By Wendy Helfenbaum
FRANK FERRAGINE wants you to get your
hands dirty. Ferragine has been known as
“Frankie Flowers” since his childhood, when
his friends had trouble pronouncing his
name; now, his nickname is also his calling.
His passion for plants stems from a long line
of green thumbs: His grandparents immigrated to Canada from Crotone, Italy, in the
late 1950s and built a business, Bradford
Greenhouses, growing vegetables on a
81,000-square-kilometre (20-acre) farm in
Ontario’s Holland Marsh.
“It feels like I’ve always just been in the
dirt,” laughs Ferragine, a Costco member.
From a very young age, he helped out in the
family business: “I have so many memories of
being in the garden with my family.”
Germination of a brand
Over the years, as Ferragine doled out
simple, good-humoured advice to gardeners,
“Frankie Flowers” evolved from being a cute
nickname to a successful and trusted brand.
Ferragine’s mission? To make gardening
accessible for everyone. He spreads his
message through his books and magazine
columns, and as a gardening expert on the
daytime lifestyle series Cityline and City TV’s
morning show Breakfast Television, where he
Gardening guru makes it easy
to grow what you eat
garden home &
Name: Frank Ferragine, aka
City: Bradford, Ontario
Product at Costco:
Food to Grow will be
available March 8 in most
Comment about Costco:
“We shop there a lot. With
a growing family, we turn to
Costco for many items!”
is also a weatherman. His fourth book, Food
to Grow, features easy-to-follow directions
designed to boost gardeners’ confidence.
“I don’t want people to get frustrated
[with growing food]; I want them to grow the
right things so they have a great experience,”
Whether you live in a small apartment or
on a big property, you can grow many varie-ties of food, insists Ferragine. Start small with
seedling plants in a few containers.
some time and effort, but
if you figure out your light
and your space, then select
vegetables and herbs that
can grow within that, it’s
very easy. If I can get people connected—hav-
ing one success, like tasting a cherry tomato
they grew on their own—I have them hooked
Ferragine’s sons—Gavin, 9, and Matheson,
7—have been gardening since they could
walk. “Beans are quick to germinate, so kids
see a faster result: Within a week, this little
plant pops out and then a large vine,”
Ferragine tells The Connection.
Career takes root
Ferragine almost missed his calling completely. After his grandfather suggested they
needed a lawyer in the family, Ferragine got
accepted into Toronto’s Osgoode Hall Law
School in 1993. Taking a year off before school
began, Ferragine helped his family launch
their new garden centre in Barrie, Ontario.
He forgot about law and instead began
doling out gardening advice for a local television station. When the weatherman got sick,
the gig became his.
“It tied in nicely; when you’re in the
worlds of agriculture and horticulture, you
become a weather-watcher,” he explains.
Ferragine also discovered first-hand that
life is too short to not follow your dreams—
his younger brother Tony passed away in
1998 from Ewing’s sarcoma.
“He taught me a lot through his sickness,
and I live for two now, because I feel honoured to be here,” says Ferragine, who was
awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond
Jubilee Medal in 2012 for his volunteer work,
as well as for being a founding member of the
Ewings Cancer Foundation of Canada and a
supporter of the Canadian Cancer Society.
Ferragine rises at 3 a.m. each day for
his on-camera job at City TV. “What’s great is,
most weekdays, I’m home to help with homework, coach hockey, be a loving husband and
a great dad,” he says.
As successful as he’s been,
Ferragine encourages gardeners to embrace failure—a crucial part of the process.
“Everybody that’s ever
grown a plant has killed a plant,
including me,” he says. “It takes
a while to get your ‘garden
groove.’ Once you become confident, you’ll be amazed at what
you can do and how much fun
you’ll have.” C
Wendy Helfenbaum (taketwo
productions.ca) is a Montreal
writer, TV producer.
believes that now,
more than ever,
people want to
know how to grow
their own food.
The real dirt on
VEGETABLES: ©ECCO / SHUTTERSTOCK
GARDEN SPADE © WINNOND / SHUTTERSTOCK
In our digital editions
Click here for a video with the keys
to successfully growing food.
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