Francis in the garden


St. Francis is often sighted in garden centers, so I thought it would be a good idea to have a book signing at one of them. My friend who owns a New Jersey garden center, Perennial Favorites, agreed. It was a beautiful day and we had a great crowd.

St. Francis garden statuary is largely a creation of the twentieth century, born of a historical matrix of landscape, housing patterns, spirituality, garden design, art, wealth, and social concerns. While it’s easy to dismiss garden statuary as a cliché, my research indicates that it has much deeper and more diverse meanings. It can be an expression of intention, a wish or a hope, an opening into a wider world, or a focal point for quiet meditation – itself a countercultural act in our increasingly noisy and hurried society. And for many people, as my friend pointed out, the garden statue is simply a reminder of a favorite spiritual hero or a person who was attuned to nature.


Another sighting

At a local garden store. Photo© Patricia Appelbaum.

Francis among the planting containers. Photo© Patricia Appelbaum.

What I love about this image – and the situation, the place where I took the picture – is the ambiguous place of Francis in it. Clearly he is important enough for this garden center to want to offer his statue for sale. And the statue is prominently placed: right beside the door where customers enter the shop. But it’s behind the door, slightly obscured. And the figure of Francis is dwarfed by the containers in which customers will build their beautiful arrangements of unusual flowering plants. What does this mean? Does it suggest that Francis is so powerful that he need not be large in size? Or does it say that consumerism and display are more important than saintliness?