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Monday, June 28, 2010

PGFD PROFILE - Kristines Quiet Place is Award Winning Gardening

Article by Mark E. Brady and Diane V. Cunningham, Photos by Mark E. Brady

An award winning gardening hobby helps this 16-year veteran of the Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department relax and unwind. Kristine J. Ferreira began her career with the Fire/EMS Department as a paramedic in March 1993 and subsequently cross-trained as a firefighter in June 1998. She is currently assigned to College Park Fire/EMS Station 812, located near the University of Maryland. Fire Fighter/Medic Ferreira works a 24-hour shift, wherein she and her partner may respond on as many as10-15 calls. She is responsible to deliver advanced life support in a pre-hospital environment to patients with life-threatening conditions. Sleep, during this time, is often a notion rather than an option.

The three days following her 24-hour shift with the Fire/EMS Department, Fire Fighter/Medic Ferreira works as a Forensic Investigator for the State of Maryland’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME). While her schedule with the OCME varies, there are times when one shift lasts 24 hours. In fact, it’s not unusual for her to log more hours as a Forensic Investigator than as a Fire Fighter/Paramedic. “As an Investigator, I work on call from home,” she says. “An assignment could take me to the scene of an accident, to the hospital or to the home of a deceased person. After being notified of a death, my job calls for me to respond to the location and determine whether the deceased should be autopsied or sent to the funeral home.” Kristine says her decision is based on the guiding principles she learned while in training with the OCME, as well as Maryland state laws.

When she has time off from her two hectic and stressful jobs, Kristine Ferreira enjoys gardening. Tending flower beds gives her a sense of serenity, as well as offers her an escape from the outside world. “I love digging in the dirt,” says Kristine. “I enjoy gardening because so much of what I do is rushed. Everything is an emergency in both of my professions. In gardening it doesn’t matter how much you try to rush things; the plants grow at their own pace. With regard to the growing process, it sometimes takes years for a certain flower to bloom. I agree with the idea that a garden does not reach maturity for at least seven years.”

Kristine, who has been gardening since she purchased her first home at age 24, finds it most rewarding to place a small potted plant in the ground and several years later see how much it has grown and spread. This is truly a hobby for her, and she does not accept pay to help others with their gardens. “I wouldn’t want gardening to feel like a job,” she says.

She began gardening because of her love of flowers, their colors and the joy of putting something into the ground that beautifies her surroundings. “I think flowers make people smile. I know my neighbors love my yard! I love it!” she says. She also credits her mother’s green thumb, as each year her mom helps clean up the garden in preparation for the spring. Cleaning and preparation is no easy task for one person. It can easily take up to two weeks of working full days to get her garden ready for spring.

For Kristine, gardening is a year-round effort. She claims, “I even have flowers that bloom in the snow.”

Kristine’s neighbors enjoy the beautiful flowers she nurtures on her corner lot in Bowie, Maryland. Some told her they never paid attention to their own yard until she moved in. Most of the yards in her neighborhood now boast of beautiful flowers and grass. “I would like to think I spread something here! I live on the corner lot so I have to make it beautiful!!!” she says.

Kristine Ferreira believes one secret to growing beautiful flowers is to plant them when and where should be planted. Too often she sees plants struggling to survive because people either don’t know when to plant, or they place plants in the wrong light. Not every plant can survive in direct sunlight. She recommends people educate themselves on the types of plants good for their particular environment. She states, “Reading a few magazines definitely helps. The secret to growing award winning gardens is being knowledgeable about the craft. Like a painting, you should have a balance of color, shapes and variety. Maturity helps also—plant maturity, that is.”

Her favorite plants are roses and peonies. “Peonies were at one time sold to only royalty. They bloom once a year, around my birthday (May), and they smell wonderful. I often cut them and bring them into my home!” says Ferreira. She also tries to find interesting plants for her yard every year. In fact, she has a plant she bought back from Hawaii that requires being indoors when it gets cold.

Her awards are plentiful but unlike her flowers, they are not springing up as fast as they used to. The reason for this is she’s won so many she’s not permitted to compete anymore. Her goal, which she concedes is yet a few years a way, is to win a “Golden Shovel Award.” Her awards include:

City of Bowie All Star Garden Award 2009

Prince George’s County Beautification Award 2008

City of Bowie Distinguished Pool Garden 2006

Maintenance Award from City of Bowie for 2003, 2004, 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2008

Maintenance Award from Prince George’s County for 2009

Kristine Ferreira has an extremely demanding schedule, juggling two professions. Both jobs require a great deal of education and respect for life; and she manages each professionally and with the utmost passion. More important, however, she has found what many of us search for—a place to escape from the stresses of her jobs and day-to-day life in general. Gardening…it is Kristine’s sanctuary.

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