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