Welcome to day 20 of 28 Days of Have Heaven, a short month of posts about heaven, paradise, perfection and desire, perfect places, art, theology, gardens, and more, using the Enya song “China Roses” as a jumping off point. Each post will look at these elements in itself, which may not obviously connect with the others, and which may only peripherally be related. I won’t attempt to tie the posts together. They’ll all be listed here, as they are posted
This post is doubling as my Wednesday Vignette post (though it will be much much more texty and imagey than a vignette), and I am taking as my subject Anna’s subject at Flutter & Hum, the host of WV: Anticipation, and not just anticipation but anticipation of the upcoming flower & garden show in my area (hers is this week in Seattle).
There is something indeed heavenly about the Boston Flower & Garden Show, this year from 13-17 March, in the middle of our snowy and cold New England winter. Sure, “Spring” is only a few days afterward, but since it’s chilly, muddy, snowy, and gusty through much of April and can even snow in May here in central New Hampshire, it’s literally cold comfort to celebrate Spring on 20 March (5:58 p.m. ET to be exact) … though the quality of light is already changing, a foretaste of warmer, brighter, longer days to come.
This will be a bit tongue in cheek, because I don’t think of heaven as a proper place (more of a heterotopia, if I had to locate it), but as I anticipate attending the heavenly heterotopia of the Boston Flower & Garden show in a few weeks (Theme: The Beauty of Balance), let’s consider gardens in general and the flower show (which I’ve enjoyed for the past eight years) in particular in terms of (mostly Biblical) descriptions of heaven.
“In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3).
The Quran also speaks of mansiony elements — raised couches, cups, cushions, carpets — which are very well represented each year at the flower show:
“With their effort [they are] satisfied. In an elevated garden, wherein they will hear no unsuitable speech. Within it is a flowing spring. Within it are couches raised high and cups put in place and cushions lined up and carpets spread around.” (Q. 88:8-16)
In (permaculture) gardens, there are many garden beds and borders, which we prepare and nurture for plants, pollinators, fungi, soil critters, birds, reptiles and amphibians, et al., as well as other separate spaces like patios, decks, allées, sheds, croquet lawns, composting areas, greenhouses, barns, orchards, food forests, fruit guilds, annual vegetable gardens, herb spirals, water gardens and aquaculture, and so on. Whether compact or spacious, small or large, garden spaces serve as inviting homes for many resident and visiting species — very mansiony!
At the flower show are also, prepared for us, numerous abodes — patios, pools, treehouses, yoga spaces, cabins, sheds, outdoor kitchens, chickens coops, tiny houses, and gardens for all species, as well as cushions, chairs, and couches:
And this, I mean, this is heaven!
There are also mansions for insects and chickens:
And even a bocce ball court and Zen garden in this paradise:
“They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:16-17).
Nothwithstanding that a little heat would be lovely right about now here, lots of garden structures — including pergolas, some lattices, canopies, gazebos, awnings — work to minimize summer sunlight.
And from the Boston flower show in years past:
The Bible mentions living fountains of waters and the heaven of the Quran is full of rivers, as well as “gardens of pleasure” (sometimes translated as “gardens of bliss”) and “gardens of perpetual residence” (also translated as “Gardens of Eden”):
“Beneath them rivers will flow in the Gardens of Pleasure. Their call therein will be, ‘Exalted are You, O Allah,’ and their greeting therein will be, ‘Peace.’” (Q. 10:9-10) and “Those will have gardens of perpetual residence; beneath them rivers will flow.” (Q. 18:31)
Most gardens, private and botanical, have some kind of water feature, whether a bird bath; sandy, stony butterfly and dragonfly pool; fountain or waterfall; pond for ducks, fish, aquaculture, swimming, paddling around, or simply visual pleasure; creek or stream; reflecting pool; water garden; or wet-have-you.
Below, clockwise from upper left, from The Fells, Newbury, NH; Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, VA; Tarbin Gardens, Franklin, NH; Bedrock Gardens, Lee, NH; children’s garden, Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, PA; Italian Water Gardens, Longwood; our garden, Waterboro, ME; tadpoles at Bedrock Gardens; and Heritage Museums & Gardens, Sandwich, MA.
And of course the Boston flower show is water-filled, just like heaven:
“The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst” (Revelation 21:19-20).
Gardens may not typically be full of precious gemstones and jewels but the flowers, fruits, berries, and foliage therein are certainly jewel-toned and gem-coloured.
For the record, jasper is often red, due to iron content, though there is a rare greenish form; sapphire is usually a saturated blue; chalcedony usually has a soft blue or greyish white translucence; emeralds are a deep green; sardonyx is a flat-banded white, brown, and red stone; sardius (aka carnelian) is a brownish-blood red; chrysolite (aka peridot) could refer to either a yellowish-green sapphire or an olive-green tourmaline; beryl comes in many colours, and both emerald and aquamarine are beryls; topaz is yellowish brown in nature but can also be deep golden-orange, yellow, pink, red, and blue; chrysoprase is a translucent, bright apple or grassy green variety of chalcedony; jacinth (or hyacinth) is a blue stone; and amethyst (in Hebrew ahlamah, literally “dream stone”) is a violet-purple. (There is some question about the colour of a few of these in Biblical times; more info here.)
From Boston flower shows past:
“The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass” (Revelation 21:21).
Not a pearly gate but a beautiful ironwork one outside a garden in Charleston, SC:
The Boston flower show has gates!
No gold or clear pathways that I have noticed, in any gardens or at the flower show, but still, lovely walkways abound (clockwise: Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens; Heritage Gardens, Sandwich, MA; Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, PA; Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, VA; The Mount, Lenox, MA; and Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens):
At the Boston flower show, this Rutland Nurseries patio material, pearly shells, struck my fancy; I’d really prefer a shell, stone, or sand walkway to gold, even clear gold:
“In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2).
So, apparently there’s a tree that bears 40 different stone fruits, but one tree bearing twelve kinds is pretty cool, heaven.
The heaven of the Quran offers fruits too, and a non-intoxicating drink:
“Those will have a provision determined — fruits; and they will be honored in gardens of pleasure on thrones facing one another. There will be circulated among them a cup from a flowing spring, white and delicious to the drinkers; no bad effect is there in it, nor from it will they be intoxicated” (Q. 37:40-47)
Fruit tree guilds are a thing in permaculture gardening — my two peaches have been over-bearing, in the best way, the past couple of years:
Other friends, depending on where they live, grow lemons, limes, oranges, kiwis, lots of berries, pears, plums, apples, grapes. Public gardens grow fruits, too, all kinds, in greenhouses and conservatories, and outside as well; here is a smattering from Longwood Gardens (nectarines, figs, grapefruit), Bedrock Gardens, Lee, NH (Asian pears, espaliered apples), and Distant Hill Garden, Walpole, NH (red seckel pears):
The Boston flower show has skimped a bit on fruiting trees, though it usually showcases ornamental plums and similar and offers a fair number of veggie garden and herbal options. Below are a container garden with an orange, an espaliered apple, a semi-edible garden with a fig, and some cranberries that were part of an Ocean Spray display — a bit paltry:
The show could definitely improve in terms of heavenliness, Garden of Edenness, with more edible gardens and fruits. Maybe some nut trees and shrubs too? A 40-fruiting tree could solve the problem.
I wonder: Might the circulating cup of delicious and non-intoxicating drink spoken of in the Quran passage be this Pellegrino (from an eternal spring, obviously, not recyclable bottles), possibly enhanced with juice of the lemon or lime? (Probably not that rose’ wine just beyond …)
“There is more pleasure in making a garden than in contemplating a paradise.” — Anne Scott-James, English journalist and garden writer
Featured image: opalescent hellebore bloom, Heimlich Nurseries display, 2018