Pasquale, Gina & Enzo’s Garden

In 2018 I had the pleasure of interviewing Enzo Frati and Gina Bruni for a gardening segment for Panaroam - here’s the article reprinted, with photos by Giulio Murator. -- Mark Cirillo 

Shortly after Pasquale Bruni passed away in 2016, his family realized his wife Gina would need help maintaining the family garden.

It wasn’t that Gina was slowing down – at 86 she was still an avid gardener who spent hours every day tending to trees, flowers, fruits and vegetables in her backyard. But the sheer size of her 4,500-square-foot garden was simply too much for one person.

Gina has lived in the sprawling North-Toronto oasis since 1954, when the Bruni’s and three other families bought a plot of land that was then surrounded by countryside. They built homes, planted crops, and even raised animals on the land.

“We had chickens, rabbits, pigeons, ducks – lots of animals eggs,” says Gina

In her search for help with the garden, Gina and her daughter Diane visited Fresh City, an urban farm at Downsview Park. There they met urban farmer Enzo Frati, whose family come from the same area of Frosinone (in Lazio) as the Bruni’s. Enzo and Gina have worked together every since.

“She’s almost like an aunt to me,” says Frati, who divides his time between his gardens, a full-time IT job, and helping his elderly parents. “We share stories and talk about traditions, how her husband did things a certain way and I do things my way.”

The arrangement is simple: Enzo helps Gina maintain half of the garden, and grows his own vegetables in the other. They grow similar crops, but their methods can differ.

“I like way he waters,” says Gina with a smile. “But I don’t like when he doesn’t work the ground,” she says, in reference to a no-till method Enzo is trying this year.

“I try to do things more organically and ecologically,” says Enzo, “it’s a little different than what my parents used to do.”

But there’s an obvious respect and admiration between the two generations of gardeners who have learned things from each other.

“Last year Enzo introduced us to Napa cabbage,” says Diane. “When it was ready we spent a great day with our Korean neighbours making homemade kimche.”


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