There are two designated gardens: The Remembrance Garden, next to St. Thomas Aquinas Church; and the Pastoral Garden, to the rear of the Pastoral Center, 3290 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. However, other plantings around our churches and school contribute to the garden effect at each site, eg. the "Shade" garden at the north-east side of OLR Hall.
The diminutive Remembrance Garden is lovingly and professionally designed to be a haven of relaxed beauty and tranquility in a downtown urban setting. The walkway, the center round, the benches and the meticulous plantings invite one to enter, linger and enjoy moments of reflection, remembrance and prayer. This garden is maintained by the parish custodial help.
The Pastoral Garden, until 1994, was an undeveloped quarter-acre lot located behind the Pastorial Center. At that time, Arlen Hagen, a parishioner and former coordinator of buildings and maintenance for the parish, determined that it should be turned into a garden for the parish. With carte blanche from the pastor, he designed and transformed this site into what is now the Pastoral Garden. There is a wide variety of fruit trees, dozens of rose bushes, hundreds of iris plants, a myriad of other flowering plants, shrubs and vines, many pathways, a gazebo, an arbor, benches, picnic tables and a central gathering oval. However, the unique feature of this garden is the rosary labyrinth with beads made of bowling-balls. The garden is a cutting garden for our churches; it is a fruit producing garden; it is a garden for contemplation; it is a garden for gathering; it is a garden for prayer. This garden was built, planted and cared for at no expense to the parish. Recently, two hours of custodial time each week has been contributed to its care. All other work is done by the designer with occasional volunteer help.
The Rosary Path
|Spring in the Pastoral Garden|
This column has remarked on the cymbidium orchids that are languishing in the Pastoral Garden under the palms and pineapple guava bushes, but now I can't resist writing a few words in praise of this genus and of some of the varieties in my collection. This is the season when they are either sending up shafts of buds or already showing their lovely blossoms of yellow, gold, green, pink, burgundy, etc., etc. Most store-purchased varieties are hybrids, but if you belong to one of the orchid clubs or have a friend who is an orchid aficionado, you can pick up some beautiful species plants. I've collected several species - hookeranum, insigne, lowianum and parishii. The specie lowianum has been the most successful for me, sending up tall efflorescences of medium sized, light green blooms with reddish-orange markings in the 'throat' and growing vigorously in our environment. Of the hybrid varieties, I have my favorites, some of which are: Rodco's Creation 'Butter Glow', an amazingly vigorous plant with gorgeous ,large yellow blooms; Volcano 'Mennehune', intense brown petals and light, red-marked throat; Claudona 'Regal', bronze and beautiful; Hunter's Point 'Sunset', light orange-gold; and Ruby Eyes 'Red Baron', a mini, very deep, velvet burgundy. As there are nearly 60 varieties in my collection, it is hard for me to single out only a few to favor - I love them all! I have multiple pots of many varieties so that the total plants around the house has reached 110 to 120, right now!! And, as the San Francisco Orchid Society's annual Pacific Orchid Exposition is being held February 19 through 22, that total of mine might go up by a few new additions! If you haven't tried this lovely, rewarding genus, you are really missing a good bet!
All roses should have been pruned and dormant sprayed by now. The fruit trees should have had their second dormant spray by now - well before any buds start opening or showing color. There is still time to get a few more bare-root roses, vines, trees or shrubs from the nursery sections of local stores - but get them in the ground as soon as possible! When doing your weeding and planting during this wet season of the year, please trample around on the soil as little as possible - because when you trample, you compact the soil and that is a big 'No-No'. The soil needs to be aerated and loose for the 'good critters' to wiggle around, for the new roots and shoots to easily find their way through, and for the rain water to percolate its way down.
Don't forget to throw some seeds around those bare spots. Cultivate a little, cast the seeds and rake lightly. Then stand back and be delighted with the results. Try poppies (Shirley or California), larkspur, bachelor buttons, cosmos, marigolds, etc. Isn't spring in January/February wonderful ?!
There are several plants available for the taking at the Pastoral Garden - all potted and waiting for good homes. Come visit - say the rosary - enjoy the garden, even in this quiet winter's rest.
The Pastoral Garden has not been abandoned as it may seem to those who occasionally visit the site. It has, however, been sorely neglected for about a month now, since January 9th to be precise. Severe illness of my wife, Mary Lee, has drawn all my attention to her and to her care. I am only recently spending what little extra time and effort left available to me in the Pastoral Garden. Work and needs always wait patiently for someone to return. Sans help or volunteers, they may never get accomplished or finished.
Our spring has burst forth with early blooming azaleas, rhododendrons and lovely apricot, red and white flowering quince (Chaenomeles). Even our Magnolia stellata,(star magnolia) has been blooming since the last days of January - no leaves, just pretty burts of white, floppy petals. Our relatively mild winter has allowed some Shasta daisies, Chrysanthemum maximum, to continue in blossom throughout the winter. The species C. putescens, margurite, has done marvelously this year cheering many gardens with their bright yellow, sunshine faces. And what garden in spring could, or should, be without the tiny nosegays of lavender, creamy-white blossoms of the Daphne odora ? Its perfume in the garden, as well as in the vase, is such a welcomed sensual indulgence.
One of the most useful, trouble-free and rewarding perennials in the garden, which is now showing its dazzling white flower clusters, is Iberis sempervirens, the evergreen candytuft. From now throughout the spring, it displays a mound of white atop the deep green bed of its narrow leaves. It grows no higher that about 12 inches and spreads equally. After blooming, it can be sheared to shape, as well as to encourage new growth. Cuttings can be easily rooted to produce as many plants as required. Once established, it requires little attention and requires only occasional watering throughout the summer. Planted in front of a bed of spring flowering bulbs, the effect is most attractive.
There are some potted dogwood seedlings available, now, at the Pastoral Garden for anyone wanting one. They, and other give-aways, are on the picnic table in the central oval. Come by, say the rosary (as down-payment) and take what you can use.
By the time that this report is seen, the bearded irises will be in full flower - waves of rainbow colors throughout the Pastoral Garden beds. They, the Eupogon irises, are the most commonly grown of the many sections, subsections and subgenerea of the genus Iris. We all seem to have grown up with them - in granny's or auntie's garden. But today the hybridized varieties are a far cry from granny's "blue flags" or from auntie's two-toned yellows. The tens-of-thousands of hybrids now available show - hugh heads; dazzling color combinations and blends; far greater substance and strength; ruffles and crepeing of petals; dots, striping and plicata patterns on falls, standards or both; and beards of startling color contrasts. The palette of the hybridizer seems to expand year after year.
Here on the West Coast (or as my nephew refers to it, the "Left Coast"),we should be much more interested in the iris subsection Apogon, series Californicae, now more widely known as Pacific Coast Natives (PCNs) - a group of species particularly adept at growing in our climate conditions. There are about a dozen PCN species and many more subspecies in this series, plus a myriad of natural, as well as commercial produced, hybrids occurring within the Californicae category. The most widespread of the species is I. douglasiana and many people/gardeners generally refer to all PCN irises by that cognomen - whether correct or not. Most of the Californicae on the market are hybrids and can be gotten via gallon cans at local nurseries. I've collected a half dozen or so and have had good success and much enjoyment growing them. "Big Money" (mid-yellow self), "Canyon Snow" (pure white), "Tunitas" (gold), and "Pajaro Dunes" (violet/bronze) are some of the ones I grow. "Wild Time" - a J. Ghio hybrid of 1986 - has produced a clump three feet in diameter and a mass of maize/gold with maroon signal blossoms each spring. (The cat uses it as her summertime lounge bed - without harm to the plant.)
You can successfully transplant these from gallon cans at any time of the year. If you transplant from a garden clump, wait until late fall or early winter when the root system starts to grow noticeably. Try these lovely and rewarding additions to your garden - they are low growing, non-invasive, trouble free (let nature do the watering, once established), and beautiful in bloom.
Other iris species to try are Siberian (I. sibirica), Spuria (series Spuriae of Apogon) and I. unguicularis ("winter iris"). And for the really adventuresome, try the Hanashobu - the Japanese Irises! They take special care and need constant moisture around their root systems - but the reward is fantastic! You can grow them in large containers in standing water and in bright sunlight. Growing them in the most shallow end of a garden pool or pond is ideal. (See the display they make in San Jose' Kelley Park - Japanese Garden - along Coyote Creek - near Spartan Field.) These blossom displays are awesome - whites, blues, orchids, pinks, variegated...! Do I like irises ? Le fleur-de-lis ? You betcha !!
When penning these Pastoral Garden reports, one often feels that what gets down on paper has already been written in a previous tract. We know that redundancy is a bore, but memory is a tricky thing and to go back reading past reports is too much like CSI. So , if repetition occurs, ignore it or check it off as a characteristic of the aged - of which I am surely one.
The flowering quince, Chaenomedes, is glowing red from the branches throughout the leafless bush. Another harbinger of spring! Cut some and bring the beauty indoors to brighten a colorless spot in your home. Notice, the longer the branches are in the water, how the blossom color fades. An interesting phenomenon! One of the many quince hybrids on the market bears blossoms with a delightful shade of peach/salmon. They are quite lovely, but the plant doesn't seem to be as hardy as the red variety.
A while back, in the cymbidium "give-away", only two readers asked for - and were given - plants from my collection. There are still too many of these fast multiplying beauties in my yard/patio. Thus, there is still a need to share the bounty with any who wish them. If you would like a cymbidium or two, please get your name, address and phone number to me via the Pastoral Center, the clipboard on the garden shed door or when we meet in the garden or elsewhere.
There are still many Echium wildpretii (Tower of Jewels) to be given away, I'll keep digging and potting as long as the results keep disappearing from the gazebo area. The plants seem to be tap-rooting, so "the-younger-the-plant" seems to be the most successful in transplanting. Remember, they grow tall but not very wide. They enjoy a sunny location and not much water.
The forsythia has popped open with its brilliant yellow petals up and down the plant's long narrow stems. These plants can be easily propagated by the layering method of rooting. When one or more of the branches droops to the ground, pin them down and cover with some soil and a small brick/rock. It will root beneath in a relatively short time and can be cut from the parent plant to form a new one. Many of the Olallie (blackberry hybrid) berry vines do this naturally and with regularity in the P.G. If you want some starts of these great tasting berry producing vines, come by the garden when I am there and we'll dig some up for you.
A shrine to "Our Lady of Guadelupe" is planned for the P.G. - the main feature of which will be a family memento from Pat Keiker and a memorial to her parents. Other decorations will be added to the Pastoral Garden as the year goes on. Come by to watch the changes, enjoy the flowers and say the labyrinth rosary.
The first week of May found us spending a day in Yosemite valley and two nights at Bass Lake. The "come-on" to the park was the deluge of water - falling, tumbling, gushing, splashing down the granite cliffs in seeming endless amounts, filling the air with clouds of spray and constant roar. With a melting, excellent snowpack and continuing spring rains, the streams and rivulets throughout the mountains burst their banks rushing to lower ground and to the sea. In the valley, the very wet spring has inhibited the repairs and maintenance on the roads, so, if you go up, expect delays, detours and some closed roads. Just drive very carefully.
For me the bonus for this jaunt was the sensational display of dogwood blossoms throughout the valley! They seemed to be everywhere - peeking out of dense forest stands, standing unafraid along the roadways and showing off all around the Ahwahnee Hotel. If you visit, take special note of the blossoms. All the native dogwoods, here on the west coast of the United States, are Cornus nuttallii - the Pacific or Western dogwood, with blooms that are ringed with large (6 inch diameter) white bracts (not petals). The number bracts vary from 4 to 8, but the most often seen are 6. Whereas the Eastern dogwood, Cornus florida, always displays only 4 bracts.
I noticed that the hotel has experimented with this Eastern species by planting two groups of up to four trees each at the edge of their lawn area. They are not doing well. I planted a nuttallii species in the small garden at the NE end of OLR Hall. It grows well but I've seen no blossoms. Around town, the Cornus kousa is now in full bloom - upright, white blossoms above lush green leaves.
Spring brings seedling - not only of weeds but of self-sowing flowering plants in the Pastoral Garden. I have been potting many of the little dears and now you must come to the garden and take them home with you. Please do come and get them! At the present there are: Dusty Miller (Artemisia stellerana); sea lavender (Limonium perezii, statice); "Tower of Jewels" (Echium wildpretii); Euphorbia characias (green bells); Trachelium caeruleum (throatwort); Echinacea purpurea (purple cone flower); and Buddleja (butterfly bush) -davidii (?). You'll find most of these in the garden area next to the garden shed. Help yourselves!! Say a rosary as payment.
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St. Thomas Aquinas Parish Pastoral Center
3290 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, CA 94306