Blooming during a Pandemic

St. Mary Anne's Episcopal Church, North East, Maryland; Diocese of Easton
Posted Mar 16, 2021

New bulbs beginning to blossom. Photo/Karen Schaeffer.

Ten thousand crocus bulbs are now in bloom at St. Mary Anne’s historic churchyard in North East, Maryland. Their blossoms remind parishioners of a treasured community event, a beloved and recently deceased parish member, and the yearly promise of Resurrection.

On the banks of the North East River, at the top of the Chesapeake Bay, the 315-year-old parish bloomed each spring with a Garden Market. For 22 years, the festive two-day May event, featured spring flowers, vegetable plants, delectable treats, and 50 garden-related vendors. Over 4,000 visitors from the community and tristate area (Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware) enjoyed the yearly fundraising event that celebrated God’s creation. The event provided a yearly opportunity for parish members to give church tours and highlight their ministries, too.  Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the church canceled the 2020 and 2021 Garden Markets.

Parishioners and community members remain understandably disappointed about the Garden Market cancelations but the sudden death of the Garden Market founder and parishioner Diane Thompson, last February, left everyone reeling. Thompson, a vibrant 80 year old, died during a horseback riding excursion. Her zest for living, love for God, the church and community—and special love of flowers—were the catalyst for the Garden Market’s inception in 1998 and continued success.

Grappling with the loss of Diane and at the same time dealing with the pandemic’s ramifications on the parish and community, parishioners struggled last year to maintain their optimism. As a healthy antidote for a difficult time, parish leadership decided to create the Thompson Memorial Crocus Lawn as a tribute to Diane. In response, parishioners eagerly ordered bulbs (100 bulbs for $12.00); and as a result, the parish received 10,000 bulbs to plant! In late October, over 65 parishioners and community members had a parish-wide planting day to establish the lawn.

Parish Planting Day in October 2020. Photo/Linda Hunt

Why crocus?  They are a harbinger of spring—and symbolize youthfulness and cheerfulness. Crocus tommasinianus, often called “Tommies”, thrive in well-drained soil, and can tolerate both sun and shade. Squirrel and deer resistant, they flourish in naturalized lawns untreated for weeds. They bloom for three to six weeks in late February and early March—and promise a purple bloom during the Lenten season as their color varies from pale lavender to deep reddish purple with a white throat. Crocuses are one of the first pollen sources available to bees in early to mid-spring, as the flower’s aroma attracts bees and native pollinators alike. Thompson was a bee survival advocate, so this environmentally friendly plant became the ideal selection for the crocus lawn.

According to St. Mary Anne’s rector, the Rev. John Schaeffer, the Thompson Memorial Crocus Lawn promises to be “a beautiful yearly Lenten reminder of the Easter Resurrection”. Schaeffer believes, “It’s just what the parish and community needs after such a difficult time.”