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SEARCH ENGINE: Real cost of NOTL flowers? Priceless.

By Karena Walter, The Standard

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You ask... We answer.

Q: My wife and I just drove through beautiful Niagara-on-the-Lake and were wondering how much does the town spend on flowers? It’s really lovely.

A: Niagara-on-the-Lake is often called the prettiest or loveliest town in Ontario and its floral displays are a big part of that reputation.

Walk down Queen Street on a summer day and countless visitors are seen photographing flowers or using the planters as backdrops for priceless selfies.

“A lot of people come down and just take a stroll down Queen Street or come to Simcoe Park,” agreed Kevin Turcotte, the town’s manager of parks and recreation. “We get multiple compliments.”

Turcotte couldn’t provide a specific dollar figure for flower beds because the cost comes out of the parks budget and is lumped in with grass cutting, maintaining cemeteries, operating facilities and more.

But the cost for hanging baskets gives a taste.

Turcotte said there are 242 hanging baskets which cost an average of $91 each for plant materials only. That’s more than $22,000 and doesn’t include staff time to create, plant, maintain and water them.

The baskets go up at the end of May and stay hanging until close to Thanksgiving. Turcotte said they’re built for multi-staged displays, so there’s something different growing at any point to extend the displays from spring to early fall.

The town recently expanded its hanging baskets program, adding 94 more than last year, due to its participation in Communities in Bloom — a non-profit organization focused on greening spaces.

They are now spread through the town’s five areas — Queen Street in Old Town, Queenston Street in Queenston, Highway 55 in Virgil, Niagara-on-the-Green Boulevard in Glendale and at Four Mile Creek and York Road in St. Davids.

Niagara-on-the-Lake won the top award in the Communities in Bloom national competition last year for its population category. It participated internationally this year and will get the results in September.

“We just encourage people to come down and visit us,” Turcotte said. “Even if it’s just for an hour, we’d love to show you what Niagara-on-the-Lake has to offer.”

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Q: Why do the parallel parking spaces on Ontario Street next to Montebello Park in St. Catharines seem so big?

A: Those parallel parking spaces along Montebello Park are extra wide.

The rather luxurious parking spots are courtesy of the Niagara Region contractor, who painted the lines after Ontario Street was recently re-paved.

“We’ve had quite a few people inquire about that, including other city staff,” said St. Catharines manager of transportation services Brian Applebee.

Applebee said a normal parking space is 2.5 metres wide but the ones on Ontario Street are a bit wider.

Here’s what happened. Instead of measuring 2.5 metres out from the curb to paint a parking space line, the contractor measured out from the centre line to paint the lane a certain width.

Whatever was leftover was used for the parking spaces.

“It looks a little odd because we’re not used to it, but there’s nothing technically wrong with doing that,” Applebee said. “And not having an overly-wide driving lane is not a bad thing either.”

He said when the lines wear out, they’ll probably be re-painted in a more traditional width.

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The search continues...

In response to last week’s column, (Search Engine, Albino Squirrel a rare sight, Aug. 5, 2017), several readers told us they’ve spotted an albino squirrel at Happy Rolph’s Animal Farm in St. Catharines.

We contacted the city’s horticultural foreman Mauro Becchetti, who confirmed an albino squirrel has been a familiar face at the Read Road park for about three years.

Named Snowflake by the nature park attendant, the squirrel lives near the pond and overwinters there.

Snowflake is spotted by staff once or twice a week throughout Happy Rolph’s property.

Readers also noted that white squirrels can be found aplenty in Exeter Ontario, in South Huron north of London. The nickname of the community is “Home of the White Squirrel.”

However, those squirrels are not albinos.

The Exeter BIA points out on its website that albino squirrels have red eyes, while the true white squirrels in its community have dark eyes.

While the Exeter BIA says it can not guarantee a sighting, its white squirrel population is said to be unlike any other in Ontario. They can be found in parks, on trails and in residential areas.

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Fact finder!

Niagara-on-the-Lake is helping visitors re-create its floral displays at home. Kevin Turcotte, the town’s manager of parks and recreation, said the town launched a new program this year that allows people viewing its flower beds to scan a QR code on a plaque that links them to the town’s website. There’s a PDF they can download and view on their phone that matches the plant they’re interested in with its common name, latin name and photo. “If you wanted to plan that out for your garden at home, you can get those plant names and work with a local horticulturist or garden centre.”

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Send your queries to Karena Walter by email at kwalter@postmedia.com

or through Facebook at www.facebook.com/karenawalter 

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