Have your summer travels taken you to faraway gardens? I was excited to visit an old favorite last week, one of America’s most important Bible gardens, the Scripture Garden at Denver Botanic Gardens. Better yet, I got to meet the gardener! My special appointment was made sweeter by listening to the one whose hands are to the ground, day in, day out, tending and keeping this sacred space.
Most of her juicy garden gossip regaled turbulent weather and its toll on the plants. No surprise! Comeback from weather calamity is a classic garden theme.
I struck you with blasting winds, mildew and hail on everything your hands produced; but you still wouldn’t return to me,’ says Adonai. ‘So please keep this in mind… from the day the foundation of Adonai’s temple was laid, consider this: there’s no longer any seed in the barn, is there? and the vine, fig tree, pomegranate tree and olive tree have produced nothing yet, right? However, from this day on, I will bless you.’” Haggai 2:17-19 CJB
Their year’s drastic temperature swings and cold, extended, rainy spring have left their mark on the garden by a mix of late season blooms and bald tree branches. Nevertheless, the Scripture Garden’s gardener describes this sequestered space as “an exquisite garden.”
Well-appointed stonework defines edged planting beds, patio paving, and retaining walls between grade-changes, identifying this garden with solid, clear structure, and ensuring that it stands the test of time. The Scripture Garden was installed over 40 years ago and still looks handsome and inviting. Ancient-styled pots accentuate the age-old endurance of God’s Word and afford winter greenhouse storage of frost-tender fruit trees: olives, palms, and pomegranates. The other pair, figs and grapes, to round out the seven species display—that is, the Deuteronomy 8:8 list of grains and fruits—survive zone 5 exposure, although the fig trees grow more like shrubs.
It’s a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of oil-rich olive trees and date honey. Deuteronomy 8:8 VOICE
While the gardener got up to move a watering hose, I remained on our wooden bench, soaking in sanctuary views. Biblical trees surrounded me, and I felt grounded and happily still. The gardener has seen to it to keep signage to a minimum, likewise relegating flashy, annual color to other areas of Denver Botanic.
I’ve kept my feet on the ground, I’ve cultivated a quiet heart. Like a baby content in its mother’s arms, my soul is a baby content. Psalm 131:2 The Message
Let go of your concerns! Then you will know that I am Elohim. Psalm 46:10 NOG
I used to contemplate you in the sanctuary, seeing your power and glory Psalm 63:3 CJB
The Word, which gives life! He existed from the beginning. We have heard him, we have seen him with our eyes, we have contemplated him, we have touched him with our hands! 1 John 1:1 CJB
Scripture Garden Snapshots
Join me in this holy reverie and find tranquil, layered foliage and a few dainty flowers in snapshots below, along with Scripture references to captivate our thoughts with God.
Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. John 2:7-9 NIV
Rue blooms near the entrance to the Scripture Garden, with perky, petite flowers against intricate, sea-green foliage.
“Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone…” Luke 11:42 NIV
Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Genesis 3:7 NIV
Little Ollie™ seems to love its home in the Scripture Garden, growing full and lush in morning sun, sheltered in afternoon shade. Planted in pots, olives are stored in greenhouses during the freezing months.
And the dove came back to him in the evening, and behold, in her mouth was a freshly plucked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth. Genesis 8:11 ESV
Cedars of Lebanon, the Bible’s mightiest, most magnificent tree, shows the most weather damage in the Scripture Garden, yikes! Staff gardeners are still waiting to see if the trees will rebound, encouraged by new growth emerging on branch tips despite many dead needles.
His legs are like marble pillars on bases of fine gold. He stands tall like the finest cedar tree in Lebanon! Song of Songs 5:15 ERV
My sweetheart, my bride, is a secret garden, a walled garden, a private spring…there is no lack of henna and nard, of saffron, calamus, and cinnamon, or incense of every kind. Song of Songs 4:12-14 GNT
Layered foliage: Sunlight streams to the garden’s east side in the afternoon, highlighting dainty white flowers of oregano, a close relation to Biblical hyssop (Psalm 51:7); Little Ollie™ on the right and more fig “shrubs;” a potted, dwarf pomegranate, also formed in a shrub-like habit (Exodus 39:26); hardy iris lending a constant, contrasting leaf form and late spring, iconic flowers, inferred by some scholars to be among the “lilies” of Scripture (Hosea 14:5); all leading up to a glorious display of actual lilies, beaming back the sunlight in eye-catching aura.
My beloved has gone down to his garden, To the beds of balsam, To feed his flock in the gardens And gather lilies. Song of Songs 6:2 AMP
Lady’s bedstraw, Galium verum, is planted in the Scripture Garden as a resilient ground cover, seen blooming yellow above, and filling in with fine foliage in shady areas. It is not a Biblical species but included by the gardener’s whimsy: The common name can be a gesture to the manger where Mary lay baby Jesus, and in the meantime, this water savvy plant continues to keep garden beds filled with soothing green foliage.
She dressed him in baby clothes and laid him on a bed of hay, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7 CEV
For Christ is our living peace. He has made a unity of the conflicting elements of Jew and Gentile by breaking down the barrier which lay between us. By his sacrifice he removed the hostility of the Law, with all its commandments and rules, and made in himself out of the two, Jew and Gentile, one new man, thus producing peace. Ephesians 2:15 Phillips
Once again, we praise You for guiding us to gardens and meeting us there, O God! You were the first to plant a holy place to meet together, and the tabernacles and temples that have been built ever since resound this botanical beginning in scents and floral and foliar adornment. Thank You, Lord, for all of those who came before us to create gardens for us to enjoy, and thank You for all the hearts and hands who carry on this precious work. We agree: O Lord, how manifold are Thy works! In wisdom hast Thou made them all; the earth is full of Thy riches. Psalm 104:24 KJV. Help us keep focused on You and let our garden experiences captivate our thoughts with Your glory. In Jesus’ Name, amen.
“Sh’ma, Yisra’el! Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad [Hear, Isra’el! Adonai our God, Adonai is one] Deuteronomy 6:4 CJB
Do you love connecting God’s Word to your gardening work and the trees and plants around you? You will love my new book, My Father is the Gardener, Devotions in Botany and Gardening of the Bible, order at this link.
Read these Devotions Blogs to discover more of America’s Bible gardens and Biblical plants in public gardens: San Antonio’s Sacred Garden, Israel Prayer Garden, From Tree to Shining Tree, A Thanksgiving Walk Through Fort Worth Botanic Gardens, God’s Word in the Gardens of Salt Lake City, Sacred Gardens in DC, A Bible Gardener Visits Buffalo, Coast-to-Coast Cedar of Lebanon, Where Can I Find Bible Plants in Pittsburgh? Atlanta? Pasadena?
Find a devotional series on Cedars of Lebanon in the Garden Tours section of God’s Word for Gardeners Bible, beginning on page a-17
Photo Credits: ©2023 Shelley S. Cramm
AMP notes Scripture quotations taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 2015 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.Lockman.org
CEV notes Scripture quotations taken from the Contemporary English Version Copyright © 1991, 1992, 1995 by American Bible Society, Used by Permission.
CJB notes Scripture quotations taken from the Complete Jewish Bible by David H. Stern. Copyright © 1998. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Messianic Jewish Publishers, 6120 Day Long Lane, Clarksville, MD 21029. www.messianicjewish.net.
ERV denotes Scripture quotations taken from the HOLY BIBLE: EASY-TO-READ VERSION © 2014 by Bible League International. Used by permission.
ESV denotes Scripture quotations taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®). ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. The ESV® text has been reproduced in cooperation with and by permission of Good News Publishers. Unauthorized reproduction of this publication is prohibited. All rights reserved.
KJV denotes Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, King James Version published in 1611, authorized by King James I of England, which is public domain in the United States.
The Message denotes Scripture quotations taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries.
NIV denotes Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.®
NOG denotes Scripture quotations taken from The Names of God Bible copyright © 2011 by Baker Publishing Group, 6030 East Fulton Road, Ada, MI 49301. All Rights Reserved.
Phillips PHILLIPS denotes Scripture quotations taken from The New Testament in Modern English by J.B Phillips copyright © 1960, 1972 J. B. Phillips. Administered by The Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England. Used by Permission.
VOICE denotes Scripture quotations taken from The Voice™. Copyright © 2012 by Ecclesia Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved.