Every month, I will be profiling an extraordinary human being who lives in our community. If you know someone who is doing something interesting with their life or has an inspiring story to share, I want to hear about it. Send me an email at [email protected].
Linda Dronseika has never laid eyes on a flower she didn’t like.
“They’re all beautiful,” she says. “I don’t think I could pick my favourite. I have a Muskoka Sunset Dahlia, I’m not sure where I got it from, but it’s yellow, six-inches across, with a touch of red and orange, and it’s really very pretty.”
The 75-year-old has a green thumb that is something to rave about. She’s been picking and planting ever since she was a little girl. She used to tape newspapers around her legs and head into her aunt’s raspberry bushes. She would pick to her heart’s content and then sell baskets of freshly-picked berries on the side of a dirt road. She says that’s how it all started.
Linda is a well-known face around town for a few reasons. She was actively involved in the Huntsville Agriculture Society, the Muskoka Parry Sound Master Gardeners and the Huntsville Horticultural Society for many years. The walls in her Huntsville home are adorned with plaques and awards of the special recognition she’s received for going above and beyond to make the town extra beautiful.
She took it upon herself to plant the town’s hanging baskets and planters. She used to handpick all the seeds (usually pansies) and fill her basement with the baskets in order to grow during the winter months so everything would be ready for the summer.
“At that time, the town budget for flowers was $2,000,” recalls Linda. Her eyes grow wide. “Deerhurst Resort had a $20,000 budget. That just shows you how big the difference was.”
But then there was a big drug bust in town. Police discovered a marijuana grow op and all the equipment was seized and placed in a building. No one knew what to do with it. except Linda. She had a brilliant idea about the possibility of using the equipment to enable her more growing power, which would ultimately make the town that much more beautiful. She pitched it to a town councillor who then asked the mayor. (It was Claude Doughty at the time, and Linda’s husband Stan will forever be grateful for Doughty supporting Linda’s request).
The town’s parks and recreation committee had also got a new building at McCulley-Robertson Sports Complex and a small area was designated to Linda. It was a win-win. Once Linda received the equipment and workspace, she was able to make over 80 baskets for the town.
“When you love gardening, it’s not a huge undertaking. It’s part of, ‘Hey, I can do this.’ It’s something I enjoy… it makes things look better. Somebody walking by will notice a beautiful hanging basket. We’d start at one end of Main Street and everybody got involved. It was likely done in three days. A lot of hands make light work.”
Something Linda always looked forward to every single year was the Huntsville Fall Fair. That meant getting the chance to show off her green thumb. She didn’t just put in one entry in either. Linda went full throttle. She would place anywhere between 20 and 30 entries in the fair and never once walked away without a first place win.
“I would enter what I grew from my gardens. I won first place for my flower arranging one year. That was nice. I still have a shopping bag full of my ribbons.”
All the recognition Linda received only fueled her desire to want to continue to contribute. And she never shied away from offering advice. To anyone. Whether it was a passerby seeking tips while she was planting around town or someone attending the master gardeners’ annual plant sale, Linda was keen to share her knowledge. It wasn’t hard to see that Linda was serious about plants and her passion was evident by how quickly she worked.
It’s not work when you love what you do.
It’s only been recently that Linda’s slowly stepped down from her commitment to the various organizations she was once so actively involved in. She no longer holds the responsibility of making sure the town blooms. Her memory is going, she says. It’s a combination of Alzheimer’s and dementia, just like her mother had. Either way, she finds it exceedingly frustrating that she can’t remember things. She has a remarkable story of a lifetime spent inspired by flowers and plants.
She likes to keep busy at home. Her entire property is surrounded by dahlias and day lilies, beautiful lilac trees and interesting shrubs, but she’s got a few flats of Impatiens on the way and the marigolds she planted have taken well.
Linda’s not doing a veggie garden this year. She’s trying to ease her workload on the home front but she’s growing a few tomato plants. Last year she put in a cactus garden and the fact that it withstood a harsh Muskoka winter is a sure sign she hasn’t lost her touch. Her green thumb is still there. A deeply rooted gift. It’s the one thing, next to her husband, that brings out the best in her.
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