Inspiring a Secular Meditation Space
In September, 2008, Master Gardener, Bonnie Pavlak attended the book signing for OpenSpaces, Sacred Places, by Tom Stoner and Carolyn Rapp, held at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. She was inspired by the book to create a peaceful space in Kinder Farm Park as a Master Gardener Project. The purpose of the Woodland Garden in Kinder Farm Park is to create a place of beauty in nature for people to sit, relax, meditate and be refreshed. People walking their dogs can stop and rest. Anyone using the park who wants to have some privacy can sit on one of the woodland benches.
After approval was given by Kinder Farm Park Superintendent, Bill Offutt, plans were made for the garden design. The work of clearing out invasive plants, poison ivy, and downed trees began in October. Park staff used heavy equipment to clear fallen trees, a liability hazard. The park also provided woodchips for the path and a bench. A grant proposal was submitted to Unity Gardens for the purchase of plants including Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticellata), Serviceberry (Amelanchier laevis), Witch Hazel (Hammamelis virginiana) and Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) in the spring of 2009.
Joining Together to Create a Quiet Space
A percolation test revealed that there were no drainage problems and while the soil test showed a pH 3.9, which is fairly acidic, it is expected in an oak-holly stand of trees. With the approval of the Unity Gardens grant, shrubs and some perennials were purchased and planted by the Master Gardener and several community volunteers. Passers-by expressed interest in the Woodland Garden and some generously donated plants to the garden such as jack-in-the-pulpit, lily-of-the-valley, ferns, and iris, in addition to piers to line the path, hoses, and a sprinkler. In the heat of the summer, volunteers water the new plantings and the park provides gator bags around the shrubs to irrigate them.
In the fall, a second Unity Garden Grant, provided resources to purchase seven Rhododendrons, four mountain laurel, and spicebush (Lindera benzoin). Unity Gardens also provided a bench from the TKF Foundation that funded the gardens presented in the inspirational book, Open Spaces, Sacred Places - a dream come true! The beautiful bench is constructed from a pickle barrel, so it will be preserved for a long time to come. The bench features a waterproof journal for visitors to write their thoughts and feelings. Mornings, Bonnie Pavlak usually jogs by the Woodland Garden to check on it, and often someone is sitting on the bench. The journal has some entries and sketches already.
Friends of Kinder Farm Park provided a grant to buy additional woodland perennials. Signs were placed at the entrance of the Woodland Garden recognizing the donations of Unity Gardens and Friends of Kinder Farm Park. The garden sleeps under a deep blanket of snow in the winter, and come spring, witch hazel, serviceberry, rhododendrons, bloodroot, wild ginger, hellebores, and mountain laurel make a showy display of color and beauty. Ferns, may-apples, and lilies grace the pathway. Additional funding from Unity Gardens has been used to plant blueberries and elderberry along the gravel road bordering the Woodland Garden. A persimmon, a weeping willow, an American hornbeam and a bald cypress were also planted. A moss garden was created near the TKF bench.
Ten Master Gardeners and many interns work on the project weekdays and evenings. A group of 30 campers (teenagers doing public service) did some planting and weeding one day. Master Gardeners wishing to volunteer at Woodlands Garden at Kinder Farm Park may contact Bonnie Pavlak. Others wishing more information on this project may contact Mike Ensor at the University of Maryland Extension at (410) 222-3900.