By Fr. Ron Meyer, OMI
What began six years ago as a small circle of herbs, flowers and tomato plants has grown into a large garden of beds, pots and raised plots. The 2015 edition of the Immaculata Retreat House “Garden of Hope” contains
veggies (cucumbers, squash, peas, beans, peppers and 6 types of tomatos);
flowers (Impatiens, Calibrocha, Marigolds, Hollyhocks, Morning Glories, butterfly weed, Pansies, Snapdragons, Moss Rosies, Zinnia);
herbs (Chives, Winter Savory, Italian & Sweet Basil, Franch Tarragon, White & Garden Sage, Wintergreen & Pineapple Mint, Rosemary, Cilantro, Oregano, Parsley);
ground covers: Irish and Scottish Moss, several varieties of Hen & chicks, five kinds of Sedium;
bushes & trees (Butterfly, scented Geranium, Japanese Maple, Purple Fig, Swamp and Pussy Willows), etc. .
I have bought plants and seeds through catalogues, on line and from local nurseries. Some have been given to me as gift seeds, cuttings or seedlings. New last year: a composter. Freebies have popped up in the composter: lots of melons! New this year: a greenhouse next to the garden shed.
The entire garden is surrounded by a berm of wild flowers, grasses, potted plants … all protected by a virtually invisible “deer net fence” and a series (of yet to be filled) hanging pots. Among the plants stand statues of my favorite saints: St. Jude, St. Francis, St. Thérèse and St. Isadore, many charms from my mother’s old Florida garden and countless solar-powered lamps! As of the middle of May, four hummingbird feeders are full and up for customers.
Trying to keep this collection watered, weeded, alive and healthy is a real challenge. Some plants need regular attention … some prefer to be left alone most of the time. Touch some and they rust and wilt. Fail to touch others and they seem starved for attention. Some want lots of moisture – others get by on next to nothing.
There is one more thing about this garden of hope: over 20 people have helped me transform what was a winter mess (see photo of snow mountains) into an oasis of springtime bliss. Together we emptied out old soil, discarded broken pots, filled and repositioned new pots. We tore down the old crumpled greenhouse tent, replacing it with a new aluminum and plastic-paneled construction. Bent poles were straightened. The entire deer fence was replaced. A once chaotic shed has been reorganized, unusable garden clutter recycled and a new (to me) display riser set up. Without the help of these friends of the Garden, I would never have found enough time or energy to realize my dreams. After all, gardening is only a hobby … my vocation as an Oblate of Mary Immaculate is to preach, teach and guide folks in the ways of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. With this in mind, I ask the following:
Why “Garden of Hope”? While gardening, I am reminded of our “gardening” God for whom you and I are like beloved plants. How fortunate we are that God knows best how to tend to our needs: to prune and fertilize us, to cultivate and weed us, to water and encourage us grow in the “Sonshine” of Jesus. We earthly gardeners are to imitate the Creator. We are each called to tend the garden that we’ve been given: to care for ourselves and the people with whom we associate every day. Yes, like good branches, we must stay attached to the vine: Jesus Christ. Not only do we learn the needs of others by paying attention to them, but we learn through patience, trial and error, and God’s merciful forgiveness to see what works best, what needs to be adjusted, what must be trimmed in ourselves … and how important manure really is! (Maybe that’s why there’s so much of it in our daily lives!) Most often: Jesus teaches us by his example to serve others. As we imitate him and learn to help others, we end up receiving the very help we need.
All are called to grow … not only in height and physical health, but in happiness and holiness. All of this is made possible by cooperating with the grace of humility offered us if we but ask for and accept the help that comes from God. Good weather comes and goes. Storms will strike with fury. Drought alternates with deluge. Through it all, God helps us endure and survive, develop and thrive. The One from whom comes all goodness and life (and to whom all goodness and life must return) desires that we grow fragrant leaves, develop beautiful blossoms, bear good fruit, produce healthy veggies … from which can be crafted really delicious dishes, delectable entrees, and divine desserts … talk about feeding the poor and preparing the heavenly banquet!
After a really difficult winter, each and every sign of growth is a sign of life in this Garden of Hope … thanks be to God!