Posted by: christinelaennec | April 19, 2012

Springtime in the church garden

Some readers may remember that I’ve written about tending the church garden.  It’s been one of my greatest pleasures, and also a big responsibility.  For the last year especially, I’ve struggled to keep the garden as I would like it, because my family has needed so much more of my time.

South Holburn Parish Church garden, 14 April 2012. The wallflowers have had a battering this winter and the tulips haven't returned quite as vigorously as I'd hoped...

However, God does work in mysterious ways.  About a year ago, our church was fortunate enough to be able to begin building an extension.  An entire section of the garden was sacrificed to the building, and other large areas have been made out-of-bounds by construction paraphenalia:

Garden furniture and a well-worn path across the lawn.

The long border behind these trailers has been so full of pipes and building detritus that I haven’t even bothered to look at it.  But in fact these obstacles, as well as being necessary for the positive step of building the church extension, have also afforded me a bit of a get-out clause.

Storm clouds coming in over the church garden / construction site. It began snowing just then. April 14, 2012, Aberdeen.

In the fall I appealed for some more helpers in the garden, and a few people have come forward, to my great relief.  Our congregation is rather elderly and so there aren’t loads of people who are able to garden, but everyone does seem to really appreciate the garden.  Well-meaning friends have told me, “Give up working in the church garden,” but as I wrote here, gardening at the church is a great solace to me.  And goodness knows that with all we are contending with just now, I need to keep my feet on the ground and have regular therapeutic weeding sessions!  (Also, if I didn’t do the church garden just now, the garden beds would probably have to be filled with ‘low-maintenance shrubs’ and that would break my heart.)

After a balmy month of March, April has been very cold.  I’ve several times seen snow on the ground the first week of April in Aberdeen, but I don’t think I’ve seen it in mid-April before (though I once experienced snowflakes falling on me in May).  This is what we woke up to on Sunday morning:

View from our window, morning of Sunday April 15th, 2012. Aberdeen.

The sun soon melted the snow.  Spring is definitely here now, and there’s excitement in the air.



  1. What a responsibility was my first thought. Followed by admiration. Wow. That is some garden, even if it is covered by builders stuff. Surely in a City there are people desperate to get their hands into Gods Good Earth? What about herbs and smelly things like Lavender? Tough old birds. Like me.

  2. Your gardening efforts must be well appreciated by all who have the pleasure of coming and going to your lovely church. It is such a responsibility, but I can understand the feeling of wanting to forget your troubles for a brief time and enjoy playing in the dirt. It is fortunate that you get a reprieve with all of the construction going on and that allows you to continue without becoming too overhwhelmed. I love the yellow tulips! A symbol of happiness and cheer.

    We are having a very cool Spring this year, too, although the snow has ceased for now. (We usually get lots of hail, though)

    Your garden is beautiful! It must give you such satisfaction to see it all in bloom. xx

  3. Let’s hope Spring maintains its momentum!

  4. Christine, I can understand your commitment to and enjoyment of working in your church garden; it’s a wonderful act of service, creative expression, and personal fulfillment. In my garden, I prefer perennials with a sprinkling of annuals: I love flowers but not the constant gardening work! Herbs are a must, as well. Where I live, tulips are treated as an annual — the winters aren’t cold enough long enough to suit tulip bulbs. Some people dig up their tulip bulbs and over-winter them in the fridge!

  5. Thanks for your comments, everyone – I always enjoy receiving them!

    Jill, you crack me up. But you’re absolutely right about the value of lavender and herbs. I’ll keep them in mind! And yes, I think there probably are people around who perhaps don’t have a garden and would like to garden. Perhaps at some point I can explore this possibility – when I have more time.

    Karen, I’m glad you know what I mean about the therapeutic value of gardening. And yes, the yellow tulips are a wonderful symbol of new life and hope.

    Martin, up here in the North-East of Scotland spring is unstoppable but can sometimes have an edge to it!

    Ellen, thanks for your understanding words. I agree with you about the value of perennials. The long bed that’s behind the builders’ trailers at the moment is a perennial bed that I planted up about three years ago as I couldn’t manage to keep it as a bedding plot. For thirty years the church gardener was a man who’d worked as a professional gardener all his life, and he did masses of bedding. (He also used tulips as an annual, as you do!) I don’t have the stamina, so I’ve reduced the amount of bedding considerably. But people really do love the bedding plots and as it isn’t my personal garden, I garden differently at the church than I would otherwise. Also, the former gardener still grows all our bedding plants, hundreds of plants a year – so that is a beautiful gift. We’ll see what the future brings – perhaps in 10 years I will have insidiously converted it all to perennials! 🙂

  6. Glad that you’re making a stand against low-maintenance shrubs! I think of you and your church garden every time I pass a certain church garden here in Edinburgh. I’ll post a photo of it at some point. Perhaps you and their garden person can connect. (Never thought I’d be doing networking for church gardeners!)

  7. I’m reading a book at the moment (Gaining Ground by Joan Barfoot) in which a woman’s life is very much focused on her garden and the therapy that gardening work provides. (Being set in Canada, it also connects her to the seasonal rhythms in a special way.) My partner finds similar therapeutic value. I can therefore understand why you don’t want to give up this garden, despite the difficulties. In your case, the added bonus must be the beauty that so many other people appreciate, even if they don’t all express it to you, and even if – for a whole lot of different reasons – that feel they can’t help. I’d probably be one of those people…on their behalf I strongly encourage you to continue the good fight against the invasion of the low maintenance garden!

    • Dear oldblack,

      Lovely to hear from you! It sounds like I need to read that book, thanks for the recommendation. And thank you for the encouragement to keep going with high-maintenance gardening! 🙂 In fact, the church garden is an almost shameful ego boost, because I get nonstop praise from loads of people. So I know it’s appreciated.

    • AND I might add….Christine, I know from my own situation that you are surely loved and valued far far more than is ever expressed by those who encounter you!

      • Oh, thank you! That’s a nice thought – for all of us in fact, and you in particular as I know you are a very caring and giving person. (Now let me see if I can fit through the door, with my inflated head!)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: