There’s a hidden jewel behind St. Matthew’s Episcopal Cathedral not many people know about: the King Memorial Herb Garden . Though its beauty is enough of a reason to visit, there’s also an intriguing story or two behind its creation.


In 1996, the dean of St. Matthew’s, Rev. Phillip Duncan II, decided that a plot of land behind the church would be the site of the future garden honoring the Rev. Canon Roma A. King, Jr., and his wife, Lucille Bailey King. The couple is credited with being the “essential binding elements” of the cathedral’s spiritual community.


 Roma King has served as acting dean at St. Matthew’s twice, and has taught a Sunday school class there since he came to Dallas in 1980.


“They have been instrumental in a lot of people’s lives,” says Candace Baker, the garden’s developer and chief gardener.


So Baker began work on the project, consulting with Michael Thompson from Sticks and Stones Nursery, who helped her design the garden, dividing it into areas of interest to the Kings: literature, nature, religion and cooking. The Shakespeare Garden contains flowers and herbs mentioned in the great bard’s works; the Butterfly Garden is planted with host and nectar flowers; the Mary Garden is a tribute to the couple’s devotion to the church; and the Fragrance Garden and Culinary Garden were planted in honor of the meals the King’s have shared with parishioners in their home.


In February of 2001, the garden was imbued with even more significance when its name was changed to the King Memorial Herb Garden in honor of Katherine Moren Sorensen, a beloved St. Matthew’s parishioner who passed away. Sorensen’s cremated remains were buried in the garden under a Celtic cross.


It’s used primarily as a meditation garden, and the residents of the adjoining Cathedral Gardens apartments sometimes use it for watercolor classes. It also enjoys a number of animal visitors, including a variety of birds, insects, squirrels, cats and even a rabbit.


“There always seems to be something different back there,” Baker says. “That’s what’s nice about East Dallas … the wildlife.”


Baker calls the garden her “labor of love,” and says it helps her deal with the mental and emotional demands of her other job as a hospice nurse.


“It’s beautifully kept,” says Roma. “She’s done such a wonderful job. I couldn’t think of a nicer way for the church to honor us.”


Baker doesn’t use any pesticides, so visitors are encouraged to take clippings for culinary use when the plants are cut back. The garden is open during normal church hours, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on Sundays during services. Visitors should call ahead at 214-823-8134 before making the trip.


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