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

Lillian Morabito is shown with her gardens at her home at 3767 Northwood Dr. in Niagara Falls. The previous gold and silver winner of the Niagara Falls Summer Trillium Recognition Program was named a 2022 Excellence Award winner.

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

That was seven summers ago, and the Niagara Falls woman had a very special reason for wanting to try 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 wanted to create a memorial garden.”

Being a novice, Frakking relied on the expertise of her father Bill and a neighbor, and through trial and error eventually grew a large garden. Every year since then, she has expanded her flower garden, adding whimsical painted stones, three-dimensional sculptures, recycled fountains and pollinator-safe watering stations with shallow dishes filled with marbles and small stones so that the bees can’t drown.

“My favorite part of gardening is watching plants grow, and I feel 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 it and other gardens so lovingly tended by Niagara Falls residents also promote a sense of community and civic pride among the residents of these neighborhoods.

The Frakking Garden at 7683 Woodbine St. was named a gold winner at the city’s 2022 Summer Trillium Recognition Program awards presented Sept. 14.

Laan is a member of the Niagara Falls Park Trillium Subcommittee on the City Committee, which selects silver, gold, bronze and excellence award winners each summer, with the goal of encouraging the beautification of the entire city But Laan said that by promoting gardening, the awards also foster community.

“It gets the neighbors talking,” he said. “It gets neighborhoods talking and creates very positive interactions. Gardening itself is a very social thing.”

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

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

It’s a similar story for Lillian Morabito of 3767 Northwood Dr., whose garden has won silver and gold Trillium awards in the past and won the award of excellence this year.

The wide variety of plants is a refuge for pollinators such as bees and hummingbirds, and it is a nightly ritual for the foxes who live in the neighborhood to mow their garden and use a corner of the garden for breaks in the bathroom

But passers-by and neighbors also love the garden. A neighbor across the street, inspired by their gardens, also took up gardening and this year won a Gold Trillium Award.

Laan said some people, especially young homeowners, don’t have a place to start when creating gardens. He said through the city’s Trillium program, people can get advice from landscape experts who share knowledge, and awards organizers even reached out to past winners to act as mentors.

Morabito encourages other residents to try gardening as well, saying the recovery is very real.

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

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

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

STORY BEHIND THE STORY: With the presentation of the 2022 Niagara Falls Trillium Awards, this week he looked at how the awards promote beautification and community spirit.

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