Monday, October 27, 2014


The Rev. Dana Prom Smith, S.T.D., Ph.D. (10/20/2014)

          Sitting with Pam Neises on her front porch, we weren’t only looking at her front yard, we were also enveloped in its beauty.  We weren’t observing.  We were experiencing.  When I returned home, I realized that the garden reminded me of Van Gogh’s “Ladies of Arles.”  There was a low gracefully curved wall running along the left side of the yard, and above the wall a bounty of colorful flowers and grasses, filled with Van Gogh’s “no blue without yellow and without orange.”


The curves of the wall and the textures of the plants and bricks all drew one into the experience of the garden.  Neises may have had such an experience in mind when she designed her front yard, factoring in spaces, colors, heights, and textures.  As she said, “It was all in my head” before she began sculpting it.  It is a work of art, as it should be, because Pam is by profession an interior designer and by avocation a landscape designer.  In college she majored in interior design with a minor in art history.


          But more than that, she’s a “hands on” gardener, inheriting from her mother a love of gardening.  As well as having the “eye” of an artist, she gardens with her back and hands.  She and her son, Chase, did all of the heavy lifting, and the soil has flowed through her fingers.  As with experienced gardeners, she understands the value of perennials.


But more than a work of art, her garden is a therapeutic experience.  She said, “The garden is my de-stresser,” as it often is for gardeners, and what better way to make a garden a de-stresser than to make it an experience in which one is drawn by the colors, shapes, and textures.  We release our stresses when we are drawn out of ourselves, such as petting a dog, enveloping our selves in music, experiencing a garden.  She has created such an experience with her garden.


          The eye is drawn along that long, curving wall holding back its masses of grasses and flowers, its greens, blues, yellows, and oranges, to a stand of trees, pines, maples and aspens, shielding the garden from the world, creating a haven of peace.  Secluded with a steep bank on the left, maples and pines in the front, a fence on the right, her front lawn is spread out as though it were a meadow, a meadow of thyme and grass.  Her front yard is an experience akin to being cradled in God’s arms.   


As with most of us, she has divided her garden in two parts, the front yard and the back.  Her back yard is for her dogs, two Australian shepherds, and her front yard is for her.  She has designed the back yard for the dogs, a safe place for them to play, sleep, and eat, and a place, as well, for her to take care of them and pick up after them. 

From her front porch as well as her kitchen window, her front yard is for her an experience in which she can touch base with herself and renew herself.   When she returns home from work and looks out the kitchen window, she is drawn into the private world of her garden, something akin to Claude Monet’s water lilies.


A garden has many purposes but paramount amongst them is tranquility.  It is difficult to imagine a calling more stressing in itself than that of an interior designer with all of the competing calls of the designer’s knowledge and sense of good taste and the customer’s desires.  It is a job that would require immense emotional stamina and a place where the designer could find herself again.


Her garden’s not only a spring through autumn garden, it’s also December garden.  She decorates her front yard much as most people decorate their living rooms at Christmas with large colorful balls hanging from those maples, pines, and aspens.  Ironically, she transforms her private haven into a community celebration.


Driving past her front yard any time of the year is slightly hazardous.  The impulse is to take one’s eyes off the road.   

Copyright © Dana Prom Smith

Dana Prom Smith and Freddi Steele edit Gardening Etcetera for the Arizona Daily Sun.  Smith emails at and blogs at





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