‘Like Christmas morning’: Love of gardening promotes sense of community in Niagara Falls

Lillian Morabito is presented with her gardens at her home at 3767 Northwood Dr. shown at Niagara Falls. The former Gold and Silver winner in the Niagara Falls Summer Trillium Recognition Program was named the 2022 Excellence Award Winner.

Tammy Frakking was as green as they come when she first started gardening, but that didn’t mean her thumb was green.

It had been seven summers and the woman from Niagara Falls had a very special reason for trying her hand at gardening.

“I had never tried gardening before,” she said. “My motivation was that I had recently lost my husband to cancer and I wanted to create a memorial garden.”

As a newbie, Frakking drew on the experience of her father Bill and a neighbor and eventually, through trial and error, grew a large vegetable garden. Every year since then, she’s expanded her flower garden, adding whimsical painted rocks, three-dimensional sculptures, upcycled fountains, and pollinator-proof watering stations with shallow bowls filled with marbles and small stones to keep bees from drowning.

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“My favorite part of gardening is watching the plants grow, and I get incredibly happy when I see beneficial insects like monarchs and bees visiting my garden,” she said.

While the garden brings joy to Frakking, Leslie Laan said that it and other gardens so lovingly tended by Niagara Falls residents also encourage a sense of community and civic pride among residents of those neighborhoods.

Frakking’s Garden at 7683 Woodbine St. was awarded Gold in the City’s 2022 Summer Trillium Recognition Program awards presented on September 14.

Laan serves on the Trillium Subcommittee of the Niagara Falls Park in the City Committee, which selects silver, gold, bronze and excellence award winners each summer with the goal of promoting city beautification. But Laan said by promoting gardening, the awards also benefit the community.

“It gets neighbors talking,” she says. “It gets neighborhoods talking and creates very positive interactions. Gardening in itself is a very social thing.”

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Frakking can attest to this: it’s not uncommon for people walking their dogs or riding their bikes to stop and start chatting with her and telling her how much they enjoy seeing her yard.

“It makes me happy all day to hear that what I do puts a smile on people’s faces and enriches their daily lives, even if it’s just a little bit,” she said.

Similarly, Lillian Morabito of 3767 Northwood Dr., whose garden has previously won Silver and Gold Trillium awards and this year won the Award for Excellence.

The wide variety of plants is a haven for pollinators like bees and hummingbirds, and it’s a nightly ritual for foxes that live in the neighborhood to cut through their yard and use a corner of the yard for toilet breaks.

But passers-by and neighbors also love the garden. A neighbor across the street, inspired by her gardens, also delved into gardening and won a Gold Trillium award this year.

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Laan said some people, especially young homeowners, don’t know where to start with gardening. She said that through the city’s Trillium program, people can get advice from landscape experts who share their knowledge, and the awards organizers have even reached out to previous winners to act as mentors.

Morabito encourages other neighbors to try their hand at gardening as well and says the payback is very real.

“I really believe that a gardener is like a jeweler who creates a beautiful necklace with rubies, sapphires and emeralds,” she said. “Every day is like Christmas morning when you wake up and go outside and something is blooming.

“I love gardening,” Morabito said. “It’s very rewarding.”

The other Trillium Awards winners can be viewed at https://niagarafalls.ca/city-hall/committees/park-in-the-city/trillium/default.aspx

STORY BEHIND THE STORY: Celebrating the 2022 Niagara Falls Trillium Awards, This Week looked at how the awards encourage beautification and community spirit.

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