Serenity Garden at Upper Peninsula hospital serves as Master Gardener project

Upper Peninsula Master Gardener brings beauty, peace and solace through The Serenity Garden at St. Francis Hospital in Escanaba, Michigan.

Michigan Advanced Master Gardener Sue Wanic (left) works with other Master Gardeners, Greta Arntzen, Sue Shepich and Debbie Stearns, within The Serenity Garden. Photo by Rebecca Krans, MSU Extension

Michigan Advanced Master Gardener Sue Wanic (left) works with other Master Gardeners, Greta Arntzen, Sue Shepich and Debbie Stearns, within The Serenity Garden. Photo by Rebecca Krans, MSU Extension

Michigan State University Extension Master Gardener Sue Wanic has been a Master Gardener since 2002. In order to fulfill the certification requirement of her 40-hour volunteer garden project, she envisioned and then developed “The Serenity Garden” on the grounds of St. Francis Hospital in Escanaba, Michigan. Visitors are freely allowed to come and go within this garden where they can enjoy the beauty of various plants, listen to the waterfall, stop to pray for a loved one or enjoy a rest on one of the benches.

Wanic worked as a medical/surgical/intensive care nursing manager at St. Francis Hospital before retiring, and recognized a need for this type of place, both for visitors and staff. She really envisioned this garden as a place for the community to enjoy and learn from, and this has become a reality. She, along with Ann Roman, project fundraiser, worked diligently to achieve community sustainability of the garden. From local businesses who donated the concrete paths to memorial donations of the waterfall, benches, statues and plants, the garden holds a memory for those past and present.

An OSF Healthcare employee campaign is held annually that helps support the garden, as well as dedication and memorial bricks that are available for purchase and are featured in a brick walk through the arbor. Local Boy Scouts have also contributed to the garden. Completing Eagle Scout projects, they installed a wrought iron fence and an arbor. An annual plant sale is held each fall with proceeds going back to support the garden.

Open 24/7 along with the neighboring hospital Adoration Chapel, The Serenity Garden is a welcoming feature to many near and far. Other community members comment that, “this is the garden they come to after being away.” Hospital staff enjoy it as a place to get away on a work break. Another community group called Compassionate Friends has adopted a portion of the garden and works to maintain it.

The Serenity Garden has been a featured stop in the annual garden tour. There are also groups that use it as a teaching garden, and Wanic comments, “I would like to see it used more for this purpose.” Another educational resource includes plant identification labels for people wanting to know what kinds of plants are grown there.

An annual spring planting event is open to anyone who wishes to help with planting. Proper care and instructions are provided by Wanic and other Michigan Master Gardeners, Greta Arntzen and Sue Shepich, and University of Wisconsin Extension Master Gardener Debbie Stearns, who are assisting her. This event is a highlight of the new growing season with refreshments, music and fun.

The Serenity Garden is a special place for many people. Thanks to Wanic for her dedication in developing such a wonderful gardening education project for the community!

If you’d like to learn more about the Michigan Master Gardener program, visit the Master Gardener website. For more information on a wide variety of Smart Gardening topics, visit the Gardening in Michigan website at www.migarden.msu.edu or contact MSU’s toll-free garden hotline at 1-888-678-3464.

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