In Praise of Public Gardens

bench surrounded in flowers in public gardens

This week is National Public Gardens week, May 13th—May 19th, initiated by the American Public Gardens Association (APGA), a sort of reminder to “stop and smell the roses.” While plantings at our nation’s public gardens include so much more than roses, the sentiment is the same — to halt our harried lives, be still, and treasure the blessings surrounding us, beginning with the public spaces cultivated for all to rest and refresh in the presence of botanical beauty.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Matthew 11:28-30 NIV

May is a particularly blooming month when so many perennials are in their prime, and fruit trees begin the production process in showy flower-dazzle. Take the nudge and take off to the nearest (or farthest!) public garden. Click here to find gardens.

Growing Plants of the Bible in Public Gardens

I have a special affinity for the APGA and its programs, as I will be speaking at their annual conference next month. So exciting! As part of my publishing relationship with BRIT Press, I will host a poster presentation on “Growing Plants of the Bible in Public Gardens.” Discussion will center on the potential draw this plant group offers the public.

Many may not realize how “at home” their Bibles are in a garden. Likewise others may not realize that the plants before them, bursting with color, fragrance, water savviness, or sweet fruit, have layers of literary reference and spiritual insight as well, beginning with their mention in the ancient text of the Bible. It is time, I believe, for all to see the connection of the land and the Word, and be moved, engaged, and delighted by a growing relationship.

Praise in Photos

Enjoy some of my favorite snapshots from public gardens I have visited since writing devotions for God’s Word for Gardeners Bible, and the Words that have come to life in mind and heart.

You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly. The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain…The grasslands of the wilderness overflow; the hills are clothed with gladness.
Psalm 65:12 NIV

overflowing Artemisia gives overflowing, waterfall-like imagery
This terraced planter separates a lower grass field from an upper grassy hillside at the San Antonio Botanical Garden. Overflowing Artemisia is planted with agaves, clothed in the same waterey color. I find it a tremendously fun play on the water theme of these verses, especially as these are all water-savvy plants, though it was raining the day that I visited, ha!

The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice and shout for joy.
Isaiah 35:1-2 NIV

tuft of autumn crocus blooming
These eye-catching, crocus-like flowers captured my heart one autumn at the Denver Botanic Garden. I was so taken with their joy that I forgot to get their species identification, sorry! These could be autumn and winter crocus, colchicum, or sternbergia; all have such similar appearance, and all are found in the Holy Land and could have been the bloom-bursting flowers equally blessing Isaiah’s heart as he spoke these Words of the Lord.

Thus you will walk in the ways of good and keep to the paths of righteousness.
Proverbs 2:20 NIV
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Psalm 23:3 KJV

path through the Mediterranean garden with olive trees
At the South Coast Botanic Garden, this path leads meandering through the Mediterranean garden, bordered by young olive trees. The space feels rustic with a hint of riotous, yet offers forthright direction on which way to go. I couldn’t help but feel its humorous commentary on a life following the Lord.

I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.
Isaiah 45:3 NIV

a peek to the secret garden at Texas Discovery gardens
I love this peek through large, thick hedges to a secret space at the back of Texas Discovery Gardens, named The Secret Garden.

The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders. Where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy.
Psalm 65:8 NIV

crab apples with streaming sunshine
This grove of crabapples caught my eye at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, with sunshine streaming through, who cannot resist the nudge to sing for joy!?

from everlasting to everlasting you are God
Psalm 90:2 NIV

cedars of Lebanon tower above at the Hoyt Arboretum
Evergreens are forever fused in my mind with everlasting-ness, an expansive word association made all the more epic by the magnificent cedar of Lebanon, in the mystic forest that is the Hoyt Arboretum.

For more on National Public Gardens Week, May 13th to 19th, 2019, go to www.publicgardens.org/

If you are attending the APGA Annual Conference, please come seem me! The Poster Presentation Session is on Wednesday, June 19th, 3:30 to 5:30 pm in the Omni Shoreham Hotel Exhibit Hall.

Photo Credits:
©2014-2019 Shelley S. Cramm

Cover image:
This bench at South Coast Botanic Garden beckons nearly as much as Jesus’ gesture in Matthew 11:28-30. I was pretty sure all my troubles would be gone if I sat on this bench surrounded by the bevy of nasturtium…but long after we go home and these flowers fade, Jesus blesses our souls with rest, hallelujah!

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One Response to In Praise of Public Gardens

  1. Charlotte Macfee May 17, 2019 at 9:15 am #

    All of these photos, along with the accompanying scriptures bring such peace. Thank goodness for Gardner’s who saw the need for the rest of us to have such restful places in or near our cities.
    Such a good reminder of God’s closeness to us….and always there!

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