Congratulations to Our Great Gardening Contest 2020 Winners

Our first digital gardening competition is in the books, and you knocked our gardening clogs off! Our social media feeds were flooded with Great Gardening Contest2020 entries from Upper Midwest gardeners of all skill levels, backgrounds and growing styles. A panel of credentialed judges reviewed all the entries, and we’re excited to share this year’s champions in each category. You can see more about the contest in the November/December issue of Northern Gardener.


great gardening contest winner

A section of Amy Kainz’s garden.

Outdoor Gardens – Amy Kainz (@milkweed.and.daisies)

Amy Kainz’s backyard pollinator garden is a certified Monarch Waystation and a suburban oasis for wildlife. This horseshoe-shaped bed is full of different varieties of milkweed and defined by a living fence of forsythia and common lilacs. Her entire half-acre yard is herbicide- and pesticide-free, and she gardens with these two priorities in mind: organic and sustainable. A fan of edible plants and flowers, Amy is working toward her goal of incorporating more than 20 herbs and other edible flowers that are both delicious for humans and attractive to pollinators.

Second place: Mary Cielinski (@marycielinski)

Third place: Boupha Phomma (@bouphaphomma)

great gardening contest second place

The garden of Mary Cielinski earned the second place award in outdoor gardens.


great gardening contest outdoor container winner

Judges loved the Dia de los Meurtos theme of the winning container.

Container Gardens – Quinn Venstra (@quinn.s.v)

Each season, Quinn Venstra fills large 20-by-22-inch outdoor planters in her Brookfield, Wis., yard. This winning container features coleus she cut back this spring and summer and repurposed for a fall Día de los Muertos theme. Committed to composting and never using harsh fertilizers or chemicals anywhere in her yard, she focuses on keeping her plants healthy with rich soil, lots of sunshine and regular watering. Quinn’s gardening skills captured the hearts of both her neighbors and her 3-year-old, who loves exploring nature in their yard.

Second place: Simone Schneegans (@plants_are_my_people)

Third place: Jean Januschka (@jeanjanuschka)


orchid in indoor garden

Orchids feature prominently in Isabel Pereira’s indoor garden.

Indoor Houseplants – Isabel Pereira (@isapereira)

A sunny bay window is one of Isabel Pereira’s favorite spots in her home. Judging by this photo, her houseplants love this space, too! Oxalis, sansevieria and orchids add texture and colorful blooms and foliage to her home and give her a reason to dig in the dirt all year long – even during those long Minnesota winters.

Second place: Laura Cleary (@loumarie233)

Third place: Sally Koski (@sallykoski)

Thank You!

A big thank you to all who joined our first annual Great Gardening Contest, and a special shoutout to these entries that also caught our eye:

  • The Pros (the contest was open only to amateur gardeners but these two pros have social media feeds worth following): @fleur_de_louise_flower_studio and June Spanier (@junealltrades)
  • Best Use of Space: @phytoaddicts
  • Most Resourceful: @plants_are_my_people
  • Best Window Box: @jeanjanuschka



  1. Sue O'Brien on October 24, 2020 at 4:47 pm

    I also saw these photos in your magazine. I like your “adjustments” to the contest this year. Very appropriate for 2020.

    One thing I would have liked to see were more photos. Given that so many people view this as a web page, I would think you could show many or all of the other entrants.

    I enjoy looking at other people’s gardens, not only to admire them, but to pick up hints and ideas.

    Thank you

    • Mary Lahr Schier on October 26, 2020 at 7:15 pm

      Thanks, Sue! We probably will be showing additional photos from the contest later on. You can search on social media for #greatgardeningcontest2020 to see all the entries.

  2. Mary Cadieux on October 27, 2020 at 8:14 pm

    Not all of us have the time and energy for social media so saying check it out there is not helpful. Hopefully you can download your “social media” pictures to your website. Thanks, mary~

  3. Mary Cielinski on November 6, 2020 at 10:25 pm

    Mary, I too was hoping to see more photos in the magazine. Especially the 2nd and 3rd place contest winner photos. It was disheartening to get the magazine and my 2nd place photo was not shown, only my name. I was so looking forward to see my photo in a magazine.
    I just went back into my email conversation with you and realized you had told me that the magazine only had room for the first place winners pictures. I must have misconstrued that information.
    Mary Cielinski
    2nd place winner.

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