Joyce Blair is handing her role as garden caretaker over to an organization, Friends of the Garden.

The Scripture Garden in Forest Hills Serves for Gathering and Reflection

Within Louisville’s Forest Hills neighborhood is a place of peace, where all are always welcome to spend time connecting with nature. Situated on the property of Community of Christ church, visitors to the Scripture Garden will find beauty no matter the season. The handicap-accessible, half-acre plot features permanent installations, but the appearance of the flowers, shrubs and trees is constantly changing.

For over 25 years, Dave and Joyce Blair, with help from the church congregation and members of the community, have been the stewards of the garden. It was initiated to honor the wish of their daughter, Dr. C. Darcy Blair, who passed away in 1997. Now, after the recent passing of her husband, Joyce Blair is handing her role as garden caretaker over to an organization, Friends of the Garden.

“The garden was dedicated in May of 1998,” Blair says. “It is in honor of our daughter, but it’s not really a memorial. It’s a place that is open all the time, and is lit from dusk until midnight for people to draw strength from nature.”

“Darcy was widely traveled,” she adds. “She was interested in scripture gardens she had seen while visiting England and other localities around the world. Our family has attended Community of Christ church for many years and Darcy had presented the idea to the church. After she passed away, our family thought it fitting to present the idea to the congregation again. We found out they were already discussing it, and thought it would fit in with their objectives and goals to provide a peaceful place to the community.”

Friends of the Blair family, the church congregation and the community all rallied behind the idea, and contributed labor, funds and donations of plants. The garden was designed by Virginia Lee Pledger, who compiled a huge binder of the 150-plus species of perennial flowers, shrubs and trees. Along the curving walkways there are markers identifying the names of the vegetation, as well as 20 rocks and boulders with Bible passages etched on bronze plaques.

The garden is filled with varieties native to Kentucky, and flowers include roses, peonies, irises, lilies, bleeding hearts, forget-me-nots, coral bells and lilacs. Permanent installations add to the beauty. Benches are available for those who would like to sit and view the flower-covered archway, watch birds fly, listen to the wind chimes and take a few minutes to think. Anchoring it all is a large pergola with a birdbath fountain. The Blair family engaged an architect to design the structure and was responsible its inclusion in the garden.

One community member, the late Stan Lemaster, left a wonderful legacy in the garden. He traveled around the world and collected seeds and cuttings from trees with historic pasts. Eleven of the trees in the garden are cultivated from his efforts. One came from a tree that was growing on the grounds of Buckingham Palace in England. Another is the descendent of a tree grown by Johnny Appleseed, from Lima, Ohio. Also included is the offspring of a magnolia tree that was planted on the White House grounds by President Andrew Jackson.

Over the years many events have been held in the garden, such as weddings, wedding vow renewal ceremonies, parties, luncheons and musical events. Midnight vigils have been held, including one for a fallen highway patrolman and another for Dave Blair. Many residents of the neighborhood have family albums that include senior and prom photos taken in the garden. A teacher from a nearby school brings groups of students to learn about the life cycle of plants and how to recognize bird calls.

“If someone would like to reserve the garden for an event, all they must do is call the church office,” Blair says. “There is no real charge, but donations are welcome. A lot of people walk in the garden with strollers, dogs and friends. People get a lot of good out of seeing the orderly unfolding of nature. I was weeding one day when a woman came by and told me she is her husband’s primary caregiver. She is busy all day, but at night she comes and sits on one of the benches.”

“Health care professionals know the value of being out in nature,” she continues. “I’ve seen individuals unload easels from their car and paint. Someone recently came up to me and said, ‘I thought you ought to know, our family is getting a lot of good from the garden. Our handicapped daughter is in a wheelchair, but she can come here and is getting to know the names of the plants.’ One group of children painted sayings on little rocks and hid them around the garden for people to find.”

The garden is usually the site of a special gathering every season. This past December, people visited the space at the conclusion of the Forest Hills Neighborhood Dinner and Carriage Rides event. The holiday decorations, Christmas music and cozy fire pit were enjoyed by all who attended.

“It’s now time for me to pass on the leadership and help with any problems to make sure the transition goes well,” Blair says. “The organization, Friends of the Garden, will manage, develop and raise funds to enable it to continue. It is led by Blake Rosbury.

There are many chances to volunteer, such as planting a plant or raking leaves. Donors have the opportunity to insert a brick, engraved with their name, special passage or important date, in the crosswalk. In a lot of ways, the Scripture Garden has been a real blessing to the community. It was initiated by my daughter, but it’s never been a sad place. It’s a place for people to get their thinking straight. I think it is serving a real purpose and people are getting a lot of good from it.”

Donations to the Scripture Garden can be sent to: Community of Christ Church, 2401 Merriwood Drive, Louisville, KY 40299. Call the church office at 502-267-5508 to reserve it for a special event, or to find out more about Friends of the Garden.

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