Exploring Symbolic Garden Meaning
Folks who journey on the path of knowledge and enlightenment generally agree, living deeply and consciously is highly rewarding. However, in my experience, that noble path is not always a smooth one, and to stay on it requires discipline. Living a symbolic life...that is, to train our perspective to see the deeper, symbolic language residing in all life is an effective aid in staying on the path of maintained awareness and inner calm.
So, what does this all have to do with symbolic garden meaning? Plenty. Because as we continue to consciously interpret the symbolic language of life, we begin to see deeper meanings in all things...including stuff we once took for granted.
Something so simple as a garden, when viewed with symbolic vision, can represent far-reaching issues and mighty powerful insights.
As many gardeners will tell you, there is a tremendous sense of self-satisfaction in working with the earth, and growing one's own food. It takes commitment, patience, some research and a lot of sweat-equity to manage a garden. The rewards of forging a co-operative relationship with soil, sun, rain and environment are well worth the effort. Not to mention the bonzer fruits of labor!
In this light, garden meaning is about nurturing, investment and the satisfaction gained from reaping rewards by one's own hand and will.
There's another level of satisfaction to gardening that's worth consideration. I'm talking about self-reliance. Growing a garden is a step in the right direction towards providing for ourselves, rather than relying on government, commercial food growers, or capitalistic corporations. More and more, modern civilization is becoming alarmingly dependent upon provisions from outside sources rather than providing for itself as it once did.
In this way, garden meaning takes on a global tone that extends symbolic themes like: Independence, self-reliance, freedom, self-determination. There is nothing more liberating than being in a position to depend on one's own resources, and not have to rely on others for something as valuable as food on the table. On a global scale, more gardens equate to a more self-sufficient society with less dependence upon external providers such as the government. It's a pretty bold statement, but I like this quote to illustrate my point:
"It's about food. It's about your home. It's about your life. The government is worried about all of the above. Be worried that they're worried. Here's why: They're telling you that you can't take care of yourself. You can't be trusted with what you put in your mouth or what you sign on the dotted line. So they'll tell you what to put in your mouth and they'll save you from what you signed on that dotted line. Does anyone see a trend here? Personal responsibility has now become government responsibility."
Add this to the mix: Growing a garden means having control over how that food is produced. We have very little control over how our vegetables are grown or handled in a chain grocery store, much less how our salads are prepared in the kitchens of chain restaurants. If you practice the art of mindful consumption, odds are you value the assurance in managing your own food over strangers preparing it for you.
As you can see, there are a lot of symbolic seeds growing around the deeper meanings of gardens. Here's a list of symbolic garden meaning highlights discussed so far...
Not only are these garden meaning s powerful, they are the result and consequence of growing a garden. In other words, these are significant emotional responses to collaborating with Mother Earth, and producing our own food, flowers, herbs, etc.
It's worth mentioning that every garden holds the energetic frequencies listed in the bullet-points above. However, as each biological feature in existence jives to its own unique vibe, it's logical that different kinds of gardens will embody different symbolic meanings. As you contemplate your own garden, or ponder your future gardens, tapping into the symbolic meaning of different ones might spark inspiration within you.
A simple illustration of this might be: Let's say you've been challenged by the blues lately. Spending time in, or planting a flower garden is a powerful counteraction for depression, because flower garden meaning deals with joy, positivity and uplifting themes. Here is a run-down of different types of gardens and the garden meaning associated with each one...
These gardens deal primarily with provision. They are designed to provide a community with food, and are symbolic of themes like:
As mentioned in earlier paragraphs, managing your own produce-garden promotes attitudes of independence and self-reliance...particularly in this modern world in which grabbing a pear or banana is as simple as walking into a convenience store. There's also something mighty profound about eating from a source that you've planted the seed, tended the soil, fussed over, and waited for 6-8 weeks to reap the fruits of labor. It sets a higher value on what is consumed. Inherently, humans tend to place a higher psychological value on something they've had to work hard for...an apple purchased at a chain store doesn't have the same psychological value as an apple that is earned by growing it in your own orchard.
These gardens deal primarily with delight. Flower gardens offer gifts to the senses...especially sight and smell. They are designed to provide an array of pleasure and they represent symbolic meanings such as:
There are a myriad of reasons for planting a flower garden, and the symbolism of each flower garden will hinge on the purpose of its planting. For example, a memorial garden might be planted to remember a loved one who has passed from this physical plane. Often favorite flowers of the loved one are grown in this garden.
The ancient Greeks established elaborate flower gardens to honor various gods and goddesses. For example, gardens of roses, and myrtle were planted to recognize Venus, their goddess of love. If you think flowers are just for girls, think again. Greek gardens were not just for goddesses, Flower gardens were also erected for gods. Take Morpheus for example, he is the Greek god of dreams. Vast fields of poppies were grown in Morpheus' honor, as poppies are symbolic of dreams, the psyche, and intuition.
In Celtic lore, the meadowsweet flower was grown to recognize Blodeuwedd who is known as the "flower faced" goddess. Meadowsweet is a symbol that not only represents this Celtic goddess, but also stands for noble qualities such as: Refinement, Purity, Sweetness and Elegance. Explore more about Blodeuwedd here.
In China, it is a common practice to plant flower gardens to honor deceased ancestors. The blossoms are effective in reminding the living of those who have passed. Some regions in China hold the belief that the flowers in a memorial garden attract butterflies, and these butterflies are actually the souls of their loved ones. Embodied in butterfly form, the spirit of their ancestors return to earth to offer advice, encouragement and assurance to the loved ones still living. Learn more about the meaning of flowers via Chinese wisdom here.
Speaking of butterflies, we can plant flower gardens for the specific purpose of attracting them, and hence summoning the energetic associations that come with butterflies, such as: Grace, Soulfulness and Beauty. Butterfly garden meaning also deals with life, progress and proliferation, as butterflies insure the continuation of plant life through their important function of pollination. Discover more about symbolic butterfly meanings here.
Whether your goal is to attract butterflies, and do your part to spread the lineage of flowers, or memorialize a loved one, or just have a sacred space in which to submerge yourself in the beatitudes represented by flowers...a flower garden is an elegant, joyful expression of Nature's brilliance. Learn more about flower meanings here.
Water gardens are not as common in the average household backyard, but their symbolic portent is wholly uncommon. Water is a powerful symbol, and to construct a sacred place that focuses on the element of water is akin to honoring water's power and majesty. Although features of intense beauty, water gardens (like all gardens) serve a deeper, symbolic purpose. Water gardens are typically designed for the purpose of reflection and contemplation.
Water gardens are a macrocosm (external, environmental version) of how energy flows within the microcosm (inner, personal version). Water garden meaning deals with fluid themes like...
For as long as our ancient ancestors have been contemplating the deeper meaning of Nature's features for the purpose of making sense of the world, water has held symbolism of cleansing and purification. Whether washing our bodies, or cleaning wounds, water is a fundamental element of clearing away debris. This action can be translated on an emotional level too.
Deep contemplation of water can invoke internal (emotional, mental) cleansing. Hence, water gardens can serve as a catalyst for healing, and clearing out emotional waste. Now, it would be great if all of us could step out our front door and sit in our own personal water gardens to seek spiritual renewal, but that's not feasible for most of us. So, I propose obtaining that watery buoyancy through the process of meditation. Simply build a water garden in your mind's eye. See the clear waters washing through your energy. Hear water's beauty and bounty bubbling up from within the Earth's secret spaces. Envisioning water moving through your energetic field can be intensely effective at clearing out unwanted negativity.
Water garden meaning is expressed by its features. Sure, water is the prime symbol of the garden, but let's not overlook other design elements. Like fish. Fish are symbolic of the subconscious, of dreams, and mysterious stuff that goes on beneath the surface of our common experience. Koi fish are often key features of a water garden, and according to the Japanese, these fish are symbolic of good luck, prosperity, health and wealth. Check out more on Koi fish meanings here.
Furthermore, water is symbolic of emotion, and the passage of time. Consider the Grand Canyon in the United States. It is a behemoth gash in the Earth, a truly mind-boggling natural wonder of the world. That feature on the face of the Earth was made by water over millions of years. Perhaps first as a small trickle running down a trail, eventually turning into a river (the Colorado river) and over time cutting a massive swath in its path.
We can observe water in this aspect and translate it symbolically into our own lives. How? By considering our emotions as if they are rivers running through our energy. They can start out small, and potentially grow into raging things - out of control and carving major channels into our lives over a period of time. What kind of emotions do you want to pay off for you, as they run furrows into your mind, body and soul? The next time you see water trickling from a source - whether it is in a water garden, or even your kitchen faucet - consider how water can be likened to your emotions. It can roll smoothly, gently through you, or it can rage wildly.
As you contemplate this parallel (water = emotion), keep in mind that time is a big feature of water. Example: How long has the river of anger been rolling through your nervous system, and what kind of landscape does that leave within your body and spirit? Conversely, what kind of scene does a river of peace leave in the wake of your existence? These are all deep concepts that are worthy of pondering. That's why, in many cases, water gardens are created - to give us a sacred space in which we can explore our inner features by meditating upon the powerful garden meaning surrounding us externally. Learn more about water symbolism here.
If water and water garden meaning intrigues you, then you may be interested in exploring Undines, which are water elementals. Check out my article on Undines here to employ a more enriching perception of water.
Perhaps one of the most unusual and unique of gardens, rock gardens are designed to connect with themes like:
Rock garden meaning is keenly linked with Earth symbolism. Rocks and stones are children of mountains, and as such, they represent heavy expressions of matter and tactile stuff.
Where flower and water garden meaning deal with delicate beatitudes, rock garden meaning serves a purpose of anchoring our energies, and bonding with the grounding sensations the Earth provides.
Why would we want to become more grounded? Namely, to extract ourselves from the modern-day hustle-bustle, fast-paced world. Motion is a miracle...but too much too fast can be a killer in the form of stress. Communing with stones has a tendency to pull us in a gravity that causes us to slow down, become still, and calm.
Try a stone meditation some time. That is, sit among a bevy of stones or rocky formations with a goal to become as a pebble yourself. Feel the heaviness of yourself rooting you to the core of the Mother Earth. Feel that solid stability giving you substance, strength and confidence that yes, indeedy - you have a place here, and have a right to stand your ground in this crazy world. You don't necessarily need to visit a rock garden to partake in this visualization. You can create a sanctuary of stones in your mind's eye, and allow that meditation to stabilize your energy.
I find it interesting that most rock gardens in the world are natural, and not created by the hand of man at all. Nature forms herself in breathtaking arrangement, especially when it comes to where stones wind up, and how they form. As rock gardens are rarely forged by human hands, I find this symbolic of surrender, and going with the natural process of things.
It's an encouragement to let "fallen stones lie" and sit amongst the natural order of life.
You may find yourself sitting amidst rubble - let's say the stones of your life have fallen in an unpleasant or unsatisfactory design. The core of rock garden meaning is acceptance - sometimes stuff just lands where it does, and sometimes all we can do is accept it, and move around the rocks as best we can.
If rocks are your thing, and you're intrigued by symbolic rock garden meaning, you might want to explore my article on Earth elementals (gnomes).
You may also like my article on Grounding Earth Meditations.
While you're flipping over rocks for symbolism, check out my article on The Meaning of Stones.
To be sure, there are a lot more types of gardens available for our pleasure and contemplation, and certainly more aspects of symbolic meaning connected to these and other gardens. This article on garden meaning is just a primer for the purpose of kindling our awareness to the idea that gardens represent so much more than just cultivated plots of land.
My hope with this article is for you to have the same transformative experience as I had while writing it. That is to say, once I submerged myself in the depth of garden meaning, I was inundated by epiphanies and revelations of symbolic garden potential.
In short, gardens are revolutionary symbols of the sacred. They encourage contemplation, growth and expansion. The lessons they offer us is multi-layered, and multi-purposed. The only tool a garden needs to attain its maximum potential is us. Gardens ask for our hearts, our minds, our bodies and spirits to meet in a sacred space to actively grow in wonder and bounty.
Happy gardening, and may all your symbolic harvests be enlightening. :)
An Important Note About Signs, Symbols and Their Meanings
Signs and symbols cultivate their meanings according to culture, context, passage of time in society as well as mass societal opinion. What's cool and highly important is that signs and symbols earn their most powerful meanings from our own personal perspectives.
This website strives to provide you with the best, time-honored information when defining signs and symbols. However, in the final analysis, "Beauty (and symbolism) is in the eye of the beholder."
Having said that, it's in our best interest to invest the time to do personal research on symbolic events happening to us. This website is just one perspective in an ocean of variety and diversity in the realm of symbolism. So dive in! There is a whole universe of deeper meanings to explore! You can start your research by clicking on the links at the end or to the side of this page. Odds are good I've got a follow-up article about this symbolic topic. ;)
As always, thanks for your willingness to learn more about the language of symbolism. It's a language that is universal and everywhere. It's super-groovy to travel with you on your symbolic path, and maybe offer a little translation along the way. Thanks for reading and exploring!