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The Biblical Gardens of NYC. Series: God in NYC gardens

Yankee fans will appreciate that The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine’s Biblical Garden has a plant representing exile: the palm tree.

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This Upper West Side oasis with palm trees reflects the structure of the Cathedral of St John the Divine.

Yankee fans will appreciate that The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine’s Biblical Garden has a plant representing exile: the palm tree. Biblical gardens contain plants for every season and every reason for even events obscure in their meaning.

The garden is a nice place to refresh.

The garden occupies a small inconspicuous space toward the rear of the cathedral’s 11.3 acres of land. It contains the quince which some say was the “apple” in the Garden of Eden, irises which were a Biblical symbol for Israel (Hosea 14:5), sage which served as a model for the menorah (Exodus 37:17-18), the lilies of Solomon, bay laurel and pine denounced by Isaiah (44:9,14) as the wood of idols, the Star of Bethlehem which became a symbol of Jesus’ birth, and a Judas tree (a redbud).

The garden also contains four clumps of willow trees which are used to construct outdoor shelters for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. By Wednesday many Jews will start temporary living in roughly made tabernacles or huts with limb and leaf roofs (called "sukkah") to commemorate God’s provision for the nation of Israel as it wandered around the desert in exile after their exodus from Egypt.  The Jews in those ancient days were growing skeptical of God’s promise of a land of milk and honey.  As far as they could see, there was desert, thirst and starvation. Then, God brought them into an oasis with 12 springs and 70 palm trees (see Exodus 15:27). They saw that even in their exile, God was there and still cared for them.

Now, each day for seven days, Jewish observers of the commemoration will carry a lemon-like fruit called the citron, pour out fresh water (“living waters”), and wave

Palm branches like these in St John's Biblical Garden are used in Sukkot, the commemoration of God's leading Israel to an oasis in the desert.

palm, myrtle, and willow branches around their Torah reading tables. The swooshing sound of the waving branches is said to be like the sound of the Holy Spirit of God rushing to help the nation of Israel. The last day of Sukkot is the day of God’s “Great Salvation” when the prayers for the coming year are answered.

We know what Yankee fans will be praying for. Others will pray for gardens watered in a timely manner producing food for the poor, widows and shut-ins. Whatever kind of exile one is thrust into, Sukkot and the palm trees of the Biblical garden promise that one day we will all leave our despair to arrive rejoicing  into the Promised Land.



Also see "The Medieval Gardens of NYC"

For more information on Biblical gardens see Catholic Encyclopedia on plants of the Bible, Biblical Gardens in Fairhaven, VT, Congregation Rodef Shalom Biblical Garden in Pittsburg, PA, Warsaw, IN Biblical Garden,, and Biblical Gardens Society - USA. Ghillean Prance, perhaps the foremost expert on plants of the Bible, was the Royal Botanist in England and founded a an environmental research and educational center called The Eden Project.

For more information on Sukkot in Wikipedia or virtual Jewish library or

The Biblical Garden also has the romance of the love poem, The Song of Solomon.

  • Nice!

  • Like this.

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  • Thanks Janelle, Suzy, and Martin! Can't help with the physics but write us up in your botany class!


  • Fresh! 🙂

  • Enjoy this site so much. Now, if you could only write about Physics so I can pass Scinece class?!

  • As a Californian, I love the outdoors and gardening. What an interesting series!

  • Interesting analytical observation.

  • I think it is interesting so far how you have implicitly identified different types of gardeners: traditionalist; Biblicist; counter-cultural; and immigrant. I look forward to next gardeners.

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