TOWER- Heads are turning in Tower– especially by anyone walking or driving on North Second Street.The double corner lot at Pine and North Second is a kaleidoscope of colors: purples, oranges, …
TOWER- Heads are turning in Tower– especially by anyone walking or driving on North Second Street.
The double corner lot at Pine and North Second is a kaleidoscope of colors: purples, oranges, yellows, reds, and whites. Flower beds line three sides of the lot, including along the gravel alley, as well as the pathways into the house and along the driveway. Flower beds and flowering bushes line the outside edges of the house, as well as the well-weathered hand-hewn log storage shed. The neatly-kept lawn includes apple trees, many more small plantings and a screened-in gazebo complete with a small dining table decorated with beautiful arrangements of flowers fresh-cut from the yard. This is a favorite spot for Pong Robinson to enjoy her time outdoors, no matter what the weather.
And with all those flowers, Pong spends a lot of time outdoors. Creating such gardens have always been her dream, and now that she is retired, it has basically become a full-time and much-loved job.
Pong bought her house in the fall of 2017. She retired from her job at the Veterans Administration (VA) hospital in the Twin Cities in February 2018 and moved up to Tower.
Pong’s sister married a man who lives on the Vermilion Reservation, and the two sisters have always tried to live near each other.
“She is my only family,” Pong said.
When Pong was getting ready to retire, her sister started looking for a suitable house. The main requirement, of course, was that the house had a big enough yard to support a large expanse of flowers. This house was a little bigger than Pong and her two cats required, but the yard was exactly what she wanted, so based on photos taken by her sister, she bought it.
“This is the perfect size yard for me,” she said.
The house still bears the nameplate of the Burgess family, and the Burgess family members I spoke with were pleased to see the family house so well cared for and are amazed at the transformation of the yard into a flower paradise.
The most amazing thing about Pong’s garden is that this is only the second summer she has been in Tower. The first year she hired Charlie Winger to remove a few trees and help prepare some of the flower beds. Last year she planted plenty of flowers. This year, the yard really showed off the expertise of this gardener.
Almost all the flowers in the beds were planted from seed, purchased not from any fancy mail-order shop, but from a local big box store in Virginia.
“They have a good variety and good prices,” she said.
There were flowering hydrangea bushes in front of the house, which she has divided and added to the roadside beds. She has also gotten cuttings from her sister’s house.
Pong’s neighbors say they see her outside most of the day when weather permits. She admits she spends a lot of time both weeding and watering. A riding lawnmower lets her keep her lawn in tip-top shape, but she does everything else by hand, and by herself.
The pathways from the street to her front door are lined with football-sized rocks, a new addition to her yard this summer. She found the rocks by a nearby road construction site and hauled them all back to her yard with many trips in her small car, by herself of course.
Pong’s gardening skills are all homegrown, learning by trial and error. She had large gardens at her previous homes, first in Buffalo, N.Y., and then the Twin Cities, where she worked for 14 years before retiring.
She enjoys the perks of life in Tower.
“This is a really nice small town,” she said. “I am a very private person. But I have some really nice neighbors.”
Though she mostly likes to keep to herself, Pong said she is happy that so many people will stop and look at her flowers.
“I hope the flowers last a long time,” she said, “and that the weather cooperates.”
The garden, the first week in August, was absolutely at peak bloom, except for the tallest sunflowers evenly spaced along the roadside, which were not quite ready to blossom.
“My retirement hobby was going to be to plant a bunch of flowers and be surrounded by them,” Pong said.
Out back, parallel to the alley, is a large vegetable garden that grows all the usual favorites, along with some vegetables more common to Korea, the country where Pong was born and lived until she was 21, when she emigrated to America. Pong said she mostly sticks close to home, and doesn’t eat out, so she is cooking for herself most days.
“I grow, harvest, and then make,” she said. “That is fun. I love to watch things growing.”
In the winter, when there is no gardening to do, she luckily has another hobby that is more suitable for indoors – oil painting.
“I like to paint still lifes and scenery,” she said.
And her neighbors report that Pong is just as talented at painting as she is at gardening.