search “Acorn Award Nomination Form.”


– Aundrea Kinney can be reached at 651-748-7822 or akinney@lillienews.com

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