May 17, 2008

The Garden Lost

From another place in time
and a noble man of God
behind a house stately and proud
a garden can be found.

Beneath a canopy of trees,
through a maze of encircling shrubs,
walkways of brick are lined
with urns, planters, and pots.

A pond and a gazebo,
benches for rest and reflection,
all about are statues
with St. Francis keeping watch.

Much thought and work went into this space –
its design and intent is clear.
But flowers have long been absent here –
weeds and vines now occupy this place.

Walking through what was a garden
overgrown and all but forgotten –
one can imagine what once had been
and what could be again.

— Dan Hardison

Photo by Dan Hardison
Mercer Hall - Columbia, Tennessee

Located in Columbia, Tennessee, Mercer Hall was the home of James Hervey Otey after he was named the first Episcopal Bishop of Tennessee in 1833. Bishop Otey began the garden behind Mercer Hall on a plot that was once the vegetable garden for President James K. Polk. Over the years, the garden was enhanced by later owners including the addition of the gazebo that originally sat on the grounds of the Columbia Female Institute, a girls preparatory school that was started by Bishop Otey. Mercer Hall is still a private residence today.

When I visited the garden in 2003, it had not been maintained for some time, but was still a magical place. Walking through the garden, I could imagine how it once had been and what it could be again.

— Dan Hardison

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May 10, 2008

A Garden's Grace

Large or small, gardens provide a place of beauty, meditation, and inspiration. For those who work in the garden – there is a closeness with God. As The Rev. George W. Jones said, “good gardeners and good Christians have much in common – great faith in God.”

“Though garden design ranks with the finest of arts, a garden is among the most ephemeral of art forms,” Rick Darke, horticulturist, author and photographer, has written. “The garden is a unique conjunction of art, living elements, and human events that take place in its embrace, and it has a unique ability to heal, enlighten, and inspire.”

Planting a garden has been compared to painting a landscape with living things. Just as an artistic touch can be found in the design of the garden, the work of artists can be found within the garden in the form of sculpture, fountains, hand-wrought gates, mosaics, and even in the brickwork of walkways and walls. But the greatest work of art found in the garden is God’s own handiwork – flowers.

In what seems to be a never-ending variety of shapes, sizes, and color, flowers bring unending beauty to the garden. But the role of flowers does not end within the garden, flowers are used to adorn the inside of our homes, churches, and even places of business to enhance not only the beauty of the space, but also to provide an uplifting experience to all who enter. As Sharon Sheridan pointed out in a story for Episcopal Life, flower arranging is an art in itself.

Gardens can be any of a variety of styles – from gardens specializing in roses or orchids, to an English garden of shrubs, to the simplicity of a Japanese garden, to a woodland garden. Nor is space a problem. A container garden on a porch or patio can still provide a sense of contentment and enjoyment.
Long have gardens been used to bring peace, enjoyment, and wonder to those who enter. “These are indeed some of the fruits of time spent in a Quiet Garden, contemplating the beauty of the world around,” writes Jackie Locke, Administrative Director of the Quiet Garden Movement, “be it in a small backyard, a prairie, a vast forest, or a church memorial garden. It is an opportunity to be attentive, to hear God speaking and to respond, to leave refreshed and ready to engage with the world again.”

— Dan Hardison

Photo by Dan Hardison
Cheekwood Botanical Garden - Nashville, Tennessee

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May 3, 2008

The Gentle Gardener

I'd like to leave but daffodils

to mark my little way,

To leave but tulips red and white

behind me as I stray;

I'd like to pass away from earth

and feel I'd left behind

But roses and forget-me-nots

for all who come to find.

I'd like to sow the barren spots

with all the flowers of earth,

To leave a path where those who come

should find but gentle mirth;

And when at last I'm called upon

to join the heavenly throng

I'd like to feel along my way

I'd left no sign of wrong.

And yet the cares are many

and the hours of toil are few;

There is not time enough on earth

for all I'd like to do;

But, having lived and having toiled,

I'd like the world to find

Some little touch of beauty

that my soul had left behind.

Edgar A. Guest
From the book "Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest", 1934

Photo by Dan Hardison
Biltmore House Gardens, Asheville, North Carolina

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