A well-watered garden is a powerful image of creativity, abundance, fruitfulness.
When asked to describe or picture heaven, I often see it as a garden.
The Prophet Isaiah, wrote these words: And the LORD will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.
Isaiah’s choice of a garden for his image here is perfect, as are many of the images he chose for his prophecies: an image which is profound and powerful.
A few months ago during a visit to Hidcote Manor Garden, one of the National Trust’s greatest gardens, we heard the Head Gardener say that because we’ve had a late spring this year, 2013, the plants, like people, benefit from “a good long kip” and so later on, when they flower, they will be more plentiful, more colourful and more abundant.
And so it has proved in three outstanding gardens I’ve recently visited: Upton House, near Banbury; the garden at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon; and a private garden in Chase Lane, Kenilworth, Warwickshire, part of the Open Gardens event run by the National Gardens Scheme.
As I spend time wandering around these gardens I reflect upon what engages me most in gardens I love:
* a series of small enclosed spaces which are like outdoor rooms – little ‘dens’ where you may sit and contemplate or dream or write or do anything else creative, which are shady, secret, beautiful, tranquil, hidden;
* a number of vistas and points from which you may glimpse things either near or distant which may intrigue or surprise;
* in a grand garden with a stunning planting scheme, I’m most enchanted by combinations of depth & colour & shape which evoke different emotions in the beholder; low misty feathery plants in front, then the tall bold gold shapes behind, and finally the purple spiky angular plants at the back: a profusion of different contrasting and complementary shapes and textures.
This is what I saw in the gardens at Upton House when I visited on Friday 23 August 2013.
A predominance of pink and gold with occasional glimmers of white, lilac, purple, burgundy.
A gentle, warm fragrance filled the air; butterflies flocked to the lavender, bumble bees feasted in every direction I gazed.
The whole was in dynamic motion, appearing to me as a vibration of life, shimmering above and around the blossoms.
We are all indebted to those whose gift is to design gardens, select plants, and work hard to create paradise on earth: surely the goal of all the great garden designers. In this life, there is a place for all of us; those who work, those who act, those who are practical, and those who come to see, and to drink deeply, who dream, who draw inspiration, who see visions, and who believe.
Great gardens are places that feed the imagination, provide a source of inspiration, nurture creativity, enrich our dreams, lift our hearts to the divine.
For paradise is a garden.