It was with the arrival of the Reverend Robert Wood Nicholson in 1946 that the gardens were conceived. He had a love of earth and nature with an innate ability to create things of beauty in the church edifice as well as the surroundings. The original garden was the courtyard located to the south of the church. With a growing parish there was a definite need for a parish hall, and in 1948 the need was met. Its location in relation to the church gave him the opportunity to enlarge the courtyard and add a terrace and the brick-paved area, with the cornucopia pool, and an herb garden. The wall in the sunroom was built as an outside wall and attached to the parish hall by a wisteria arbor. This area was enclosed when the addition to the parish hall was made in 1965.
Although the inspiration of the gardens was Fr. Nicholson’s, and his hands did much of the work, the whole creation was shared by many who caught his vision and whose generosity provided labor and material, and even the actual land. A parishioner gave a large tract of land, which now is the meadow. In 1956, when it became necessary to enlarge the church, the owner of neighboring land gave thirty feet adjoining, and hence, the gardens continued to grow. The Lambert Garden, the octagonal garden on your right as you enter from the street, the orchard and annual garden were his next additions. When the terrace was being laid, Sheriff Donald P. Tulloch offered to give some large flat granite pieces which had been part of the old jail and now form the retaining wall for the evergreen planting at the west end of the church. When excavation for the extension of the church was begun, the foundation stones of an old tavern, which had burned many years before Saint Mary’s was built, were uncovered and these were used to build the stonewall leading into the orchard. Since Fr. Nicholson’s death, we have tried to keep the same feeling of an old English garden, which he created with natural plantings, using shrubs and other plantings, native to the area. Memorial stepping-stones, benches and statuary are located throughout the gardens. The stone cornucopia, from which water used to drip into the pool, is the work of Arnold Geissbuhler, a well-known sculptor who had a home in Dennis. He also did the figure of Saint Fiacre, the patron saint of gardeners, which overlooks the brick-paved herb garden. The Christ Child, which is now in the corner of the rock garden and also is the scene on the garden cup plate made by Pairpoint, is the work of Harriet Stockton Worthington. Harriet also did the figure of the old English gardener detailed on the money box at the rear entrance of the garden. Under the guidance of Father Nicholson, Harriet also sculpted most of the Nativity crèche figures, which are truly treasures of Saint Mary’s.
The stone at the entrance to the Lambert Garden and Fr. Nicholson’s gravestone in the meadow are old paving stones from the streets of Newport, Rhode Island. They were carved at the John Howard Benson studio in Newport. The memorial stone for Madalaine Pond Tulloch, at the entrance to the churchyard, was one of the original steppingstones in the garden and also was carved at the Benson studio by Mr. Benson’s son. Over a period of years, there had been many requests for spreading of ashes or burying urns in the gardens. The Vestry always turned these down. In 1972, with Madalaine Tulloch’s death, the growing need for a burial area at Saint Mary’s became obvious. A committee was assigned to investigate all possibilities. The remaining available land was an old apple orchard with a lovely fieldstone wall as its back barrier and a stream to cross. The orchard had been used as a mulch pile for years; the ground was fertile and begging to be tilled. The altar rails, which were removed when the freestanding altar and other renovations were made in the chancel, were used for the little bridge into the churchyard. These have since been replaced by a safer structure. Once again gifts for the clearing and planting of this area came forth from the family and friends of Madalaine Tulloch as her memorial and from other interested parishioners. The clearings on either side have been planted with princess pines, cinnamon ferns, lady’s-slippers, primroses, violets, wood hyacinths, rhododendrons, Kwanza cherry, a Japanese coral bark maple and hostas.
Throughout the gardens surrounding the church, thousands of daffodil bulbs have planted for naturalizing. A walk through the daffodil gardens is a highlight for visitors to St. Mary s annual Daffodil Tea. Each year pictures are taken in the spring in the daffodil gardens to note areas that may have dwindled, and new bulbs are planted in the fall. All the plants in the annual garden, the urns, the sunroom (which is planted in memory of Miss Mary Mortimer, who was the first president of Saint Mary’s Guild), are purchased through the generosity of the Episcopal Church Women of Saint Mary’s, memorial gifts, gifts from parishioners and friends of the gardens, our garden boxes, and the annual Daffodil Tea. You may see the gold medal and citation located in the parish hall awarded to the gardens in 1958 by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. The cost of projects is supported by income from The Robert Wood Nicholson Memorial Fund and of plantings from The Dorinda Beam Memorial Fund. Maintenance and upkeep is the work of church member volunteers. Strong backs and nimble fingers are always welcomed! Use of the Gardens The gardens are open to the public year-round free of charge. Saint Mary’s gardens may not be used for public sales, displays or meetings without the written authorization of Saint Mary’s Church. Memorial Garden Burial Plots The Memorial Garden Burial Plots are available to members of Saint Mary’s Church and to their immediate families for the interment of the cremated remains of their loved ones or to memorialize the same. Memorial and committal services may be arranged at the discretion of the family with the rector. Interment may be the intermingling of the remains with the earth or placing the remains in uniform containers. A permanent record is kept in the church office. An appropriate contribution is requested for each committal. These fees and memorial gifts will be used for the perpetual upkeep of the garden. In lieu of flowers, special gifts or memorials are welcomed, used to maintain the beauty of the garden and will be properly recorded.