Sue Kauffman moved into her Jefferson City home on Edgevale Road three years ago. It was a new build on a once wooded area with no landscaping — a blank slate.
She's since transformed the outdoor space on all sides of the home into a pristine and colorful garden worthy of recognition.
The sign in front designating it the winner of the Bittersweet Garden Club's Garden of Month is just the cherry on top.
"I had a plan. I see a plant and I know a place for it," Kauffman said as she walked through her yard that's wrapped in flowers and plants of all colors and sizes.
A bright patch of flowers greets visitors alongside the front porch of her home, and a row of neatly planted evergreens and other shrubs leads from the side of the house to Kauffman's backyard where a small path of grass — just wide enough for her lawnmower — wraps in a U-shape around an enclosed and fully-furnished porch.
She often spends summer nights sleeping on a couch on the porch, mostly to enjoy the nice weather but also to keep an eye on deer or any other pest wanting to snack on her plants.
The lower part of the yard has a partial wall painted a neural gray color, the perfect backdrop for pops of pink, yellow, red and purple flowers, dozens upon dozens of them.
"I love everything," she said, unable to pinpoint a favorite. "I have the hydrangeas; I have the hostas. I have the clematis, lots of lilies, lots of knock out roses."
She mostly plants perennials but pops in annuals from time to time when she sees something she likes or finds a good deal at Walmart or Menards.
Several of the flowers came from her old home. When she learned the new owner wasn't interested in maintaining the garden she cultivated over 14 years, he permitted her to come back and dig up some of the plants, including a purple clematis plant that climbs up one corner of the backyard's wall.
Off to one side, planted in gravel, are blackberry plants, which will produce more than enough fruit later in the summer for the blackberry pies she shares with her grandchildren.
The garden area also has tomato plants, and an upper area, now covered in gravel, was meant to be a small orchard, complete with apple, peach and cherry trees.
After moving in and planted a few trees, she got a call that the top part of her yard contained part of the Phillips 66 pipeline that runs through town, and the area was in the pipeline's right-of-way, where planes fly over from time to time to ensure there are no cracks or leaks. And that meant no orchard.
The rest of her garden remains a bright spectacle for the eye and offers plenty to keep Kauffman busy, though, which is how she likes it.
She noted she does all the yard work herself, even turning down her 14-year-old grandson's offer to mow the grass.
"I enjoy doing everything myself, and I don't know what I'd do if I didn't have it," she said. "My grandkids tell me, 'Granny's going to be at a nursing home someday, and she'll be doing all the gardening there.'"
Gardening has been always been part of her life. Kauffman said even when she lived in a rental apartment years ago, she found a way to grow plants.
"My mom was a real big gardener," she said. "And of course, we lived on a farm, so we had lots of plants. It's just my world."
She's no stranger to award-worthy gardens, either. Kauffman received a Garden of the Month award from the Bittersweet Garden Club in the early 2000s at a previous home.
When not gardening, Kauffman stays active playing pickleball, and she spends part of the winter with her daughter in Florida.
You won't see her leaving Mid-Missouri much this time of year, though.
"I just love it," she said about tending her plants — even in the hot Missouri summer.
"I babysit them. I fertilize, and I'm out here everyday, all day — when I'm not playing pickleball," she noted, excited about her other favorite hobby. "I play pickleball a lot."