It's a good thing Ellen Dierna likes to get her hands dirty.
When she and her husband, John Dierna, moved into their 30 Park Boulevard home in 2004, the house was "in shambles" and the yard was completely overgrown, she said.
"It took a year and three months to bring it back to its original look," John said of the Nantucket-style home that overlooks Long Island Sound. "We worked around the clock."
While John did most of the heavy lifting, Ellen said she spent countless hours deep in the dirt, planting and arranging flowers and plants to compliment the home's exterior and other areas of the yard.
Recently, on a day when Ann Fariss, representing Stratford's beautification committee, came by the park boulevard home to notify the Diernas that their Lordship waterfront property had been nominated for a Beautification Award, the red roses matched perfectly with the red pillows on the front porch rocking chairs.
That's the story Fariss told a group of nominated residents and their families and friends who were gathered Thursday at Town Hall for the 13th annual Beautification Awards Program ceremony.
"The use of color was magnificent," Fariss said before presenting the award for Best Residential Property of the Year to the Diernas, who said they are thankful for the honor.
"We felt our hard work didn't go unnoticed," John said after the ceremony.
More than 30 homes were nominated for awards this year, which featured the theme of curb appeal. Below is a list outlining all those winners who took home a glass trophy and a bag of daffodil bulbs, Stratford's town flower.
Best Commercial Property
Galello Funeral Home at 2220 Main Street -- Bob and Patty Galello
Best Commercial Property in a Coastal Setting
Brewers Stratford Marina on Broad Street -- Josh Treadwell
Best New Commerical Property
Jake's Wayback Burgers at 2850 Main Street
"For years this property stood empty and the grounds unattended," said committee chair Kimberly Meuse. After Jake's moved in, "the difference was immediate and wonderful," she said. "By beautifying such a busy intersection, [Jake's has] made a mark on the community."
Best Use of Color on a Residential Property
2 Oak Terrace -- Barbara Butterworth
Best Residential Corner Property
106 Coolidge Street -- Robert Dowd
Best Cottage Property
12 Raven Terrace -- Claudia Wellington
Best Treatment of a Planting Area
167 Ferndale Avenue -- Lynne Scharn
Best in Neighborhood (8 winners)
30 Chanda Drive -- Wendy Petrucelli
"This home is greatly admired by all who walk or drive by it," said committee member Kay O'Connor. "It's an inspiration to other homeowners and that's what we're all about."
105 Elizabeth Terrace -- Elaine Hunt and John Walter
"A remarkable transformation due to an amazing couple who moved there one-and-a-half years ago," said committee member Sue Prosi.
130 Matthew Drive -- Samantha White
White's mother's roots in gardening has served her well, said committee member Evelyn Clough.
101 Hurd Avenue -- Ben and Linda Ackerman
"A beautiful wood stain front door," said O'Connor.
25 Sidney Street -- George Brown
Committee member Jeffrey Thompson said this property is "in a challenging area," and for more than 50 years "George Brown has fought that battle" to maintain a beautiful home appearance. There's an abandoned parking lot in his front yard and the backyard looks out to Stop & Shop, said Thompson.
"I take my hat off to you," Thompson said. "It's so easy to let your property go down."
Other winners for Best in Neighborhood included: 10 Everett Street, Margie Spain (pictured); 1050 South Avenue, Maria Flores; and 442 Windsor Avenue, Bradley and April Dykes
What do you think about the winners? Are you neighbors with any of them? Feel a property got snubbed? Tell us in the comments section below.