Good Medicine

Pam Overly is convinced that gardening played a role in helping her overcome two serious health challenges. She also credits gardening for helping her to create a close bond with several neighbors. “It’s good for the body, mind and soul,” she says of her love of gardening. 

The view from the Overlys’ deck takes in the backyard gardens, adjacent farmland, New Holland and beyond. Pam and Neal purchased the property 30 years ago this month. Once nearly enshrouded with trees, they worked with an arborist to open the view and create a garden-friendly backyard.

Pam and her husband, Neal, purchased their hillside property east of New Holland 30 years ago this month. “It was all trees,” she says of the one-acre lot. To their disappointment, the towering trees blocked the gorgeous view from the house that, on a clear day, extends to Ephrata and beyond. To Pam’s dismay, she discovered the tree-shrouded lot was not conducive to gardening, either. They bided their time and remedied the situation three years later by having an arborist take down a selection of trees. Now that they had access to a view of the countryside, their next project entailed building an expansive deck on the rear of the house.  

A clean canvas now allowed Pam to create gardens on the property. She credits genetics for her green thumb. “All while I was growing up, I remember my grandparents having flowers,” she recalls. Their love of gardening filtered to the next generation and now obviously influences Pam. “It’s just a hobby I enjoy,” she explains. “I like to see things grow.” She’s also passing on her love of gardening to another generation, as she has taken her nephew, Jordan Bush (who authors the column, Foodographer), under her wing and shares her knowledge and plants with him. Jordan, in turn, is tutoring her on the joys of growing fig trees. 

Pam loves glass and the color blue and came up with a way to add both to the garden with wine bottles.

A love of gardening (and decorating) also influenced Pam’s career path – she was a 20-year veteran of the former Flower & Craft Warehouse in Blue Ball. She now works at Shady Maple Smorgasbord. 

Neal is also a gardener. He lays the foundation for Pam’s creative pursuits by helping her with the mulching and mowing. “We’ve put down lots of mulch, leaves and pine needles over the years,” she says of creating an optimal growing environment for the flowers and other plantings. They bounce ideas off each other and join forces to carry them out. Together they also create holiday planters for the entrance of Tyson Foods, where Neal is the groundskeeper. They also grow peppers, which Neal shares with the Hispanic employees at Tyson to use in their cooking. 

Bubblegum petunias are a summertime favorite of Pam’s. Here, they are displayed in an old wheelbarrow.

Over the past nearly three decades, Pam has created an ever-evolving seasonal palette that begins to bloom in the spring with daffodils, Virginia bluebells, tulips, primrose and bellflowers. But it’s in mid-summer, when the garden is at its prime thanks to daylilies, foxglove, hosta, hydrangea, ferns, yucca, coneflowers and annuals such as petunias. “Coneflowers and Bubblegum petunias are my favorites,” she shares. As fall approaches, sedum, mums, asters and other late bloomers add rich color to the landscape. A new endeavor is to incorporate the color blue into the garden with plants and garden art. “I love to see blue in my garden,” she says. 

Like many avid gardeners, Pam took advantage of the downtime that came courtesy of the pandemic. “I was off work for a year,” she says. “I got to really be out in the garden,” she says of those projects she finally had time to tackle.   

A sign pays homage to Pam’s tutor, gardening friend and neighbor, Fran Komancheck.

In addition to her family, Pam credits a neighbor, Fran Komancheck, for broadening her gardening horizons. “She’s shared so many plants and ideas with me over the years,” Pam notes. “Sharing is part of the fun of gardening.” Another neighbor, Nancy, is an avid gardener who shares her expertise and plants with Pam. The two have diverse gardens, as Fran’s sun-splashed environs bloom with larkspur, daylilies and other flowering plants. Nancy’s woodland garden features shade-loving plants. “We like to get together and make things like cement garden art,” Pam adds of the camaraderie gardening has created in the neighborhood. 

Of course, part of the fun of gardening is the hunt. Finding that rare, old-fashioned plant, the newest hybrid or an elusive houseplant is always a thrill. Pam says she is fortunate to live in an area of the county that is known for its small, family-owned greenhouses. “I just love to go to the greenhouses,” she says. “You just never know what you’ll find.” 

Pam loves hydrangeas and grows several varieties in her gardens. This hydrangea was transplanted from her father’s garden.

As for the decorative elements that define her gardens, they range from family mementos and farming implements to yard sale finds. Pam also loves glass, which is represented in the garden by a bottle tree, blue wine bottles inverted atop rebar, as well as her own creations.

Wildlife also figures into the gardenscape. Birds abound thanks to the open fields, the forests of the Welsh Mountains and the protection the remaining trees in the yard offer. “We even see eagles and red-tailed hawks,” Pam notes. It’s also not uncommon to catch glimpses of foxes and other critters along the treeline. The farm fields are a favorite gathering place for deer. “They will munch on my plants,” she says. 

Touches of blue come courtesy of glass garden art, a bowling ball and hydrangea.

When winter sets in, Pam becomes an indoor gardener. Houseplants fill her living room. Again, some of them, like a decades-old snake plant, are family heirlooms, while others are new finds. “I move a lot of them outside over the summer,” she notes. Her bay window, which receives the perfect amount of light, is used as an incubator for growing plants from seed. The sunny window makes her long for warmer weather. “I can’t wait to get back outside,” Pam says on a March day that held the promise of spring. 

Neal (left) and Pam Overly, with their nephew, Jordan Bush. Pam shares gardening advice and plants with Jordan, while he shares his enthusiasm for growing fig trees with her.

3 of Pam’s Favorite Greenhouses 

Black Creek Greenhouses,
211 E. Black Creek Rd., East Earl 

Hoover’s Greenhouse,
236 S. Farmersville Rd., Leola 

Leid’s Greenhouse,
159 Meadowcreek Rd., New Holland 

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