San Antonio’s Sacred Garden

water fountain in SAcred Garden at SABOT

San Antonio’s Sacred Garden, a sheltered, hidden plot in the heart of the San Antonio Botanical Garden, holds a treasure trove of Biblical plants, a must-see for those who seek out the holiness of gardens. Actually, with a similar latitude and need for water savviness as the Levant, plants from the Bible are easy to discover throughout this southwestern public refuge. Enjoy snapshots from my recent visit and God’s Words to go with them.

Garden Entrance

papyrus and water falls refresh visitors at the garden entrance

Job warns that a quick withering comes alike to papyrus planted without water and those who forget God, see Job 8:11-13

Prelude to entering the Sacred Garden, find a gracious greeting at the Botanical Garden entrance gate of papyrus, populating water’s edge as papyrus do. The plants stand fluffy and tall along the featured waterfall gushing a reminder of water’s precious refreshment—a soothing quench for those in both geographies, Texans and Middle Easterners. The contrast of desert and well-watered garden is a constant theme in the Scriptures and a daily truth in Texan life as well:

The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.
Isaiah 58:11 NIV

Funny though, I happened to visit on a rainy day (there have been many this fall!)—no sun-scorching for me, thank you, Lord!

doves perched in branches

Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land. Song of Songs 2:12 NIV

This happy pair was perched along the way as I moved through the garden, feathers ruffled in the morning’s raindrops.

lovely swath of Artemisia

Instead, they have followed the stubbornness of their hearts; they have followed the Baals, as their ancestors taught them.” Therefore this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “See, I will make this people eat bitter [la’anah, wormwood, Artemisia absinthium] food and drink poisoned water. Jeremiah 9:14-15 NIV

Artemisia (Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’), thought to be a hybrid of wormwood, provides a lovely swath of grey-green foliage in the Water Saver Garden. In the Bible, the plant’s beauty is contrasted by its metaphor for bitterness, a dour heart resulting from a turn away from the Lord toward other gods, or objects empty of God’s nourishing love. The interspersed prickly agave appear to emphasize this pointed message.

Click this link for more on the water saving practices in place at the San Antonio Botanical Garden

Sacred Garden

arbor entrance to Sacred GardenAn arbor entrance heralds arrival in the Sacred Garden, filled on either side by hedges of pomegranate and myrtle. This entrance symmetry sets up the square formed, brick paver pathway surrounding a central garden bed, sheltered by a single, splendid willow tree, Salix matsudana ‘Toruosa’ or Salix babylonica var. pekinensis. Yet the space simultaneously gives way to a play of symmetry-asymmetry, creating a tension dynamic throughout the space, heightening the element of surprise in searching for the Biblical botanical treasures.

apricot-apple explanation plaque

“…Tradition teaches that the forbidden fruit was an apple becuase in Latin, malus translated as both apple (Malus pumila) and as sin…”

To one side, discover an apricot tree and a logical explanation for why the apple always gets the bad rap for tempting the downfall of mankind.

castor bean shelters bench

Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city….Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered… he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.” Jonah 4:5-9 NIV

Toward the rear, find a subtle vignette of Jonah’s sitting down under the shade of a “leafy plant.” The fast-growing castor bean is most-often credited as the species that provided Jonah some temporary relief. In this garden, a bench is situated under a stand of castor bean, a perfect place to sit and pout as Jonah did. Watch out for worms!


rain drenched myrtle branches

My first view of full-sized myrtle (dwarf varieties are popular these days). Branches grow in linear fashion without side branching, so I can see why these are easy to gather for Feast of Tabernacle celebrations, Nehemiah 8:15

Christ's Thorn plant detail

Christ’s Thorn, Ziziphus spina-christi, each leaf with a thorn at its base

Moving onward and upward, a path leads visitors through an overgrown olive grove, past bay laurel, lush myrtle shrubs, and thriving Christ’sThorn plants.


I was especially glad to see the Aleppo pine on the back hillside, their form the ultimate in asymmetry, its branches growing “somewhat whorled,” as Harold N. Moldenke described in Plants of the Bible.

He let it grow among the trees of the forest, or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow.
Isaiah 44:14 NIV

Tree of Life and a River Watering

My favorite moment in this Biblical collection is the design expression of the tree of life and the river of life, embodying the Garden of Eden…

The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters.
Genesis 2:9-10 NIV

tree of life and river of life in center of Sacred Garden

…center point of the sacred space yet asymmetrically arranged, tension-balanced beautifully. Like the rooftop garden at the Museum of the Bible, the tree of life is represented as a willow, a riparian species again embodying our thirst for life-giving water, physical thirst patterning our spiritual thirst. The river is represented in an ancient-textured fountain statue, a fruit basket clothed in water’s constant trickle. It appears as if it has been there forever, gesturing God’s continuous overflowing abundance and fruitfulness.

You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance.
Psalm 65:11 NIV

Zachry Foundation Culinary Garden

winter wheat sprouted in culinary raised beds

Wheat sprouts in the culinary raised beds, no weeds here! When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. Matthew 13:26 NIV

Working my way back through the garden, I ended my day in the working garden, the newly opened Zachry Foundation Culinary Garden. This section reveals a multitude of delight for God’s Word gardeners, showcasing a nearly complete display of the seven species: wheat, barley, vines, figs, pomegranates, olive oil, and date honey.

panorama from the SABOT Culinary Garden

Haggai 2:19 panorama in the Culinary Garden – a sweeping spread of pomegranates, figs, and olives “…Until now, the vine and the fig tree, the pomegranate and the olive tree have not borne fruit. From this day on I will bless you.’”

Let Us Know!

Do you enjoy visiting and discovering Biblical plants in the public landscape? Plantings like this one in San Antonio are found at many public gardens across our nation. My visits so far: See Buffalo, Los Angeles/Pasadena, and Pittsburgh chronicled at Garden in Delight.

Let us know! Comment here that you share a desire to revive these plantings and continue to make this Biblical heritage available for generations to come.

One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts.
Psalm 145:4 NIV


Visit the San Antonio Botanical Garden at

Garden in Delight gate logoSee the Plant Guide for information and inspiration to plant these and in your garden:
Myrtle –
Papyrus –
Pomegranate –
Wheat –
Willow –
Additionally, click the tags below to search blogs for more on the plants featured in these photos

Photo Credits:
©2018 Shelley S. Cramm

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4 Responses to San Antonio’s Sacred Garden

  1. Charlotte Macfee November 10, 2018 at 10:18 am #

    As you learn about more Bible plants being I corporated into Botanical gardens and your share that info with your readers, it inspires many of us to seek out these special gardens. Thanks Shelley!

    • Shelley Cramm November 27, 2018 at 1:01 pm #

      O good, yes I hope to rekindle the interest for the great treasures that are all around us in our public gardens! Thanks mom!!

  2. Lydia Plunk November 27, 2018 at 11:02 pm #

    Thank you for sharing. I am blessed to read your words.

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