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Front Yard Garden of the Week: Rock-lined gardens are tribute to woman's son

Cathy Franscisco's garden at 1022 America Ave. N.W. is a tribute to her son, Travis, who died five years ago. Among the many rocks in the garden are special ones that were given to her by friends in memory of Travis. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Cathy Francisco's garden on a corner lot at 1022 America Ave. N.W. is one that was born out of tragedy.

The garden began to take shape five years ago after the death of her son, Travis. At the time she had a couple of beds surrounded by stone, but made a heart shaped bed out of the same stone to honor her son. One thing led to another, and soon she had several heart shaped beds. Working in the garden and planting were very therapeutic for Cathy during that time of sorrow. She said sometimes she feels Travis is there helping her in the garden. Situated in the gardens are several angels and cherubs, again a tribute to her son. Her favorite cherub is one that is also a water feature.

Once the heart-shaped gardens were in place, Cathy said it became difficult to mow around them, so she just made more of her lawn into garden. All of the gardens are surrounded by stone, which Cathy and a friend gathered from the Beltrami County pit. There are a number of rocks that carry the heart shaped theme. Scattered among the rocks are special ones that were given to her by friends in memory of Travis.

The yard is partially shaded by large pines and deciduous trees. Plantings include hostas, columbines, delphinium and day lilies. The delphiniums and columbines have self seeded in some areas. Cathy nurtures those little seedlings and will transplant them as they grow.

Scattered in the gardens are also daylilies. One is particularly special to Cathy because it is a division of one that is planted on Travis' grave.

This year was the first year Cathy tried her hand at starting seeds. She used a grow light and had great success with snapdragons, pansies, hollyhocks and poppies. These plants are nestled in among her perennials.

Flanking the front sidewalk are two large pots of hibiscus which are just bursting into red and orange blooms. Cathy has wintered these plants over by bringing the plants inside during the cold months and keeping them in a sunny window. When asked how she avoids white flies which often plague hibiscus, she said she uses an environmentally friendly product to spray the plants, covers them for a bit and then lets them grow without problems. This year, she said she intends to add her mandivilla and geraniums to the mix. Cathy said she hopes to replace the windows at the front of the house with larger ones to increase the amount of sunlight that her plants will get as they winter over.

Cathy lets nothing go to waste. When she had a dying tree taken down she noticed that it was hollow and inside there appeared to be "unicorn horns" where the branches had emerged. She thought it was too interesting to not use it as another sculpture for her garden. She has rope lights twined through it to add even more interest.

Along the side of the lot, the stone theme continues with charming pockets of plantings located along it. There are corner boxes placed on either side of a stone stairway and pathway which lead to the back door of the house. Cathy did that work herself. The boxes are bursting with campanula.

Cathy said she got her love for gardening from her grandparents. As a child, she used to visit them and enjoyed the "picking and eating" of the garden produce even though she didn't do much planting at that time. But now as an adult, gardening has become her refuge and her peace.