Two of the oldest local sites on the Historical Society of Old Newbury’s 35th annual garden tour were busy polishing the silver at the beginning of the week, preparing for this weekend’s expected guests.
On Sunday afternoon, community gardener Chuck Mead leaned on his shovel and took a short break from digging up a hillside. His capped head and dirt-smudged face were framed beneath a driftwood sign planted on the crest of the south-facing embankment behind the First Parish Church of Newbury.
The modest sign above his head was handmade by Mead with gathered seashells spelling out “New Eden Gardens,” the name of the community garden beds that lie in the small valley below.
The gardens were founded in 2006 by Erin Stack, a past deacon of the 20 High Road church. The church is environmentally focused, and the garden is a new-age answer to its core mission: Earth stewardship.
Only organic gardening methods are used, and each member signs a covenant agreement that includes commitments to attend meetings and keep weeds at a minimum. In addition, gardeners are encouraged to be “social” with each other, collectively take responsibility for the gardens, help each other out and attend gatherings such as “Friday night beer in the gardens.”
“Now in this new age, in our contemporary times, we are trying to create a ‘new Eden’ with thoughtful and deliberate actions that sustain the Earth and sustain our spirits,” said Patty McDermott, New Eden director.
“So the name is completely appropriate for what we do.”
A visit to the gardens means browsing among 37 fully planted beds on about a half-acre of land. There is complete individuality in what is planted, the size and orientation of each bed. Each is unique and represents the diverse interests of each gardener.