Last weekend we visited the New Victoria Gardens – one of the oldest allotment sites in Glasgow. Opened in 1872, Saturday was their 150th anniversary celebration. We entered down a few steps and through a door in a wall to a labyrinth of plots, each with its own small wooden gate. Several holders wore Victorian dress to mark the occasion, and all were eager to show off their produce and offer advice to any would-be gardeners. No two gardens were the same, but all were thriving. What a joy to stroll along the paths and appreciate this oasis of vegetation and floral abundance – a haven for bees and wildlife hidden away amidst the busyness of urban Pollokshields.
A large trellis of sweet peas took my attention and reminded me of childhood. Growing up in Kirkcaldy an annual highlight was the Flower Show held in the Adam Smith Hall. It was a wonderful event with breathtaking flower arrangements and huge prize- winning vegetables. Perhaps my favourite section was the miniature gardens. I still remember the intricate shed made from lollipop sticks, rows of tiny cauliflowers and little ducks on a small mirror pond.
One memorable year The Elizabeth Ann School of Dancing gave a display at the end of the show. I was full of nervous excitement as I rehearsed the steps in my head. To me, a child, the Adam Smith Hall seemed huge, and the enormous stage draped on either side with heavy maroon velvet curtains very high up and very grand.
After our performance the leftover flowers were all auctioned off. Amongst them was the most beautiful bunch of white sweet peas with a tag that read in big letters, ‘Swan Lake’. Dressed in my white ballet tutu and pink ballet shoes, my dark hair scraped up into a bun, I felt very much the ballerina. “These flowers are mine!” I thought to myself. “Please, please can I bid for them?” and I was given a shilling. “A shilling,” I called out. Everyone smiled – no-one dared outbid me. The sweet peas smelled heavenly and I’ve loved them ever since.
Gardens, growing flowers and all things green are good for the environment and ecology, so allotments that once fed the rural poor have become a popular hobby. They are good for us too. Apart from the obvious advantage of producing healthy food, the exercise involved must increase fitness. They also encourage a community spirit and are good for mental, emotional and spiritual health,
Perhaps we enjoy gardens so much, because of a memory trace back to Eden where there was beauty and joy in our relationship with creation and our Creator. In my hippie days in the early 70s I stuck a flower in my hair and sang to Joni Mitchell’s ‘Woodstock’, “We’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.” Of course in those days we ignored the Fall and completely bypassed personal sin and accountability as we searched for peace and spirituality anywhere but in Christianity.
As Jesus agonised in the Garden of Gethsemane, the final outcome of his sin bearing sacrifice on the Cross would bring us more than Eden restored. What God has purposed is so much better. The new heavens and earth pictured at the end of the Bible are described as a vast city filled with the ‘ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation’ (Revelation 5:9) and this city is set in a garden, yes, mirroring Eden, but each detail more glorious (Revelation 22:1-5).
My Sweet P’s
I’m not very good with plants, unlike some of my green fingered friends who provide me with their delicious rhubarb and kale. This year I attempted sweet peas, but was only moderately successful. I may never have a productive garden or allotment, but I can testify with King David that my allotment from God ‘has fallen in Pleasant Places’ for he is my ‘Portion’ (Psalm 16:5-6). Amazingly, as we look forward to that Promised future garden-city of God, we get to taste its Produce now. Perhaps these are the sweetest P’s of all – Christ’s Pardon, his Presence, his Peace, his Provision and Protection and so many more….
As the loved of the Lord, may our overwhelming Passion for his Praise make us a garden of delights for him (Song of Songs 4:12-16).