Shaping a garden

August 30, 2011 in General, News

garden_01Milltown has developed a lovely walled garden which serves both its community and Cherryfield (see photo album here). It comprised the former open-air swimming pool and the old walled-off garden known as Winkelman’s. But it needed work, which, as Bertrand Russell remarked, is of two kinds: first, altering the position of matter at or near the earth’s surface relatively to other such matter (spade and shovel work); second, telling other people to do so, or, at a further remove, advising as to what orders should be given. The first kind is unpleasant and poorly paid; the second is pleasant and highly paid. Reshaping a garden combines the two sorts of work. Read more below.

Under the second heading, a landscape architect from UCD, after several meetings, produced a plan which showed a bias towards a Swedish sort of wildness dominated by holly. What survived of his design. after much discernment,  is the concrete patio in the centre of the garden, the pathway round the periphery, and the concept of a natural habitat to attract butterflies and bees.

Something similar happened to a proposal to place an original sculpture in front of the community building. Three artists presented their ideas: a soaring erection which was described as aspirational; a beehive shape, reflecting perhaps the honeyed but hyperactive character of the Jesuits; and an arrangement of seats suggestive of academic leisure. In the event, the Milltown executive rejected all three in favour of a forked pole of wood and onyx designed by the architect.

A key event in the development of the garden to its present beauty was a generous legacy from Mrs Callanan, mother of Jesuits Bill and John, topped up by funding from Cherryfield and from the Province. Bill, as an unofficial adviser to the community on artistic matters, was ready to take on the planning of the garden, making wise use of his mother’s bounty. In the absence of a regular gardener he aimed at a low-maintenance style of garden, not requiring too much weeding. He cleared large areas of nettles, dock weed and rape, and seeded them with poppies, cornflowers, clover, daisies and other wild flowers.

In a sunny corner he set up a shelter with comfortable chairs. Each area of the garden has a significant feature: the old altar from Cherryfield, a fountain, old lamp posts, wrought iron gates, and a number of sculptures. He planted Clematis and Virginia creeper along the walls, seven silver birches near the altar, as well as a copse of three oaks and two beeches. The builders (the first kind of workers, in Bertrand Russell’s terms) who had constructed the community house, set up plumbing for the fountain and taps, electricity for lighting, a small mountain hiding one corner of the garden; and they re-pointed the lovely old garden walls.

Bill constructed three allotments, contained by old railway sleepers (alas, the creosote on these would be dangerous to any edible vegetables one might be tempted to grow). So far only one Jesuit has signed up for an allotment.  There is space for a putting green, but someone would need to care for it. The abundant bees would tempt one to start a hive, but that requires expertise and commitment. The birds, the bees, grey squirrels and a yowling fox all enjoy the garden, as well as a growing number of Jesuits. It is work in progress.


The same is true of the circular maze pictured here, which lies between Cherryfield and the Community House. In the centre is the most famous logo of the Western world, IHS standing either for Iesus Hominum Salvator, or the first three capital letters of the Greek version of Jesus.  The brethren pray their circular way to the centre  between banks of blossoms, changing with the seasons, planted and lovingly cared for by Finbarr Clancy SJ.