Barbato Sparanese is in his element.
Walking through his immaculately trimmed lawn, passing potted eggplants, Roma tomatoes, stalks of dill and fragrant flowers, the retired machinist beams with pride. It is a small piece of Italy, he says, a piece he has manicured at his Langford home for 12 years.
“We lived in Italy and my dad had a little farm, but it didn’t look like a farm,” Sparanese says. “It looked like a garden. When people were passing by, they would stop for a long time at that garden.”
He shares that same camaraderie today. Children from Lakewood elementary across the street visit with their teachers to learn about gardening, and passersby – some complete strangers – are invited to share in conversation and enjoy the sprawling two-level garden.
Sparanese, 74, says his father taught him to live and love in the garden, among the plants where he harvested both happiness and nourishment for their family of five. It is a tradition he holds onto today, spending countless hours where he says he feels his best.
“To tell you the very truth, when I am back here in my garden, I feel like a king. I don’t have money, but I still feel like a rich man,” he said. “I don’t count the hours. I come out as soon as I can and I only go inside for breakfast, lunch and for dinner.”
Those meals are provided by Rosa, his wife of 48 years, who says there’s a running joke in the family of why their meals taste so good. Is it the cooking, or the ingredients from the garden?
Whatever it is, says daughter, Enza, the garden is home.
“It is my home; it will always be my home,” she says. “Every time I have had something go wrong, it is my go-to happy place.”
She loves it so much she will be married in the garden in the summer of 2015. Not surprisingly, the food and wine for the wedding will be created from the garden where she feels so comfortable.
“I have never been to Italy, so I feel like I am experiencing the home that they had,” Enza says. “I actually think it is one of the most beautiful places I have never seen… It is all wholesome and home. It is a place full of love. It is a place where if you are not happy, you become happy.”