The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 6, 2008


The Infinity Memorial Garden takes shape at First Religious Society

For over ten years the Buildings and Grounds Committee at the First Religious Society had talked about making a memorial garden in the sunken tree-and-debris-filled area behind the church. “One day this will make a terrific site for a garden.” Silence, then change of subject...

There was neither the money nor energy to embark on this ambitious project until several years ago when plans were begun for the FRS 250th anniversary celebrations. Each committee was asked to do something “big” for the 2007-2008 fiscal year when we were to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Timothy Wilkins’ deeding the land to build a church in Carlisle. The Social Action Committee sent a large delegation to New Orleans to help with rebuilding homes devastated by hurricane Katrina. The Building and Grounds Committee chose to create a memorial garden.

Bryan Sorrows operates his front-end loader and moves numerous rocks. At right is the garden as it appears today, inviting visitors to come and take a look. (Photos by Mike Saylor)

The long, rather narrow rectangular site inspired the idea of creating a main pathway in the shape of an infinity symbol. The biggest challenge was to make a sloping descending path that would conform to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements for handicapped accessibility. Thanks to Bob Wallhagen and his front-end loader/back hoe, this feat was accomplished last November, just before the snows socked us in for the winter.

The garden, which has three quarter sun and full shade, has no lawn at all. It is filled with garden beds, large stones and paths. It is planted with only U.S. native trees, shrubs and perennials, and is organic. The unique feature of this garden is that it is sunken. You have an overlook of the garden from above, and a sense of enclosure and peace from below.

Large stones are a feature

Now that Phase I planting and site work is completed, it is very tempting to change the garden’s name to the Infinity Memorial Rock Garden. A pick axe was needed to plant many of the shrubs and trees. No wonder the area is surrounded by stone walls! The largest stones found during the pathway construction have been brought to the surface and made into features in the garden. Two additional large stones were donated to the garden to form a natural seating area set off in one corner. The stones were originally brought from Arkansas to be used in the construction of the Richardsons’ home on Skelton Road. These massive stones, plus one that was found on site, offer a shady respite for conversation, and a lovely view of the church on the hill.

To fulfill the garden’s role as a memorial site, either engraved bricks or plaques on a wall will commemorate loved ones. I would like to put the name of my late mother somewhere; I expect my name will be in the garden some day.

  Brides will want to be photographed in the garden, so it is not just a place of mourning. It will be a place of reflection and meditation for any visitor. It will also be a teaching garden for native plants that grow well in Carlisle. It is a peaceful, secluded place. The 11 blueberry bushes will probably attract birds. I hope they do not attract deer!

Future work to be done

Future plans are to pave the main path with bricks lined with cobblestones, add lighting, a sundial and a gazebo, as well as the memorial plaque wall. Current plans are to nurture the young plants and keep the weeds at bay. This is a large garden. Each section has been named to signify its theme; Blueberry Hill, Prairie Plateau, Rainbow Loop, Moon Garden, Sun Garden, Flaming Chalice seating area, Purple Lower Loop and Wagon Wheel Wildflower Garden. There are three new trees, 46 shrubs and over 250 perennials.

A dedication ceremony took place on May 25, and although the garden is not finished, it is safe to visit. If you come, you might notice that some of the extra perennials used in this garden are available for sale, with all proceeds going to the next phase of garden construction. Using the honor system, just pay by check made out to FRS and send it to P.O. Box 817, Carlisle, MA 01741. ∆

© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito