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Kyper transforms yard to new level

SMART YARD – Humboldt resident Marie Kyper holds a sign in her front yard designating it to be a certified Tennessee Smart Yard. Kyper went through all of the steps to earn the certification. Her yard is one of four in Gibson County and the only one in Humboldt.

by Danny Wade

A Humboldt lady has taken her yard to a new level. Marie Kyper’s yard has been designated as a Tennessee Smart Yard. Kyper’s yard, located on Honeysuckle in Humboldt, is one of four in Gibson County.

Tennessee Smart Yard is a program with the University of Tennessee Extension Agency. The focus of the program is to create a healthy yard. Kyper said there are steps to complete in order to be listed as a Smart Yard.

“On the website (, you download the workbook,” Kyper explained the process. “You view videos. It really wasn’t that hard.”

Kyper admits that she did not have a green thumb but while working with the late Peter Howard at Crown Winery and HRH Vineyards, she learned a lot about growing grapes. Kyper said Howard’s passion for growing grapes rubbed off on her. He gave her a few grape vines to plant. She laughed and said some of hers grew better than his.

Her newly discovered green thumb sparked a new chapter in her life. Soon, she was planting plants, flowers and trees in her yard. This led to her joining the Master Gardener program. Kyper also joined the Gibson Garden Club and her love of horticulture continued to blossom.

When Kyper learned of the Smart Yard program, she said to herself, “I can do this!”

So what exactly is a Tennessee Smart Yard?

According to the Smart Yard website, “Tennessee Smart Yards is an Extension-led program that guides Tennesseans on practices they can apply in their outdoor spaces to create healthier, more ecologically-sound landscapes and communities. Nine principles of stewardship serve as the foundation for the program and are explored in online modules and practical workshops taught by UT-TSU Extension and water resource professionals.”

In the second step of the workbook, Kyper said you learn how to plant the right plants in the right place. You learn how to manage soils and mulch, and how to reduce storm water and pollutants. You also provide for wildlife in your yard.

“You don’t have to be an expert gardener or landscaper,” Kyper said of completing the program to be designated as a Smart Yard. “Just follow the steps in the workbook. It did not take a long time, maybe two months.”

The third step of the program is documenting and showing how you completed each step and taking pictures along the way. These are submitted to UT Knoxville extension headquarters.

“The program began a few months ago. It was like a board game at first,” Kyper said of checking the website’s map of Smart Yard locations. “Nobody had little dots on the map in West Tennessee. Most were in East Tennessee. Now West Tennessee is getting more dots.”

Kyper said two of her favorite plants are hostas and hydrangeas. And she has several growing in her yard. She also loves to create flower arrangements and loves keeping fresh flowers in her house.

One special thing Kyper learned along the way has nothing to do with Smart Yards or Master Gardeners, instead about family.

“My mother had a lot of cannas growing in her yard and I transplanted some in my backyard,” Kyper said her mother passing away. “Now I have a little peace of my mom with me.”

Kyper had a grandson who died in a tragic car wreck. She planted a Japanese maple tree in his memory. When her sister died, Kyper planted a Jane magnolia in her honor. Heartfelt endeavors like these can make a landscape so much more than trees, grass, plants and flowers.

Kyper urges others to go through the Smart Yard program and would love to see more and more dots pop up on the map. Who knows, maybe you do not think you have a green thumb, just like Marie thought, only to find a new hobby and love you never knew existed. It’s worth a try.

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