Hello fellow readers, Last week, I enjoyed a visit with facilitators of a recently installed memorial garden at Father John’s Animal House, a no-kill rescue facility in Lafayette, NJ. My colleague and dear friend Marty of Three Seasons Garden Design volunteered to create the planting plan for the garden.
I was a little apprehensive about the timing of the visit, given the proximity to helping Miss Ellie go home just two weeks before. But it proved heartwarming to learn of such a fantastic organization who not only considers the physical care of the animals they rescue but their emotional care as well.
Garret, the Shelter Director, explained that a woman reached out to Father John’s who worked with Liberato Schinaia of Franklin NJ. He died in 2018 at age 97. Liberato had no family or friends to leave his legacy to, but he loved animals. The woman wondered if there was a way to honor him at the Animal House.
“We are constantly having conversations with people who have lost pets. Either people are looking for a new pet or wishing to make donations of items from their pet,” Garrett explained. “Many ask if there is a place they can put a pet’s name or that of a loved one.”
And so, the generous donation proved a perfect time to do just that. In addition to financial contributions, volunteers helped install Liberato’s Memorial Garden, completed in June.
“It’s a place to sit and relax on a piece of property that housed animals since the 1940s,” Garret said.
About Father John’s Animal House
The land, formerly owned by Father John, a retired clergyman, and animal advocate, took loving care of his livestock.
“They can be homeless, strays, abandoned, or abused. Whatever it is they went through, we pride ourselves in doing whatever we can to rehabilitate them and then find them the right home. We call ourselves matchmakers,” touts Garrett.
Evan, the Animal Care Manager, who comes from a third-generation landscaping family, designed the natural stone raised beds. “We wanted a space you can walk into and find meditative peace that fits the natural landscape around us.”
About the soothing plant pallet
Marty decided on a plant pallet of purple, white, and green because the “colors are very relaxing.” And she chose many plants with animal names.
White flowering Kousa dogwood (Cornus Kousa) anchors the surrounding garden along with an assortment of Pussy willows, including ‘Black Cat’ (Salix chaenomeloides) with silvery-black catkins. Then there’s ‘Mt Asama’ (S. gracilistyla) with pinkish catkins. And ‘Winter Glory,’ which has silvery-pink catkins when they emerge, then grow three inches long.
Cotinus Coggyria’ Velveteeny’, a dwarf version of the much-loved Royal Purple Smoke Bush, takes center stage in the planters. Beneath them, the prolific white-flowering ‘Abbotswood’ Shrubby Cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa). Cascading over the edges of the planters are the dainty white daisies of Brachyscome’ White Bliss’ and the striking purply-wine foliage of Joseph’s Coat (Alternanthera dentata purpurea tricolor), both annuals here.
After the delightful interview, we took a tour of the facility—talk about heart-tugging. So many beautiful animals being lovingly cared for and being readied for their forever home.
I thanked Marty for sharing her gifts and introducing the animal advocates of Father John’s Animal House.
“Yes, it was a wonderful day. Good friends, gardens and wonderful animals, what more could anyone ask!”
The health of Father John’s rescue animals is graciously tended to by volunteer veterinarians. It didn’t surprise me to learn one of them is Dr. Michelle Hewitt, the essential volunteer veterinarian since 2008. Dr. Michelle is the former vet for dear Sara, who examined Miss Ellie when she unexpectedly came into my life. For those that may have missed the column, I invite you to read the story about my Unexpected Furry Messenger. Both stories are in Episode 20 of the Garden Dilemmas Podcast on your favorite apps and the link below.