Our local newspaper Fairbanks Daily News Miner published the story about a woman who came to Alaska from Belarus nine years ago following call of her heart. Her hard work and love in flowers make our city much more beautiful. I am glad to introduce my friend and member our Fairbanks Russian Community--Russian Alaskan Zina to you.


Showstopper yard named tops in the city
Staff Writer
Photo John Hagen/News-Miner

HARD WORK PAYS OFF-Zina Gilbert and her prize-winning yard in Shannon Park.

Tim and Zina Gilbert have grown accustomed to gawkers.

All summer long walkers, joggers, bicyclists and motorists have come to a dead stop in front of the Gilberts' home at 1003 D St. in Shannon Park. Some yell at the Gilberts.

But their words are not harassment; rather they are a tribute to the beautification efforts the couple has made.

"We love your garden," passersby call to Zina as she weeds, waters or prunes and to Tim as he mows.

"It's amazing," Zina said. "People walk by and want to look and touch."

The Gilberts were rewarded for their hard work this week when they took top honors from the Fairbanks Landscape and Urban Beautification Commission. Accorded the "Helen Walker Award" for the best-looking lawn in town, the Gilberts will receive a certificate from the Fairbanks City Council. Helen Walker was the founder of the beautification commission in 1970.

"This is the No. 1 yard," said George Byrdsong, coordinator of the commission, as he pointed out the Gilberts' lush, immaculate lawn bordered by flower beds bursting with colorful blossoms. "We've been all over town looking at yards."

Since the Gilberts built their home five years ago, they have transformed the bare lot to a garden of paradise. While they have had a lovely lawn for years, this summer they expanded the existing flower beds and added several more, including a triangular one close to the road. The beds are loaded with dahlias as big dinner plates, roses, pansies, hostas, begonias, impatiens, petunias, nasturtiums, lilies, delphiniums, ferns and much more.

PHALANX OF FLOWERS--Zina Gilbert and her husband spend hours in the yard every summer.

"We did a lot of improvements this year," Zina said. When she was ready to launch her ideas she sought professional advice but couldn't find anyone to help, so she ended up designing and planting everything herself. The results proved elegant enough for "House and Garden" magazine.

Zina said she gets her best gardening tips from Byrdsong and from "Home and Garden Television," which she plans her weekends around.

"I love flowers," Zina said. She developed her love for blossoms growing up in rural Belarus, Russia, professes a soft spot for roses and dahlias. "I had to learn how to do gardening in Alaska."

A teller at First National Bank, Zina uses every spare minute in the spring preparing her flower beds, but said it doesn't take that much effort in the summer. She has to stay on top of weeding, tackling a bed at a time.

To have a lawn like hers takes work, patience and time, Zina said. "I just enjoy it," she said.

Neighbors have expressed thanks to Zina for adding beauty to their corner of the world.

When she isn't gardening or working, Zina enjoys sewing, bowling with Tim or decorating her home. Tim, an aircraft mechanic for the Alaska National Guard, said his role is to build the flower beds and cut the grass; the rest is up to Zina.

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