The Birth of a Meditation Garden

lede for garden blog

Meditation Garden in September 2017. Myrtle Hill Cemetery, Rome, Georgia.

Rome is a beautiful town in northwest Georgia(U.S.). The town is nestled into a group of seven hills (that’s where it got its name). The Etowah and the Oostanaula rivers run together to form the Coosa River which runs over into Alabama and then south toward the Gulf of Mexico. The residents of Rome are proud of their three rivers and seven hills.

I have lived in Rome for over forty years. A number of years ago I had a thought that, when the location was right, I wanted to build a garden with a seven hills and three rivers theme. In fall of 2015 I was asked to design a garden for “the last flat place” in the historic Myrtle Hill Cemetery. (Myrtle Hill is one of the seven hills that I mentioned.) I immediately realized that this was my chance to fulfill my dream design! I decided to use seven berms to represent the hills and a stone pathway for the three rivers. There would be trees, other plants, and large stones to sit on. An antique fence and metal benches were donated and would be incorporated. The bottom corner of the information sign reminds us that “every garden needs a bit of fantasy.”

Shoes and lilies small

The elf man’s shoes. Every garden must contain a bit of fantasy.

I took a lot of pictures and at this point I will quit talking and start showing. Here is a condensed sequence showing the first year of the garden. The first few months were the planning stages.

garden development 1

We started on a cold winter’s day with seven piles of river bottom soil. The Rome Public Works Department was most helpful. It was a joint effort. 11/7/2015

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Meeting with the city officials. Jody and Stan were my major go to guys. They were a great help with the project

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We had gotten several boulders brought in to use for “sitting stones” in case someone wanted to sit on a rock and think about things. Stan Rogers and I discussed the placement particulars. 3/8/16

garden development 6

Setting the rocks took some time. They had to be placed just right so that the walkway(river) and the berms (7 hills) could be worked around them. We only had one shot at getting it right. It was the perfect opportunity to use the biggest paintbrush ever.

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Pads for benches were poured and David Lamb built a walkway to serve as a symbolic representation of Rome’s three rivers.5/10/2016

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J. R. Schulz came from Atlanta to check out the progress. He posed on the sitting rock. 6/18/16. I love that chair-shaped rock. Lots of people love it.

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July 22. The berms are shaped, walkway installed, irrigation working, and the sod has been laid. I was working out planting ideas. I would proceed one brush stroke at a time.

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At each entry we poured custom stepping stones with fern imprintings. These are in the curing process. 8/3/2016

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panorama picture looks best if shot on an overcast day. I took this one on August 22, 2016. I was really getting excited about the garden!

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Daniel de Wit with Ennis Art came all the way from Asheville to do the custom staining on the patios and stepping stones. The Japanese maple behind him was flourishing, even in the drought. October 6, 2016. The abstract concrete artist.

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October 14, 2016 was the day of the dedication. The ceremony was well-attended and moving. I was able to get this picture of Margot having a philosophical discussion with her great grandpawpaw.

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Here are some of the people where were involved in the garden project. If I try to name them all I will make a mistake, so I’ll leave the picture as it is.

Blog garden september 2017

The meditation garden in late September of 2017. This garden has out performed any garden I have ever done. I think there is a lot of love here.

Thank you for visiting Johntheplantman. Why don’t you visit the garden at Myrtle Hill–It’s an interesting place to put your thoughts together. In October I’ll get busy changing the color from summer pretties to winter ones.

And thank you to Sylvia Eidson for your constant weed vigil. Your efforts add to the beauty of the site.

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The Story Behind the Design of the Meditation Garden in Myrtle Hill Cemetery, Rome, Georgia

On October 14, 2016, I presented this brief story for the dedication of the new meditation garden. I have been asked for a transcript of it a number of times, so I will post it here. I hope it makes you feel good.–John P. Schulz

speaking-in-the-garden

Speaking in the garden (Photo by Tony Pope)

Thanks to the Federated Garden clubs,
Specifically our sponsor, The Thistle Garden Club of Rome, Georgia
Lisa Smith, The Visitor’s and Convention Center,
Mike and Leeta McDougald, whose fence started the project,

And thanks to a large number of people who became excited about this garden and provided the love, labor, and sweat that went into its development.

I was asked to design a garden. Not particularly a memorial garden. Not particularly a meditation garden or any other type of garden—just a garden.
But the seed was planted and the design germinated and began to grow.

Let me give you a little background on the design.
I moved to Rome forty years ago. I wanted to grow flowers.
I fell in love with the city and the people here who were very kind and welcoming. I have enjoyed living here and I wanted to give back to the community as I was able.

When I moved to Rome, my son Paul was seven years old.
He was a big boy, and his mother had taught him a poem.

“I met a little elf man once
Down where the lilies blow
I asked him why he was so small
And why he did not grow

He cocked his head,
And with his eye
He looked me through and through.
“I’m quite as big for me,” he said
as you are big for you.”–(John Kendrick Bangs)

I loved that poem. It spoke of identity and self-acceptance.

One day while I was planting things in the greenhouse, Paul came in and said, “Dad, the elf man is sad. He wants a garden.”

What does a parent do when the elf man wants a garden?

We got a big saucer and built an elf man garden. It had rocks and hills and little pathways for the elf man to walk on.
It had trees and bushes and a mirror for a lake.
I liked watching the little boy walk with his fingers down the path in the elf man garden. Later, when his young friends visited, they did the same. The elf man garden was a hit and over the years, we planted many more of these fantasy gardens.

Many years passed during which I designed and planted a lot of gardens in Rome and around the Southeast.
A lot of gardens.
My mind was constantly working on interesting design elements. The people of our wonderful town encouraged my endeavors and allowed me to make a living in this manner.

My brother Tom once said, “If you want to be an artist, first you must call yourself an artist.” So I did. I began to call myself a landscape artist. This allowed me to visualize in a different way.

For a number of years, I had thought that it would be interesting to design and build a garden in Rome, Georgia that encompassed the theme of seven hills and three rivers.

seven-hills

The seven hills and three rivers in Rome, Georgia. Art work by John Robert Schulz

And then, right around my seventieth birthday, Lisa Smith gave me a wonderful gift. She asked me to design a garden for Myrtle Hill Cemetery. My instructions were simply, “to design a garden with a fence and benches.”

Of course, it didn’t take long for the concept of the hills and rivers to present itself. I had to do it. I had all sorts of resources, two of which were Stan Rogers and Jody Gonzalez who work for the city and, more specifically, take care of the cemetery. Stan and Jody gave their all to help with the garden project. They were excited.

I made a scaled drawing, got approval, and painted lines on the ground. We discussed procedures and came up with ideas. A rock walkway would represent the river. Berms would serve for the seven hills. The garden would include sitting rocks and interesting plants.

In January of this year, My son Paul wanted to see what I was doing. We walked up to the site and looked at the lines painted on the ground. I painted him an air picture with my hands. Paul liked the plan.

He said, “Damn, Dad. You’re going to do a giant elf man garden.”
And that’s when a bit of fantasy came in to make the garden real.

garden-nov-15-2015-email

We started with piles of dirt, strategically placed. These would build the “seven hills”

We picked out large sitting rocks and had them delivered.
Stan had piles of soil placed in the proper places.
The project was started.

And then Paul died from a heart attack the first part of March. He was 47 years old.

A bit of fantasy makes the garden real. Art work by John Robert Schulz

A bit of fantasy makes the garden real. Art work by John Robert Schulz

We continued to work on the project after that sad event and the garden took on a new identity in my mind.
The garden became my refuge.
It became a place of peace and solace for me.
I found that there is always a cool and shady place to sit and think in this garden site.

stan-rogers-and-john-discuss-sitting-stone-placement

Discussing sitting stone placement with Stan Rogers

I wanted a garden that would be simple and that would grow and thrive without becoming over-grown. I wanted a garden that would be peaceful and thought-provoking without being complicated. I wanted simplicity.

One day while we were planting, my long time friend and helper, Santos, looked up from his work. He looked around with a smile and then asked, “Hey, Juan, do you have to be a member of a club to be in this garden?”

santos-planting

Santos gets the Japanese maples “faced” just right.

I laughed and replied, “No, Santos, this garden is here for everyone.”

But then I thought,
“You are already a member of the club, Santos.
The club is made up of those who have lost a loved one
Or of those who just need to work something out.
The club is joined by those of us who search for peace
Or for a feeling of belonging.”
Or serenity.

I hope that all of you
At some time or another
Will find time to enjoy this garden
And, perhaps to find something that you are looking for in your mind.

come-to-the-garden-and-relax-your-soul

The meditation garden changes daily. You may find someone you know or someone you knew. You may find a part of yourself.

meditation-garden-october-23

There’s always a bit of warm sun and another bit of cool shade. A gentle, restful breeze will caress your mind.

Artist Statement, Myrtle Hill Meditation Garden

“A garden has four dimensions. As with any other work of art, the garden may be defined by height, depth, and width. The fourth dimension is the passage of time, as the garden changes with growth, the seasons, and even loss at times. Just as the rivers converge and flow through the seven hills, our lives merge and travel through time, and joy, and sorrow.
This meditation garden is designed to be experienced from the inside out. Enjoy the flowers. Close your eyes; feel the shady breeze. Find a touch of fantasy.”–John P. Schulz, Landscape Artist

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