What is garden?

If one thinks to the word ‘garden’ perhaps the image of enclosed piece of land, with grass, flowers, shrubs and trees, and perhaps a shed with tools to garden with, or a seat to enjoy the nature in the garden.

Today the word garden is described in the Oxford english dictionary as: ‘a piece of land next to or around your house where you can grow flowers, fruit, vegetables, etc., usually with a lawn

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In the past the word ‘garden’ was spoken by the Frankish (old West Germanic language spoken 4th-8thcentury) as gardo – meaning ‘fenced in yard, or enclosure’.

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If we look all over the world so we see different kinds of gardens, all created with different kinds of intentions, for example, the intention to create a productive garden, a therapeutic garden, a social meeting place, a symbol of wealth and social status, a wild life haven, and so one could go on. 

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For centuries the human being has been enclosing areas of land and creating gardens.


One could think of a garden, an enclosed area of land, as having 4 natural layers











These four layers also live outside the enclosure, they extend into the wider landscape, all around the world. Looked at in this way the whole earth is one garden, divided into many, with each garden receiving forces from the cosmos, from the sun, planets and constellations, from a particular direction.


This orientation between earth and cosmos, in the cycle of the day, the month, the seasonal year brings forth different kinds of gardens, which come and go, offering a living, weaving transforming picture, which not only offers the lively dynamic of a specific quality or characteristic – an interesting, vivid specific aesthetic, as one finds in the descriptions of the Bach flower remedies - but also offers material substances into the world-  food, clothing, building materials - ,which supports and maintains all of life


The garden is laid out all over the globe, with different landscape places expressing different qualities and characteristics, in different kinds of gardens. As a person meets these different gardens so they meet these different qualities. And here lies a great possibility, for a person to explore and engage with these qualities, and create a meaningful relationship to them.




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A shady woodland garden, for example, describes to the human being a different quality or character than a flower garden, which sits in full light and sun. 

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A garden left to ‘rewild’ itself offers a different quality or character in comparison to a strongly structured ornamental garden.

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As a person sees and feels the qualities of a garden they meet also a character or quality that perhaps lives within them, for example,  these different kinds of character qualities:
being strict and rigid
being chaotic, loose, random
being  dark, gloomy
being happy, sunny, warm

To the development of character Swami Sivananda wrote: 

‘Learn how to eradicate vices and how to cultivate virtues in the garden of your heart. Vices and evil habits are the weeds. Virtues are priceless fruits and flowers…Become a skilful Yogic gardener. Plant good flowers in the garden of your heart and enthrone the Lord in the centre of the heart-garden and mediate on Him.’

(All about Hinuism, Swami Sivananda)


The lie of the land in the garden and the various things within it, also provide a physical challenge, which again offers the possibility to develop a character quality or trait, like the ability to persevere when walking up a garden with a long, steep slope or the ability to move in a balanced way in a garden which has different physical obstacles and barriers, or to develop a sense of rhythm when taking up a garden task that is repetitive in its action e.g. raking leaves.



An outer garden is a mirror to an inner garden of the soul. A garden is full of plants, plants are expressing soul qualities, in learning to experience and perceive the plants in the garden a person can unfold, blossom more pure, valuable, meaningful, useful qualities into creation. A meaningful, receptive meeting with the outer garden gives the possibility to light up, animate, bring to life an inner garden of the soul.  

How do people today meet the garden? What do they understand the garden is? 
How did people of the past meet and understand what a garden is? 


Some meditative thoughts on the garden