As a professional garden designer, I have enjoyed working with clients to create beautiful gardens where they can relax, reflect, socialise and strengthen relationships. During the course of the year, I will show you how to transform your outdoor spaces, and how you can connect with both God and community in the most amazing ways. I will reveal gardening tips and give you insight into the latest horticultural trends.
But, before we dive into all that, we need to ask an important question: What is the point of the garden?
‘There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind’ (CS Lewis)
We need to understand where we came from, in order to see where we are heading, and how we are likely to get there. Did you know that the first ‘church plant’ (pun intended) was done by God? It was the Garden of Eden.
There is an intricate link between God, Man and the Garden. After God Himself breathed life into Man, the very next verse says that He created a garden in Eden and put Man in charge of it (Genesis 2:7-9). We see that:
- God gave of Himself to create Man
- God assigned Man a sphere of responsibility (Genesis 2:15)
- God provided things that were beautiful and productive (verse 9)
- It was good for Man to eat of the fruits of his labour (verses 15-16)
- Man was not alone; God created the perfect helper and companion for him. There was an intimate community (verse 18)
- The garden was a place of fellowship with God – in Genesis 3:8, the man and his wife recognised God’s footsteps
God created Woman in such a way that Man knew that Woman was part of him, and that a man should join with his wife and become one.
I also think that God loves surprises. He wanted Man to wake up and see the love of his life before his eyes. But here’s another possible reason for the deep sleep, which I think some of you can relate to: Man got too busy. Allow me some creative licence, but this is what I think happened.
After Man was put in charge of the garden, he needed to organise his schedule. Soon, there was a business plan, a finance plan, an operating plan, an environmental policy, waste management policy and an animal resources policy. (There were no human resources yet.) Add in monthly targets, and well… you can see where this was going.
So God said, ‘Right, all this running around is giving Me a headache, and Man needs to take a break. He needs a helper just right for him, and only I can give Him exactly what he needs, just as I have given him everything else.’
Man had to take a step back, to let God take a step forward.
Here are some challenges for 2015:
- Spend more time in your garden with God, and less time on mobile devices
- Make plans, but allow your ‘doing’ to come from your ‘being’
- Start a community garden project
- Visit one of the Royal Horticultural Society Gardens
In the next article, we will look at how churches can develop their gardens or outdoor spaces to build strong communities.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT: EVERGREEN PLANTS
Jeremiah 17:7-8 mentions plants whose leaves ‘never wither and never stop producing fruit’.
There are not many evergreen plants that produce fruit fit for human consumption. Most are deciduous or grow only in tropical climates, but some fall within the ‘Jeremiah category’.
Berries are known to be ‘superfruits’, containing rich vitamins and antioxidants. Winter winds bring a flash of crimson to the leaves of the blueberry (Vaccinium myrtillus, V. corymbosum) and cranberry ‘Pilgrim’ (Vaccinium macrocarpon).
Olive trees (Olea europaea) were prevalent in biblical times. Its oils were used as currency and for medical and culinary purposes. The olive branch is a sign of peace. The Olive Tree of Vouves (Crete, Greece) – the oldest olive tree in the world – is about 3,000 years old.
REVITALISE YOUR GARDENING SPACE
Our ‘default mode’ as people is to often let things go out of shape. Not only is this evident on our waistlines after the Christmas feasts (!), but we can see this in our gardens as well. Planting beds grow wild; lawns turn into meadows.
Having created the garden in Eden from His master plan, God placed Man in the garden to tend and watch over it. These early months are the perfect time to get in touch with a garden designer to revitalise your outdoor space. A competent, professional designer should not only be able to make the most of the space, but work within a realistic budget to create a space where family and friends can (re)build strong bonds. The designer should have sound, horticultural knowledge, good working relationships with fully insured landscape contractors, and be able to provide you with a plant maintenance schedule.
About the writer
Jason Loh worked as a property solicitor before retraining in landscape and garden design and establishing his award-winning garden design practice, Jason Loh Designs Ltd. For more details, visit www.jasonloh.co.uk.