In the bleak midwinter… a garden award

Although winter doesn't do it justice, Lorenzo and Josie Ferrara pose with their prize-winning garden.
Although winter doesn’t do it justice, Lorenzo and Josie Ferrara pose with their prize-winning garden. (Photo by Sun Lingmeng) (GardenAward_SunLingmeng)

In the near-dead of winter, an East York couple are celebrating their win for the most beautiful garden in Toronto.

Lorenzo and Josie Ferrara say they returned from a trip to Las Vegas to their home on Strathmore Boulevard near Danforth Avenue and found a letter from the City of Toronto, inviting them to city hall as finalists in the Toronto Garden Awards.

During the Nov. 25 awards ceremony, the presenters began with the second prize. Lorenzo says he turned to his wife and remarked: ‘It’s better if we go. I don’t think we’re going to win something. We’re just finalists.’

But then the couple saw a picture of their house projected on the big screen. They had won first prize.

“Winning at the city-wide level was overwhelming,” Josie said — acknowledging that she teared up at that moment. “It was a wonderful recognition.”

Mark Inglis has been one of the judges of the Toronto Garden Awards for nearly 10 years. He thought the Ferraras made the best use of the garden.

“It was such an intensely used piece of property. It was very small. But they were able to virtually cover all of their open space with garden. It was just a glorious display when we arrived in July when the contest was held,” he said.

Before the city’s award, the Ferraras had won twice in the East York Blooming Contest. In 2012, the garden won the “Judge’s Choice” award — and that’s what got them into the 2013 city-wide competition.

The Ferraras have been decorating their garden for 32 years, since they got married and bought the house. Josie chooses the type and colour combination of flowers: soft pink, fuchsia, purple and green with the potato ivies that grow long and blink beautifully are her favourite combination. And then Lorenzo plants and cares for them — saying that it’s the only hobby that relaxes him.

“I spent a good two and a half hours on the flowers every day,” he said. “Believe it or not, sometimes I talked with my flowers. I said, ‘You look beautiful.’”

“He is very creative,” Josie said. “If he finds something interesting, he will find a way to use it in his garden. In the fall, he decorated with fall leaves. He likes to keep a theme going.”

Lorenzo is even extending his passion; last year, he started taking care of the front garden of St. Brigid’s Parish Roman Catholic Church on Wolverleigh Boulevard in East York.