The Giving Garden
Seeds sewn at Saint Mary’s often yield fruit. Just ask Lafayette photographer Stu Selland M.A. '05 whose sensory gardens were inspired by a class he took here in 2003.
The nature course, taught by Brother John O’Neill and Professor Denis Kelly, helped Selland see his yard in a whole new light. Twelve years later, it’s a habitat for butterflies, birds, and the most curious creatures of all—humans.
It started with some simple terracing and a pond. “Brother John said ‘If you add a water feature, everything will come into your yard,’” Selland recalled.
It’s true. The cacophony of calls, songs, and tweets is like something from a nature CD. Finches and nuthatches flit from feeder to fragrant bush to waterfall-fed pond. A riot of periwinkle blossoms draws birds, bees, and butterflies to its branches and the air is perfumed with white hyacinths.
“The backyard is a real bird sanctuary,” said Brother John, an ornithology expert now living at Mont La Salle in Napa.
“And the front yard has all these carefully chosen flowers specific to insects, with places to sit and watch what happens. He’s a real artist.”
Selland’s studio is ideally situated in a cottage in his backyard. A few steps from his door is a little bridge over the pond, where he shot his daughter’s wedding. A nearby rose garden is another favorite photography site.
Everywhere you look, there is symbolism. Four young redwoods, one for each of the Sellands’ four children, grow in a grove and join canopies. A statue of Saint Francis graces a garden nearby—a tribute to Saint Mary’s where his wife, Judy, works and where three of their children attended college.
“I would do anything for Saint Mary’s,” said Selland. He recently photographed the 40 members of the Chamber Singers and Glee Club before they performed at Carnegie Hall. Much like his gardens give back to the earth, Selland gives back to Saint Mary’s.
Selland's sensory garden is inspired by a nature course he took at Saint Mary's in 2003.