TRIBUTE to a friend

June 20th, 2015 12:10 pm

First Posted: 4/11/2012

The 10-by-20-foot garden plot sits to the side by the creek, with a variety of flowers pushing through the carefully spread brown mulch. Purple pansies, yellow forsythias and a small tiger lily plant, among others, grow under the sun and in the shade of a small tree.

A brand new bench sits in one corner, and after its wood has aged, carved into it will be the words, "Side by side or far apart, you will remain close to our hearts."

The garden, located at Dalton Streamside Park, was created by Nina Gatto, 18, of Dalton, as her senior project at Lackawanna Trail High School, and is a memorial to her best friend, Delaney Sandercock, who passed away about two years ago in a drowning accident at Lake Winola.

Gatto said her friend loved pretty things, such as flowers, and the bright orange tiger lilies were her favorite. She said she believes the garden will serve as a good memory of her friend, and she hopes other friends and relatives of Sandercock will enjoy it as well.

"I wanted to do something to continue to remember her," she said.

The project is ongoing for more than a year now; Gatto started it about five months after the tragedy. Her first step was to bring the idea to the town council and gain approval for the location of the garden. Then she had to have the plot measured and marked. She also did a lot of research to determine which flowers and plants would grow best in that area, and went to the staff at Greystone Gardens, off Route 6 for advice.

Gatto said once she started the actual planting of the bulbs last fall, the project finally began to seem like a reality, and she could see it all coming together.

At first, she said she tried to do everything by herself, but then realized how much work that involved, and allowed her parents to help out here and there. She said her father dug the holes while she planted the flowers and watered them from the creek.

She put great care into the work, desiring everything to be perfect. She said she was afraid of what winter would do to the garden, but then spring came, returning its beauty.

The garden is now almost complete, and eventually a small memorial plaque will be added, as well as more flowers. Gatto said she plans to continue to maintain it in the future, as it's not simply a garden, but a memory of her friend.

She said she and Sandercock spent many fun days at the park where the garden is located, playing tennis and hanging out.

"It was our park," she said.

Some of her other favorite memories with her friend include making chocolate chip cookies, dressing as twins, tanning in the sun, going out for ice cream, and attending Girl Scout activities together. The garden is her way of keeping these memories alive, while creating something the community can enjoy as well.