St. Peter’s Gardens have been selected to be part of the prestigious Soroptimist Secret Gardens Tour — in its 26th year — on July 11 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., in Saratoga Springs, Ballston Spa and Schuylerville. (Mike Matvey photos)
St. Peter’s Gardens have been selected to be part of the prestigious Soroptimist Secret Gardens Tour — in its 26th year — on July 11 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., in Saratoga Springs, Ballston Spa and Schuylerville. (Mike Matvey photos)
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These secret gardens are not going to be a secret for much longer.

Due to the love, care and dedication of the parishioners at The Church of Saint Peter in Saratoga Springs, St. Peter’s Gardens have been selected to be part of the prestigious Soroptimist Secret Gardens Tour — in its 26th year — on July 11 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., in Saratoga Springs, Ballston Spa and Schuylerville.

Anita Dunn, co-coordinator of the gardens, said it was an article in The Evangelist about the English Gardens at St. Mary’s Church in Hudson that inspired her late husband, Rick, and the late Dr. James Noonan. The current designs are dedicated in their memory.

“Rick said if we can get our garden in shape, we can do that too and get a little publicity,” said Dunn.

“Rick was always passionate, but there were three or four of us,” said Tim Burtman, co-coordinator. “That was one of our hobbies at home. What we found over the years when we get together here is that everybody is joking and laughing. It is a fun time. It’s fun to be together.”

The gardens begin on Broadway with flowers and grasses in planters to the right of the entrance and to the left, just off the rectory, is a monument erected in 1946 honoring the 18 parish veterans who served and died in World War II.

Continuing in from Broadway, the courtyard of the church is peaceful and shaded from six towering linden trees, and offers entrance into the church, which was dedicated on Aug. 15, 1853, on the right or to the Memory Gardens on the left.
In the Memory Gardens space, you are immediately filled with calm and can barely notice the car horns and noise emanating from Broadway. The centerpiece of the garden is a statue of Mary Undoer of Knots, that was anonymously donated and installed last year.

Father Thomas H. Chevalier, pastor, said the selection of the statue will tie into Pope Francis’ devotion for years to come and during the pandemic, “it seemed to have the natural image of the knots that we all face.”

The garden has a mix of unusual trees — Ginkgo-Biloba, Catalpa, Black Walnut and Spruce — as well as shrubs, perennials and annuals. There are two benches and chairs for people to sit and reflect or pray.

“If you are not comfortable yet going inside with 200 people (for Mass),” Father Chevalier said. “(You) might be able to come here with six people.”

There is also a smaller garden accessible from the parking lot in the back of the church on Hamilton Street, that Noonan’s wife, Anne, works on and Dunn said “that is her baby.”

In total, the gardens are a mix of color, smell, sight and sound, that will put anyone in a peaceful — and prayerful — state of mind.

“Just walking in there and (seeing) people looking around, it means a lot to us that they say, ‘Wow, this is fantastic’ or they make some comment,” said Burtman. “A lot of them are saying, ‘This is the first time I have been here and I am going to come here more often.’ ”

Note: All proceeds from the tour support people and programs that improve the lives of women, girls and their communities through Saratoga Soroptimists, the local chapter of an international professional women’s service organization. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 on the day of the tour. This is a self-guided tour and garden descriptions, a map and suggested driving directions are included with the ticket. Visit www.soroptimistsaratoga.org to purchase tickets online.