Backyard junkies

Pam Frampton
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Our backyard oasis, August 2010. The Telegram welcomes photos of your garden from this current season; email — Photo by Glenn Payette

“All through the long winter, I dream of my garden.

On the first day of spring, I dig my fingers deep into the soft earth.

I can feel its energy, and my spirits soar.”

— Helen Hayes, American actress (1900-1993)

My husband and I are addicts.  But don’t bother suggesting rehab. We won’t listen.

We’ve had a $50-a-week black earth habit at times, and we’ve got a serious penchant for perennials.

Every day, we pray for sun, and on the rare occasion when our prayers are answered, we arm ourselves to the teeth with tools, pull on musty pairs of rubber-palmed gloves and head out into the garden.

We can direct you to every plant nursery within a 30-mile radius and tell you who has the best deal on black earth, topsoil and mulch.

We scan the forecast for frost warnings and drought advisories.

We are constantly on the lookout for flat rocks for our walkway, and lawn art. We dream of greenhouses and water features, pedestals and gazing balls.

We have enough terra cotta pots to put a Tuscan village to shame.

Two years ago, we had no garden, only a wide and deep expanse of backyard — a few trees, plenty of weeds, an off-kilter shed and mountains of detritus from our home renovation.

People often liken their gardens to blank canvases, but ours was far from blank; it was covered in rocks and old siding and windows.

Our neighbours, in comparison, had a beautifully manicured and carefully tended yard with grass so perfect it made you want to reach for your putter.

Our front yard was a tattered mat of dandelions and clover with a dead patch where the dumpster had been.

We started off small in the front — a hydrangea here, a peony there. A burning bush, a couple of clematis.

We soon graduated to trees, eventually planting eight around the perimeter of the front yard. I grew accustomed to having mud under my fingernails, callouses on my hands and grass stains on my sneakers and my knees. My husband, who once had a summer job digging graves, is a master of the spade. The holes he digs look like he uses a protractor.

We are hooked.

Our passion for planting is insatiable. He is wild about lilies, and I am determined to grow roses. I have plucked them free of aphids, bled from their thorns and fiercely defended them from dastardly ground elder and creeping buttercup.

Gardening — pardon the pun — grows on you, and it’s infinitely rewarding, whether you’ve got a rolling acreage or a couple of potted plants on your windowsill.

It’s a thrill to take a neglected patch of ground and turn it into something beautiful; to see something growing where nothing was before.

It’s the ultimate expression of optimism — digging a hole for a tender young plant, making sure it doesn’t die of thirst, saving it from being strangled by weeds or chewed to death by slugs, encouraging it to grow and bloom only to watch it wither and fade in the fall.

Then you anticipate spring so you can do the same thing all over again. When mature plants awaken, it’s like having friends who have returned from a long voyage.

My videojournalist husband covers court, which can be discouraging and disturbing. Often, the same story unfolds, over and over. The toxic union of misery and poverty: troubled childhood, drug abuse, addled young adulthood, desperation, property damage, robbery, violence.

That’s why he finds it so rewarding to help something grow and thrive and blossom; to take one small corner of the earth and leave it better than you found it. To nurture rather than destroy.

This province — at least this part of it — can be a tough place to be a gardener. For every day that’s a pleasure to plant and weed, there are six more marred by rain and biting cold and roaring wind.

And yet we persist. Perhaps part of it is power struggle; we are tempted to try to tame nature and bend it to our whim. But gardens are much more than that. They are seeded with hope, tended with love, enjoyed for the sheer pleasure of watching things grow and bloom and reach fruition.

It is about carving out time to breathe fresh air and flowers’ perfume, to listen and watch as yellow finches flit through your trees, to see a glistening worm inch through earth you have helped enrich and to gather fresh herbs you grew yourself.

It’s about enjoying our little piece of Eden for as long as we are able to linger there together.

Pam Frampton is The Telegram’s story editor. She can be reached by email at

Twitter: pam_frampton

Geographic location: Tuscan

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Recent comments

  • Bob
    June 18, 2011 - 12:51

    Pam, Some of us are just plain unable to do the manual labour required to keep our places clean and beautiful. It doesn't mean we've lost the appreciation of natures beauty. Far from it. We pay Weedman a fair amount of our dwindling pensions to maintain our property in an eye appealing state. For the few months of so-called summer we love the color green, as in lawn. Not to diminish by any means the magical beauty of a flower. But thanks to reckless developement by the O'Keefe's, Wiseman's, and French's, and the greedy administrations of St. John's, Paradise and CBS, there's hardly a drop of water to nurture our efforts. Bloomin' pity, pardon the pun.

    • Elisabeth
      June 20, 2011 - 08:59

      Pam,love your articles,I especially enjoyed your 'Garden" pics.I'm starting a new one at my summer home in Cupids,right now it;s one large rocky piece of land ,I have no idea where to start,.very overwhelming.did you guys just begin with a fence and work around that ?I would really like to see more of your garden for some ideas,any pictures would be a help,I love that spot you have your bistro set in,a nice peaceful place to have a coffee and read the paper on a quiet sunday morning,the trellis is a nice touch.well done.