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What is a Sacred Garden?

By Lumara Lee
Updated May 16, 2024
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A sacred garden is one that has been designed with a religious theme. There is a wide variety of sacred gardens, including zen gardens, goddess gardens, Celtic gardens, Biblical gardens, labyrinth gardens, and many more. Sacred trees are featured in some religiously-influenced gardens, while others may contain herbs, vegetables, and flowers. Pathways might lead walkers on a sacred journey through the Catholic stations of the cross or the Celtic wheel of the year. Rustic benches and religious statues are sometimes placed in a sacred garden to enhance the feeling of a spiritual haven designed for prayer and contemplation.

One popular form of sacred garden is the zen garden. The most notable feature of a zen garden is its simplicity. This type of garden works on the principle that less is more, and a small number of natural elements become symbols. For example, a channel of small stones flowing through the landscape will represent water, and a rock might represent a mountain. Some zen gardens consist merely of a layer of sand, with one or several rocks artfully placed on top of the sand, which is frequently raked to create lines that represent flowing water.

Trees were sacred to the Celts, and they often worshipped in groves of oak, ash, rowan, willow, yew, and other trees deemed sacred. A sacred garden with a Celtic theme might feature a Celtic cross in the midst of a grove of trees. Brigit's Garden in Ireland is designed with a Celtic theme on 11 acres which includes meadows and woodland. Visitors to the garden go on a journey that takes them through the major Celtic festivals of Beltaine, Lughnasa, Samhain, and Imbolc, and features a nature trail, large Celtic sundial, stone circle, and a living willow play area.

Sacred gardens designed with a Biblical theme will often contain statues of saints, Mary, or Jesus surrounded by plants that are mentioned in the Bible. Some herbs that may be featured in a Biblical garden are coriander, mint, cinnamon, cumin, and dill. Other herbs that might be included are chamomile, mallow, and sage. A gardener who wants to grow vegetables described in the Bible has a long list to choose from that includes cucumbers, lentils, beans, garlic, and onions. Fruit trees suitable for a Biblical sacred garden are apple, fig, and pomegranate, and an orchard of nut trees such as almond, walnut, and chestnut may be featured.

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