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Moonflowers in the mini-Marian Grotto in back of Saint Wenceslaus Church in Saint Louis, Missouri.Rosemary’s Garden, at Saint Wenceslaus Parish in Saint Louis, Missouri, was established in the mid-1990s, but the vision for this garden began many, many years ago with the planting of just a few seeds. My parents, Frank, Sr. and Rosemary Pichler, planted many seeds: the gift of life to their nine children – Barb, Diane, Frank, Jr., Mary, Roe, Laurie, Tony, Therese, and Eric; our love for God and our Catholic faith; our love and respect for one another – the family unit, the domestic church.


Mom & Dad 

Dad was the breadwinner (54 years with Anheuser-Busch), and Mom was the homemaker. Mom’s days were strategically planned. There were many mouths to feed, diapers to change, clothes to sew and wash, floors to scrub, etc. I don’t ever recall seeing Mom take a break! Every waking moment of her day was accounted for before she got out of bed. She didn’t drive, so even the grocery shopping was on a scheduled, which was on payday, twice a month, when Dad came home from work. Needless to say, she probably never gave a thought to having a hobby… until one spring day.

A neighbor friend came to visit and brought some seeds she had harvested from plants grown the previous year. She helped Mom select the best spot in the yard where the flowers would thrive and be protected from little trampling feet. The flowers gloriously bloomed, and Mom’s gardening adventure and our weekend family projects began.   

As we out-grew the swing set, slide, and galvanized pool, our play area was transformed into perennial gardens outlining the perimeter of the yard, a vegetable garden, and several apricot trees strategically planted for cross-fertilization. In the mid-1980s, my parents purchased the neighboring house, which was inhabited by several of my siblings over the ensuing years. Both yards were combined into one continuous garden.

Original Project

For the finishing touch, Mom recruited all of us (and our extended family) to build a pond with a lighted waterfall, lily pods, and goldfish. The project entailed mini-field trips to scope out areas of highways where rock had been blasted, and hauling home the tons of perfect rock to build the waterfall and grace the edges of the pond. Once all of the materials were collected, the groundbreaking ceremony was held. With shovels in hand, we took turns digging the plot and hauling the dirt.

The project took several weeks to complete, and the end result was magnificent. Tony had a street sign made, “Pichler Place,” and Eric purchased an arbor on display at the grocery store he managed. The arbor was erected in front of the pond and a wooden swing hung, graced with the sign, Peace and Tranquility.

My parents would spend many serene hours together swinging on that bench and feeding the fish. It was Mom’s little paradise, and she won first place from the Carondelet Gardening Association. Soon her garden expanded to the front of the house, and the parkway across the street was used for the transplanting of overgrown perennials (it was frowned upon to discard anything that was not considered a weed). Mom would spend hours weeding, watering, and tending to the gardens.

Free Mulch 

Once she read an article that the City Forestry Department was shredding leaves and limbs from trees to produce mulch, and there were mounds located in the city parks, all free for the taking. Well, how could she not pass up the opportunity? After all, spreading several inches of mulch around the plants is supposed to help eliminate a lot of the weed growth. Once again, she rounded up the troops.

Mom collected large trash cans, empty paint pails, and shovels, and we’d load up the trunks of our cars and head to the park for our mulch expedition. Same routine every week – shovel and dump, shovel and dump. After a couple seasons of doing this, Mom bit the bullet and had wood chip mulch delivered from the local nursery.

When my parents joined Saint Wenceslaus Parish in the 1990s, Mom almost immediately volunteered to help tend the garden area of the church grounds, and that is where you would find her every morning after Mass. A new family project was about to evolve.

New Projects 

With the permission of the late pastor, Father Joe Roelke, M.S.F., Mom enlisted Diane (a horticulturalist and landscaper) to help lay the plan to revitalize the landscape in front of the church and rectory. Old bushes and shrubs were removed, nutrients were added to the soil, and holly bushes, trees, and perennials were planted.

In 2002, Frank, Jr. and his son Frank III were given permission by Father Jim Wuerth, M.S.F. and the late Father John Lombardi, M.S.F. to lay the groundwork for redesigning the Grotto of Our Blessed Mother on the north side of the church as part of Frank III’s Eagle Scout project. Spiraea bushes were planted in front of the grotto, dogwood trees lined both sides of the sidewalk, and a bench installed on either side to create a shaded and peaceful area for prayer and meditation.

In 2007, Frank, Jr.’s son Collin, as part of his Eagle Scout project, redesigned the landscaping in front of Saint Frances Cabrini Academy, the parish school. A watering system was installed and small bushes, perennials, and annuals planted.

Dad passed away in 2009, and Mom had to resign from the garden due to deteriorating health, but she taught us everything we needed to know. My sister Theresa and I were able to continue the gardening in her honor, and Rosemary’s Garden continues to flourish today!

Many thanks to my fellow parishioner volunteers, Frank Brettle who devotedly attends to the daily watering and Evelyn Reichert who joins me in the garden most Saturday mornings, crawling in the dirt, pulling weeds, trimming, planting, and mulching.

The seeds my parents planted in us have been sown in our own children. Rosemary’s Garden is an extension of my family – a labor of love, surrounded by God’s beauty, to provide a setting that will draw people in and make them feel welcomed and comfortable. Please feel free to spend some time with God in Rosemary’s Garden.


© Mary Pichler. Original article published in The Messenger magazine from the Missionaries of the Holy Family, Saint Louis, Missouri. All rights reserved.

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