HARTFORD — This summer, parishioners and visitors may notice a few lively green touches to the grounds of the Cathedral of St. Joseph — all designed to welcome them.
As visitors enter the walkway from the parking lot on Asylum Avenue, they’ll be greeted by a tiny Irish garden that contains a miniature Celtic cross and a ceramic plaque that says “One Thousand Welcomes.”
On their way to the west entrance, they’ll pass an arbor with benches surrounded by pink roses and hanging baskets of yellow and purple petunias.
Beside the front doors of the cathedral, they’ll find birch trees in pots, and along the sidewalk in front of the rectory they’ll see an array of new plantings.
As promised last winter, the cathedral’s Knights of Columbus council members planted all of the trees and flowers that they used in their exhibit at the four-day Connecticut Flower & Garden Show last February.
“We recycled all of the plants from the flower show and best of all, we got 24 roses donated by the Connecticut Rose Society,” said Mike McGarry, grand knight of the cathedral’s Knights council.
On behalf of the Archdiocese of Hartford, McGarry spearheaded an exhibit titled “Weddings at the Cathedral” at the Connecticut Flower & Garden Show last winter to publicize future renovations at the cathedral.
After the show, an event that draws 40,000 attendees each year, the Connecticut Rose Society decided to donate the roses from its own “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” exhibit to the cathedral.
The arbor also was recycled from the show. It originally was donated by a fourth-degree Knight and was soldered, sandblasted and repainted by the staff at the University of Hartford’s Hartt School of Music theater shop.
McGarry, an avid gardener, and his band of Knights and other gardening volunteers overwintered and maintained the plants from the flower show in the greenhouse of the Knox community gardens until they were ready to be planted in mid-June.
“Twenty-three out of 24 rose bushes made it,” McGarry said. “We just lost one. I thought because they bloomed forced in the winter, they wouldn’t bloom in the summer but they did.”
The show flowers from both the cathedral wedding and Snow White exhibits were planted in three locations in Hartford: at the cathedral on Farmington Avenue, at the offices of Catholic Charities on Asylum Avenue and at Grace Lutheran Church on Woodland Street. Members of Grace Lutheran volunteered to help operate the cathedral exhibit at the Flower Show.
Peter O’Donnell, director of fund development at Catholic Charities said, “We’re delighted to have the flowers out front under our sign. It’s very welcoming to our clients. We’re very grateful to the Knights of Columbus.”
The cathedral Knights also used the proceeds from their many plant-sale fundraisers throughout the year to purchase additional items, such as hanging baskets, to round out their plantings.
“Little by little we’re going to add more, keeping away from areas of future construction,” McGarry said, referring to the archdiocese’s multi-year development of the Cathedral of St. Joseph campus. The future development project will include a Mothers’ Garden, a front plaza, a community meeting hall and an illuminated steeple and cross.
In the meantime, McGarry and his crew plan to do their part, sprucing up the grounds in small ways until the larger renovations and full gardens are eventually put into place.
He credits John Keeney, the deputy grand knight, Ed Conran and many others for keeping the new plants watered.
“We have a whole slew of guys who help us when we need it,” McGarry said. “It’s a nice little labor of love.”