Wherever a church is situated, there is a good chance that there will be some grounds to be tended. Older churches have graveyards in various stages of maintenance, while newer buildings may have land given over to parking lots, perhaps with some shrubbery, a grassy area, or even a beautiful and innovative Memorial Garden. The grounds of other churches are showcases of horticultural talent, with neatly manicured lawns, clipped bushes, beautiful beds of perennials, and trees of just the right height for shade.
A church may be secluded in a rural landscape or in a busy urban area; many will have congregations verging on retirement, and others have vibrant youth and young families.
In Ladner, All Saints’ is fortunate to have a prime downtown location which is 'on show' 24/7. The grounds comprise a 360 degree canvas of landscaping possibilities with a combination of soils, full sun and part shade in the different areas. The church was rebuilt on the original site in 1985, and the grounds were landscaped by a horticulturist who preferred curved lines and a more 'natural' approach to herbaceous borders. Trees were planted surrounding the church; specimen Magnolias, Dogwoods, Cherry and Pines, and flowering shrubs were strategically placed among the perennial borders. Lawns were maintained by willing parishioners, and the semi annual garden 'clean ups' were happy get togethers with free pizza, donuts and coffee!
Time moves on as do people, and though still willing, none of us are as young or sprightly as we were 30 years ago. Our gardens continue to flourish, but everything is bigger, higher and more dense. It requires patient but constant attention from those who love the joys of seeing new plants thrive and the satisfaction of weeding, dead-heading, staking, pruning and raking mountains of leaves in the fall!
I can put myself in this category, for though our lawns are professionally tended, and we are now blessed with a sprinkler system in most areas, there never seems enough time or good weather days to achieve what is needed. Tending these gardens is like painting the Forth Bridge in Scotland, for it is said that as soon as the whole span is painted, it is time to start again! The nursery rhyme "Round and round the garden" takes on a whole new meaning, but it is a reality which brings many rewards, as well as a stiff back and creaking knees.
I am now concentrating on introducing more perennials, and the construction of a new wheelchair accessible ramp has opened up a new area where a stone bed displays potted plants which can be easily moved and kept to a more manageable size. A beautiful lychgate is flanked by flower boxes and climbing roses while in another area, espaliered apple trees compete for space with rampant poppies, bluebells and a variety of bulbs in spring. Our Memorial Garden is a peaceful and sunny area with a selection of seasonal bulbs, annuals, and small flowering shrubs, some donated by families whose loved ones are interred here.
A garden is a place where one can lose track of time, become absorbed with caring for the earth and plants, enjoy the silence which is punctuated with bird song, and be surprised by the resiliency of new life emerging each spring. It is a place for re-creation and spiritual reflection, restoring the soul and allowing for a different perspective on life itself. The time and effort is well worth it, for as the saying goes, " One is nearer to God in a garden than anywhere else on earth."
I'd like to think that the hours spent in this ministry is just one of the ways in which I can give to God, my church and the wider community, for despite many trials, errors, and some failures too, gardens give us what we all seek, inner peace, and meaningful activity.