Creating a “Convent” Garden

The newest residents - two Madonnas on plinths welcoming visitors to the Cloisters.

The newest residents – two Madonnas on plinths welcoming visitors to the Cloisters.

The Convent once had beautifully maintained gardens, helped greatly by having a gardener, volunteer parishioners and schoolboy workers. I’ve seen photos and been told many stories of the glory days of the Convent with her lavish rose beds and trellises and formal garden beds.

Those days are long past and the Convent was made low key with the removal of all garden beds and shrubs, and a remaining legacy of only half a dozen of the old roses remaining in the overgrown lawns.

My beautiful angel, sitting reading near the frog pond with the Grotto in the background.

My beautiful angel, sitting reading near the frog pond with the Grotto in the background.

In the last two and a half years, I’ve been working to restore the garden. Beds are going back in and over 120 roses have made their way into the Convent garden. It’s slow work but beginning to reap rewards. Having a Convent garden I feel means being a little more than a garden surrounding a Convent. I’m fortunate that the Convent comes with a chapel and, of course, the Grotto, which means I have some inbuilt advantages, but it’s important to add a few more atmospheric touches.

One of these has been adding to the statuary and I’ve recently introduced a few more members to the Convent family, including 2 Madonnas on plinths, welcoming people through the back garden gate which is the main entrance, a lovely angel reading in the garden and an additional cherub to keep the lone one company.

I already have a few sculptures in the garden, mainly created by local artists, but some ecclesiastical ones add another dimension and seem to fit in well. I’ve discovered St Fiacre, the patron saint of gardens, but am yet to find a suitable version. I’m sure he’ll make it into the garden one day, complete with shovel.

I don’t do “twee” and avoid cluttering the garden with “stuff” but I think the latest additions work well and help the set the scene for the garden even more, without me resting on my laurels.

Original inhabitants - Mary and Bernadette in the Grotto which was built by locals in the 1950's.

Original inhabitants – Mary and Bernadette in the Grotto which was built by locals in the 1950’s.

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