Spring, Gardening, and Dostoevsky

by Thomas More College on March 29, 2012

With the season of spring upon us, the students of the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts have taken on a new and promising project led by artist-in-residence, David Clayton. They are now in the process of designing and planting a traditional English garden in the nineteenth century Arts and Crafts style.

Already several weekends have been devoted to the project. Students have volunteered their time, Chef Pat has contributed homemade lunches, and the mornings and afternoons have been spent happily and productively in the garden.

“Gardening,” said David Clayton, “is a wonderful activity for any community. The students really bond together. One moment they are discussing Dostoevsky’s novels and other great works and the next moment they all burst into some old Irish song they’re learning in their music guild.”

The inspiration for the College’s gardening project is Gertrude Jekyll, a British woman who lived from 1843-1932 and designed many still famous gardens in the Arts and Crafts style.

Entering the world of art as a young girl, Jekyll became a true expert not only when it came to designing and planting spectacular gardens, but also in articulating their significance and meaning. A deeply Christian woman, Jekyll was of the opinion that,

A garden is a great teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust. ‘Paul planteth and Apollos watereth, but God giveth the increase’ (Cor. 3:6). The good gardener knows with absolute certainty that if he does his part, if he gives the labor, the love and every aid that his knowledge of his craft, experience of the condition of his place, and exercise of his personal wit can work together to suggest, that so surely as he does this diligently and faithfully, so sure will God give the increase. Then with the honestly earned success comes the consciousness of encouragement to renewed effort, and, as it were, an echo of the gracious words, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’ (Mt 25:23).”

It is with these thoughts in mind that the students are clearing away the dead and unhealthy plants, nourishing the soil, and preparing for the spring planting.

“It is rewarding already and we have only just begun,” said freshman Cecelia Black. “Your hands get all dirty, lunch tastes amazing because Chef Pat made it and because you’re so hungry, and then you go back outside and you’re amazed at how much better it looks after just one afternoon of work.”

“I am looking forward to what it will become,” added a peer, Erin Monfils. “Gardens are places of repose and refreshment. They provide the purest kind of enjoyment and that will be something for the College community, but also for the surrounding community.”

This spring the College hopes to have a fountain running, with a surrounding circular area planted, a viewpoint of the meadows under a birch tree, and most importantly, a Marian garden with a host of beautiful plants all with Marian names adorning an enclosed statue of Our Lady. It will be a peaceful place where everyone is welcome to visit and reflect on the virtues of Our Lady and ask for her intercession. In the coming years, the garden will be developed more and more as the property has potential for something quite extensive.

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