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Trinity + 1: God in our Gardens (part 2)

14 June 2009
1 Samuel 15:34-16:13, Mark 4.26-34, Psalm 20 May the Lord hear your cry
Behold, all things are become new! 2 Corinthians 5:17

How fair is a garden amid the toils and passions of existence. Benjamin Disraeli

Spring being a tough act to follow, God created June. Al Bernstein 1

What is one to say about June, the time of perfect young summer, the fulfilment of the promise of the earlier months, and with as yet no sign to remind one that its fresh young beauty will ever fade.
Gertrude Jekyll
, 'On Gardening'

Old gardeners never die . . . they only go to seed. [Anon]

Plant and your spouse plants with you; weed and you weed alone. Dennis Breeze 1

A weed is a plant that is not only in the wrong place, but intends to stay there.
Sara Stein 'My Weeds: A Gardener's Botany'

There are two ways in which gardeners measure their performance against that of others: one is the local flower show, the other is the garden opening. Having done too well in our show last year, and not wishing to risk annoying my neighbours again, I have decided to opt instead for photography, cakes and mint jelly - in which classes I will be soundly trounced, for sure...
it is harder to open a garden because you cannot anticipate how onlookers will react. Will they go round the right way, will they understand what I am trying to do? Opening your garden exposes you to the public gaze, and that gaze is not always friendly. I will never forget the remark of a woman who came round three years ago. As she was leaving she pointed to a 'Duchess of Albany' and said: 'Very nice, dear, but did you know your clematis has mildew?'
Ursula Buchan, 'The Garden', May 2009

It still is our private garden. We are very happy to share it but, having said that, I do love Sundays when there's no one here. It's my church on Sundays - very peaceful and very still. I think for many people, with suffering in their lives, or loss, difficulty, pain or stress of any kind to get out into the garden and put their hands in the soil, or just sit and look at plants is tremendously soothing. There are times when you are sick to death of it - you can't be on a high note all the time - but deep down, underlying it all, it's one's world.
Beth Chatto, 'A Gardener's Garden'

Beth Chatto seems to have a contemplative approach - regarding the garden as 'one's world', rather than a place of retreat from which to emerge back into the world, refreshed.

But the link with religion is also made by Russell Page in 'The Education of a Gardener' :
A garden really lives only insofar as it is an expression of faith, the embodiment of a hope and a song of praise.

Bad gardens copy, good gardens create, great gardens transcend. What all great gardens have in common is their ability to pull the viewer in so completely that the conscious sense of self disappears and, at least for a brief moment, one is ushered into a timeless awareness. A great garden, in other words, is mystical no matter what its actual content.
Ken Wilber
, 'Grace and Grit'

The Old Testament is full of references to flowers, especially their fragility, their evanescence. Samuel warns: 'All the increase of thy house shall die in the flower of their age,' and the Voice in Isaiah says: 'All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass.' Gardeners know this. They perceive that dying is inherent in nature, and so is rebirth and renewal. Gardeners come close to the spirit of life and its creator. They are not wild enthusiasts, but gentle philosophers, and we may be sure that no great gardener is an atheist.
'And Another Thing', Spectator editorial 2 July 2008

O God, who hast made the earth so fair, and written thy glory in the heavens; Help us inwardly to respond to all that is outwardly true and beautiful, so that as we pass through things temporal we may never lose sight of things eternal, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen.

1 Unfortunately I have been unsuccessful in my attempts to track down Dennis Breeze or this Al Bernstein, as one of 'the other Al Bernsteins' pointed out.
Grateful thanks to Ursula Buchan and Beth Chatto for permission to quote them as above, and to Ursula Buchan for her encouragement.

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