Denis and Colleen Cloutier stand beside their pond on the west side of their home. This is the only location where Colleen plants annuals on the entire acreage.Emily Plihal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

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When one goes down the driveway of Colleen and Denis Cloutier, there’s no doubt why they were chosen as the 2021 Albert Fontaine Beautiful Yard Award recipients.

The yard boasts a collection of deciduous and coniferous trees, shrubs, and breathtaking annual and perennial flowers, all carefully planted to create a breathtaking oasis that has been admired for years by local people.

Yard of Colleen and Denis Cloutier, 2021 Albert Fontaine Beautiful Yard Award recipients.

Their home is located northwest of McLennan, and has been the preferred location for many wedding, graduation, family, and other special occasion pictures.

The east deck of their home is a major attraction for people throughout the region for photographs.

“It was a nice surprise to receive the award from the M.D. (Municipal District of Smoky River),” says Colleen. “Most of what we’ve enjoyed about our yard is being able to share it with other people.”

Denis and Colleen Cloutier’s yard features a pond with Japanese Koi fish from Singapore.

The Cloutier family only started focusing on their yard just over a decade ago. They were once the proud owners of a dairy farm that occupied much of their time, and Colleen affectionately recalls that those were times when they had very little time to focus on the aesthetics of their yard.

Denis stands beside their entrance to the garage which is hugged on both sides with pots.

The farm is affectionately known by locals as Kimlake Farms, was located across from their yard, parallel to Kimiwan Lake. The lake is also a beautiful backdrop to what is now the utopia of the Cloutier’s backyard.

The Cloutier’s use golden hops and regular hops vines to create an archway.

After selling their dairy cattle, Denis and Colleen and their extended family raised purebred Simmental cattle, a feat Colleen says was “a lot of work”. Once the family decided to hang their ranching hats, the focus was then able to be put on their home and yard.

Yard of Colleen and Denis Cloutier, 2021 Albert Fontaine Beautiful Yard Award recipients.

“The thing about a yard is that you can make it your own and can make it so that it isn’t a lot of work,” says Denis.

“Our goal was to make this our retirement home, so we wanted it as low maintenance as possible.”

Potentillas line many locations in the yard. The flowers add colour and fragrance to the acreage.

The Cloutiers explain they had water trenched to the various parts of their yard so that they could install timed and programmable watering systems to their plants. Their goal in their senior years was to just be able to sit back and enjoy the beautiful surroundings they’d created with as little maintenance as possible.

Yard of Colleen and Denis Cloutier, 2021 Albert Fontaine Beautiful Yard Award recipients.

“It is important to know that you will lose some if you go on holidays,” says Denis, adding sometimes the watering system will falter and either plants will be drowned or not be watered.

Yard of Colleen and Denis Cloutier, 2021 Albert Fontaine Beautiful Yard Award recipients.

They explain when they first planted the trees on the property, they included over 66 varieties. Denis says they know they now have fewer varieties, but a lot of perfecting a yard is finding the best location for a particular plant based on what the plant needs to flourish.

Yard of Colleen and Denis Cloutier, 2021 Albert Fontaine Beautiful Yard Award recipients.

“Sometimes you have to try new things,” says Colleen. “We’ve planted certain plants in one location, only to discover that they’d do better in a more shaded area or one that had more humidity.”

Yard of Colleen and Denis Cloutier, 2021 Albert Fontaine Beautiful Yard Award recipients.

One of the most appealing parts of their almost 9-acre yard, is a koi pond that faces their dining room window. The koi pond is deep enough that they just add aeration to it for the winter and they are able to leave the fish right in the pond through the cold months. The pond is cradled by a garden of annual plants that Colleen lovingly plants each year to add different colours to the yard.

Colleen and Denis Cloutier’s dog enjoys the grounds.

“It’s really only as much work as you want to put into it,” says Colleen. “Someone could definitely swap out the annuals for perennials to make a low maintenance setting around the koi pond. too.”

Denis Cloutier shows some of the watering system.

Life always throws curveballs at people, so this mini oasis that the Cloutier’s have built for themselves is now on the market to be sold. They have decided to move south to be closer to their daughter and her family, making the oasis available for purchase to someone who wants to make it their own.

Dogs of Colleen and Denis Cloutier frolic in the foreground of their beautiful yard.

Both Colleen and Denis hope that the right couple will want to make this their forever home and make the yard theirs, knowing that even though the beauty would suggest a substantial amount of work, it is low maintenance and can be made into whatever potential purchasers would want it to be.

Other beautiful yards can be nominated for the M.D.’s Albert Fontaine Award by going on their website at www.mdsmokyriver.com

By Emily Plihal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Aug 30, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   South Peace News   High Prairie, Alberta

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