Beside the back parking lot at St. Columba St. Catharines there sprawled a vast and underutilized landscape — a somewhat desolate sight for parishioners and visitors getting out of their vehicles to enter through the back door to parish halls, the hallway and the Church proper.
A tree was planted at the back corner of the vast open property by parishioner Garry Spence in memory of his wife, and in conversation with Rector Will Alakas the idea of a Memory Garden was born.
This garden, built on the love and devotion of parishioners and family members, would eventually blossom into a colourful, joyous, vibrant garden. In it the blessings of God could be enjoyed by every church-goer, as well as our neighbouring community.
Meetings and discussions to determine the interest of parishioners were held on various Sundays throughout the late winter and early spring. The response was overwhelmingly supportive and positive.
Mori Gardens in Niagara-on-the-Lake was contacted to obtain professional input into the feasibility of such a garden in our space.
Parishioners suggested the flowers, shrubs and trees that they would like to personally donate to add to the greening of St. Columba while honouring their loved ones.
A professional garden planner drew up plans for a circular garden incorporating the wishes of the congregation, adding complimentary plants for those who wished to donate to the endeavour without a specific request.
A scale drawing was provided to the parish for approval and received with great enthusiasm.
In keeping with St. Columba’s Celtic origins, a landscape designer was commissioned to create a Celtic cross using traditional materials for the centre of the garden. It also included an accessible pathway to allow anyone to approach the garden from the parking lot. Plans include the installation of two benches to provide seating for quiet contemplation.
The circle was measured out and the land prepared. On June 22nd a large group of parishioners gathered to welcome the truck of God’s beautiful botanicals and begin planting. The garden professional, with scale plans in hand, directed the placement of flowers and shrubs. Several trees chosen and donated by parishioners were also added in the garden’s vicinity.
The next Sunday, the Rector blessed the beautiful addition to St. Columba’s outdoor property and a celebratory reception followed.
The parish has continued with green thumbs to keep the garden watered and weeded throughout the hot summer and it is flourishing!
Neighbouring non-parishioners have been eager to utilize this cultivated and lovely new space.
Paulette Alakas is a member of St. Columba St. Catharines.