The Yard of the Month contest started in May, and judges from the Yard of the Month Committee have made their first selection from Sioux City's Westside.

Jim Jung, chairman of the Yard of the Month committee, said homeowners John and Lynn Woolridge, 3816 Forest View Ave., are the first winners of the contest designed to create community pride. The Woolridges have a sign in their yard, and will be honored at City Hall on Monday, May 10, with a letter of commendation and a $25 cash prize.

Jung said the yard was chosen because of its eco-friendliness.

"The homeowners used rock and plants for their exposure. They also used a variety of plants from cactuses to irises," he said. "They had a lot of nice color - good spring color - and the yard is sympathetic to the environment. It's different how they used the land, the rocks."

The Woolridges said their yard is a "labor of love" that began 20 years ago as a hobby.

"I had 33 years of mowing the grass, and I was tired of watching it die in July. My wife suggested that we do an Arizona-type thing," said John Woolridge, a retired counselor.

They chose to do xeriscaping, which is landscaping and gardening in ways that reduces or eliminates the need for supplemental irrigation. The advantages are lower water consumption, less time and work needed for maintenance, making gardening simpler and less stressful, and little or no lawnmowing, which saves energy. Other advantages are that plants can take advantage of rainfall and survive if water restrictions are implemented.

The front yard of their pie-shaped lot showcases a circle with a compass in the center that John and Lynn designed themselves.

"We were trying to use up all the space," said Lynn Woolridge. "John came up with the design. We saw something in a plant book at the library. It covered a big area of the ground. You come out here and know your bearings."

The area around the circle is carpeted with bushes, flowers, cactuses and rock. It took two years to get all the rock in, John said.

Lynn said she loves the bushes she chose for the front yard because they smell nice and require no watering. The border right in front of the house features vinca periwinkle and a barrel with plants.

Also in the front, passersby can see tall evergreen trees and a Ponderosa pine, which were planted for a windbreak. Corkscrew willows with their gnarled and twisted branches add interest.

The sun area of the garden displays a stone basket planter and bench, which John brought from another property.

"It may not look it, but the bench is actually very comfortable," Lynn said.

A bridge adorned with statues replaces a "bikini" tree, which got a lot of looks, John said, but fell and broke.

All the plants in the sun area are well-drained. Tulips, irises, daylilies, grasses, cactuses, yucca and daisies have a home there.

"Everything has to be able to take the heat," she said. "We don't want to come out here and water it."

Another highlight of the sun area is the yard art, which includes a gazing ball, a red metal headboard, a trellis, one of many bird baths, and a stepping stone made by Lynn that says, "Our Garden."

The sun area is surrounded by a rock border.

"Rock borders are the best kind of border," John said. "You put them up and there they stay."

Once an area that was "ugly to look at," the sun garden started with some daisies that John wanted. With plants blooming at different times, there's always a surprise, Lynn said. The best part is that the plants are easy to maintain.

"If it's not hardy, it doesn't get to stay here," John said. "If we don't want it, we put Roundup on it."

In the backyard, which is mostly hidden from view, the Woolridges have a woodland shade garden. The backyard was once full of sumac, and is now carpeted in aggressive growers like blue wild phlox. The Woolridges hope the wild phlox will cover the whole area.

For some homeowners, the hilly areas in the Woolridges' yard might pose a challenge.

"When you build on a hill, you have to make sure it's packed with plants, or erosion will occur. We put in plants to hold the soil," John said.

The Woolridges used foxglove, bleeding hearts, daylilies, peonies, hostas, irises and lamium to keep the soil in place.

The homeowners can view their backyard from two decks, one right out their back door and the other located at the top of a set of stairs.

"A lot of people come up here and sit," said John, referring to the top deck. "From here you can see all three states. When people drive by our house, they don't see all this. We can look down and see all the wiggles and waggles in our yard."

Their property is so large that the Woolridges drive around it in golf carts and four-wheelers. They just follow the paths they created.

The Woolridges said they like being outside and planting their selections. Many times, they find inspiration for their yard by viewing other people's properties.

"When we go on vacation, we see other yards, and how homeowners do theirs with less maintenance. We take a little bit from here and there," said Lynn.

The favorite part of their yard?

"Being able to walk around in it and sharing it with friends and other people," John said. "When the Quota Club came in 2001, we had 80 to 100 people walking through it."

If you would like to nominate yourself or a neighbor for Yard of the Month, fill out an application and return it to the city manager's office during the month for your designated region. To see which area the next Yard of the Month will come from, please view the map on this page.