SUMMERSIDE — The small lot with its ocean view in the heart of the city is Carol Thompson’s retirement, her joy.
And, quickly quipped the 60-year-old, as a comment is made about the size of 451 Water Street — Carol’s Corner as she calls it — the picturesque 60-by-100-foot plot of red earth isn’t so small by her standards.
Coming to Summerside from the country’s largest metropolis, the yard is mammoth. Thompson’s piece of heaven right here on earth.
“To me, this is huge. This is paradise, absolutely paradise.”
Gardening is in her blood. Her mother spent countless hours tending to her plants in Hamilton, Ont., something, as a youngster, Thompson admired.
So, it was no surprise when she moved to Toronto, where space is at a premium, Thompson quickly converted her 20-by-95-foot lot into her own oasis.
“I had a lovely little garden,” she recalled, the sun beating down as she stands in the centre of her Island plot. “When I came here I said I have all this land and everyone would look at me like ‘what are you talking about? There’s no land here’.”
In June 2010, Thompson moved into the home at 451 Water St. and began what she says is a five-year plan to get the grounds in tip-top shape.
Countless hours since have been spent in the garden — most often from the crack of dawn until last light —digging up, by hand, unique red earth and planting.
“This was all grass and gravel, the entire thing,” said Thompson as she gives a personal tour of her grounds.
“Nothing prevents me from getting out in the garden. Nothing.”
Early on, days were spent widening the driveway, laying reclaimed chimney stone along what were at first rough flowerbeds, and moving sod.
“Gradually, I dig a bed and only as much as I can maintain,” said Thompson. “Last year, I finally got this bed (pointing out a larger flowerbed) totally dug out but I just threw annual seeds just to cover the land so I don’t lose my soil.”
She tries to work in sections, starting with the front of the home, which fronts on the city’s busiest street, moving her way to the side and back.
It’s all still a work in progress, admitted the amateur gardener.
Wind is her biggest enemy, coming from all directions, often damaging plants and not giving others the chance to thrive.
“I can plant three plants maybe three feet apart from each other and one of them might make it.”
But, added Thompson, it’s all a part of gardening — trial and error.
“These are the things that I am learning, but I love it.”
Getting her hands dirty is something of great joy to Thompson.
“I have the worst singing voice in the world and I can come out here and I am on my knees and I am digging and singing away. I’m Madonna,” she said with a laugh. “I will be digging and it reminds me of something and I will sing that. But I don’t listen to music out here. I love the quiet.”
It’s now year four of Thompson’s five-year garden plan and this year she is featured as part of the Summerside and Area Garden Club’s annual Garden Tour.
On Sunday her garden and a handful of others in the city will be open to visitors.
“My thought was I will go on the garden tour as long as it is qualified that I am a work in progress,” added Thompson. “The bones are getting there but it is not what I would say is a garden.”
Those who walk past or stop in to visit would beg to differ.
Almost every inch is manicured with pops of colour here and there.
It’s fellow garden club member, Vincent McRae, Thompson’s “garden guru,” who tries to sneak in pops of vibrant orange and red hues. Those colours are relegated to the back of her lot, not as visible to the naked eye.
Her efforts, so far, haven’t gone unnoticed. Thompson picked up a Communities In Bloom Residential Property Beautification Award in 2012.
There are plans to incorporate more height into her garden, something that would provide privacy in the heart of the city and a screen from the sometimes wicked winds.
Next year — the final year of her plan — will see Thompson focusing on a vegetable garden, installing a pergola and incorporating a flagstone-type walkway.
“You know, a gardener’s famous phrase — next year,” she added with a laugh.
The Summerside and Area Garden Club Garden Tour takes place, rain or shine, each Sunday in July.
— Elmer Williams, 105 Cass Ave., Summerside
— Carol Thompson, 451 Water St. W., Summerside
— Trevor Yeo, 6 Waverly Court, Summerside
— Lise Genova and Don Duffenais, 155 Blue Shank Rd., Summerside
— Elma Sonier, 83 MacDonald Cres., Summerside
— Vince McRae and Cathy Guitare, 338 Maple St., Summerside
— Geri Jacques, 38 Rebecca Dr., Summerside
— George and Estelle Dalton, 288 Notre Dame St., Summerside
— Ernie and Sharon MacAusland, 113 Milton Ave., Summerside
— Carlo and Hiltrud Hengst, 632 Murphy St., Summerside
— Jeff and Michelle Hirtle, CA #2691 Route 11, Miscouche
— Bottle House, CA #6891 Route 11, Cape Egmont
— George and Louise Comea, CA #7568 Route 11, Cape Egmont
— Don and Barb Mose, 155 Kelvin Rd., Kensington
— Marie Kuzel, 204 Kelvin Rd., Kensington
— Janie Gaudet, 112 Victoria St. W., Kensington
— Marc and Krista Schurman, Atlantic Grown Organics, CA #721, Route 104, Spring Valley
— Donna Sutton, CA #11112 Route 6, Clinton
A few facts
— Tours go Sundays, 1 to 4 p.m.
— No pets allowed; children are welcome
— Do not pick flowers, seeds or weeds
— Bring bug spray and umbrella
— Admission is free
— Summerside and Area Garden Club meets the third Thursday of each month, 7 to 9 p.m., at the Wilmot Community Centre. The club doesn’t meet in July and August.
— Currently, there are 72 members.
— The club also cares for the gardens at the Prince County Hospital.
— For more information, contact Sandy at 436-6545 or Vincent at 436-1358 .