CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Church gardens are many things to many people. Peaceful, colorful, spiritual, practical, nurturing -- they fill many needs.
I took a stroll around downtown Charleston and I first encountered the flower-, sculpture- and fountain-filled space at the Basilica of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart.
Across Virginia Street, the dogwoods were in bloom at First Presbyterian, and preschoolers took a break from the playground to sit on benches under the white-blossoming trees.
A bit farther on my walk, and I saw the pink roses and purple perennial veronica at Charleston Baptist Temple on Quarrier Street, just across from the unusual and beautiful greenery at Christ Church United Methodist. Walking back to the office, I passed the neatly manicured and lush gardens and columbarium at St. John's Episcopal, and I realized there's a lot of work going into church gardens throughout our valley.
For example, Pat and Fritz Maine have created a heavenly rose garden at Ruffner Memorial Presbyterian Church, at Greenbrier and Quarrier streets.
"I think they grow on holy ground," Pat said with a laugh as she described the nearly care-free rosebushes.
"We're up to 19 now. We started with four. And all I do is deadhead them, cut them back in the fall and put mulch around them," she explained. I always thought tea roses were a lot of work, but Pat's response to that statement?
Pat's husband and fellow gardener, Fritz, is fond of red, so those first four were a variety of red, but they have expanded to other colors.
"They are all tea roses, and we bought all but one from Sam's," Pat said. "I got the other for a dollar at Lowe's -- that one is lavender and it's hardy and beautiful."
"We cut some every Sunday for church, and we send some to shut-ins. I have a digital camera and I make note cards with the photos of the roses," Pat said. "They really are a joy!"