It was a lovely but bittersweet morning on June 1 when over 30 gardeners, residents, and parishioners from St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church gathered to bid farewell to the Water Street Garden, a Southwest landmark located on the west side of the church at 6th and Water Street SW. The garden’s closing event, fittingly entitled “In Thanksgiving for The Water Street Community Garden and Its Gardeners,” was somewhat of a watershed moment. Officiated by St. A’s Rev. Martha Clark, the guests extended gratitude for the garden and its shared experiences while simultaneously reflecting on both the joy and sentiments of a more than two-decade-old collective effort that was like therapy to many. A common theme was how the garden helped to unite and transform a community. That day, however, the guests were not only expressing gratitude and bidding farewell to the garden but also either solemnly accepting or being reminded that the community was in transition as a result of The Wharf’s development. Part of the development includes plans for a new St. A’s Church and housing near the garden’s site.
During the ceremony, guests enjoyed a word of welcome on the event’s purpose led by Rev. Clark, an inspiring reading about the land producing vegetation and the humans who cared for it, and precious shared memories and reflections about their experiences with the garden.
“I remember seeing the garden while waiting for the Circulator,” said one guest.
“It brought a lot of people together and did a lot to build camaraderie in the community,” said another.
The memories and reflections also included a surprising admission from one of St. A’s congregation members who originally protested against the garden as an eyesore but later had an epiphany. The parishioner eventually welcomed the garden that was a reminder of her childhood in North Carolina and the unending efforts in helping to care for her family’s garden. Then, amid the beautiful reflections and tear-filled memories, a final, peaceful moment came and it was time to put the garden to rest. Rev. Clark, in an emotional voice, acknowledged the long-standing and welcomed relationship with the gardeners.
Quoting from the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, she so eloquently stated, “To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven; a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted.”
After the ceremony, guests enjoyed mimosas, doughnuts, coffee, and more shared memories and reflections. It was then that a couple of the gardeners expressed their concerns about the garden’s legacy as it related to the plants that were still thriving so beautifully in the soon-to-be-bulldozed spot. Efforts have been made to connect the gardeners to the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly Garden Group and, pending overall approval, to donate some of the plants (e.g, irises, daffodils, peonies, and roses) to the Duck Pond, an affiliate of the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly. If successful, the 24 years of planting, watering, pruning, weeding, waiting, and harvesting will continue and live on in a tie that further binds the community.
For more details on the origin, history, and evolution of the Water Street Garden, please see page four of the June 2014 issue of The Southwester.
By: Thelma D. Jones