The Novitiate Garden was an outdoor space behind the Convent for the Novices to use for rest, contemplation and recreation. Enclosed by the chapel and the wall of the Convent, locust trees to the south and the laundry building to the east, it was a secluded, private spot away from the school children and the outside world. The Novices were restricted, for much of their training, from entering the rest of the grounds, so it was a welcome break for the women to descend from their quarters in the Holy Angels Dormitories to the cool shade and fragrant flowers.
Two old Queen Anne Cherry trees, still alive long after the Novitiate had ceased to operate at St. Ann's, grew up in this corner, with their heady blossoms leaning over the ground flowers. Some flowers, planted in these gardens, were to be cut and arranged for display on the chapel altars. Daisies grew alongside more exotic blooms and herbs. When the restoration of the garden began, series of plants with symbolic meanings were cultivated. Many of these associations between flowers and the virtues stem from traditions of the Middle Ages.
|forget-me-not, passion flower||Faith|
|iris and yew||Hope|
|rosemary and sage||Temperance|
There were more fruits and vegetables than flowers, growing around the Novices. The kitchen garden contributed to the meals in the Convent. Herbs were cultivated, a rosemary bush being the only one to cling tenaciously to life after years of neglect during the period following the closure. Cuttings from plants found within the Novitiate Garden were taken by the botanists and garden planners who worked on the grounds revitalization to produce replacement plants.
Chores were often taken outside, in the warm months. Novices would shell peas and peel apples that they brought from the nearby kitchen. The scullery door opened into the garden. The beauty of nature could often refresh those hard at work. A Novice who walked out the scullery door one afternoon, was struck by the loveliness of moss, perched "like little umbrellas" at eye level on a concrete wall.
Regardless of how attractive they may have been to the aesthetic eyes of the religious and students, weeds had to be pulled. This task was often done by the Novices. Escape was close at hand, for a set of stairs led up an embankment, to Beacon Hill Park across the street, a favourite place for walks. Over the years, various Sisters took on the task of tending the grounds, and would complete this work, leaving the Novices to other enjoyable tasks, such as scrubbing floors!
In 1925, the summer house was constructed, a structure similar to a gazebo, that provided a roof for events outside. The steps of the summer house were perhaps the best used feature; the stairs served as seats, under the nice, cool area created by the shade of the building. Summer teas were organized when the structure was first constructed, but during the winter and in later years, old furniture was stored in the summer house. Severely dilapidated, the summer house was dismantled, after measurements and photographs had been taken. In 1998, a replica was built, for the re-established Novitiate Garden. Today, newlyweds can often be seen toasting their marriage under the cover of the summer house, after holding their wedding in the chapel.