By Beth Treffeisen
Around Boston, community members work hard to keep the city filled with gorgeous greenery to make a dense urban area not only appear but be more livable.
Now in its 20th year, the Garden Contest recognizes those who have landscaped, planted flowers, trees, and shrubs that help to beautify the various neighborhoods in the neighborhoods of Boston.
For two days judges from the Garden Contest Hall of Fame, Boston Elderly Affairs Commissioner Emily Shea, Boston Parks and Recreation Department staff, and local open space advocates visited the gardens to determine the winners.
“I am excited to be a winner,” said Ric Cirace of the Back Bay under the porch, balcony, or container garden section. “I’ve been working on it for more than 19 years now.”
Winners of the contest received the “Golden Trowel” awarded by Mayor Walsh and prize packages from the Parks Department, Mahoney’s Garden Centers, and other sponsors at the awards ceremony that was held on Tuesday, August 9 in the Boston Public Garden.
First place winners are also entered into a drawing for a Jet Blue Grand Prize consisting of a roundtrip flight for two to any nonstop destination from Boston.
Overlooking the Charles Esplanade, Cirace’s garden is made up of trees, bushes, plant material and flowers that appear in-ground because it is sitting on AstroTurf as opposed to sitting in containers on a wood deck, giving it a natural feel.
Cirace who used to be a sailor and then later moved to the Back Bay got into gardening by chance. He said with having such beautiful views on his roof deck just lend itself to being outside, and before he knew it one thing lead to the next.
You can find his garden walking along the lagoons that line Storrow Drive, where he says, “It will jump out to you and you will say ‘this guy is really nuts!’”
The only help he gets is by his friend of over 20 years and sometimes a little assistance with a crane to transport trees to the roof.
“Sometimes I shake my head and I wonder how I do it all?” said Cirace.
This isn’t Cirace’s first win. He won twice before in ’97 and ’98 under Mayor Menino’s efforts to beautify Boston. Since then, his garden has evolved into something else much bigger.
Cirace said, “I got the bug 20 years later and I thought it would be fun to try it again.”
Gardeners who have won the contest three or more times are automatically entered into the Hall of Fame and will be later recognized at the awards ceremony. These winners will then be ineligible to enter as a contestant but are welcome to return as judges.
Elsewhere in the city, Marie Fukuda and Tim Horn won for the third time for the Fenway Victory Garden under the category of community gardens.
Together they have been working in the gardens since the late 90’s growing things including vegetables, annual flowers, 50 garden beds of roses, and maintaining a butterfly garden.
“There are so many great gardens in the city,” said Fukuda. “We are just lucky.”
The garden allows them to get outdoors, meet new neighbors and friends, and learn things from other gardeners.
Both Horn and Fukuda are grateful to all the volunteers on the garden society board, where Tim was a past president and treasurer, along with the support of the Boston Parks and Recreation Department for allowing them along with several hundred other gardeners to have a community plot in the Back Bay Fens.
With summer still in full swing Fukuda said, “It has become one of our favorite places to go.”