The garden as a good place for people to connect with the world is used a number of times in the Bible, starting with the Garden of Eden all the way up to Jesus retiring to the Garden of Gethsemane. Those two gardens, in particular, are sacred spaces. The Garden of Eden is a place of paradise where all life comes from. While the Garden of Gethsemane is often simply seen as the place of Jesus arrest and violence, you have to think a little deeper about it. Of all places Jesus could have gone to pray during this troubling time, including inside a temple, He chose to be outside in a garden. The implication is that the garden provided some relief from the stress He was under and that He felt closer to God there.
I definitely feel closer to God in my garden. It is also a place of joy because I can go there any time and explore it photographically. I do not need to go on any long trips or pack a lot of gear. It is also a place that helps relieve stressful times in my own life.
One thing that helps me feel closer to the nature that God has created is that my garden is a native plants garden. I have grown native prairie plants in gardens before in Minnesota, and now, I am growing plants native to the chaparral of Southern California. These plants represent an important part of the natural ecosystems of Southern California and help me feel more connected to them. I can now watch and photograph these plants 24/7 and all year round to learn their lives and personalities.
I think such gardens and the use of native plants is important in our landscapes. I believe that one of the reasons people get alienated from nature and do not connect with God’s creation well is that they truly are alienated from nature when all they have growing around them is either exotic plants they will never see in the wild or asphalt. What a choice. Can you imagine Jesus retiring to the Garden of Gethsemane so He could sit under exotic flowers from South Africa rather than connect with plants that were truly part of His world? How do you connect with a God of creation if all you see are plants and flowers from another continent that are not part of your world?
I love seeing exotic flowers and plants, too. I would not want gardens to never have them. But I do think the world immediately around us, including our gardens, can have a big impact on how we see nature and, ultimately, God.