• Shainna M. Callaway

The Influence of Grand Gardens

Updated: Mar 2

In the great botanical gardens, and even some of the parks and arboretums, that I have had the blessed opportunity of visiting, I can see that they are all influenced by the grand gardens of other countries. Each of them showing distinct sections of similarities such as the symmetry of the renaissance, pruned asian ornamentals, overflowing flowerbeds, and a display of various species from around the globe.


I wish I knew where it all started, though, this great influence of gardening. Was it Eden?


In 2017, I started getting more antsy about society and my role or how I fit. There was such turbulence in my home country because of the new president and what people thought about him. The division and obscured realities of people I cared about were breaking my heart. It appeared there wasn’t a common ground to be found amongst them. However, during the inaugural lunch and in all the madness, I saw President Trump pray as if nothing in the room mattered at that moment except for the words being said to God, and it gave me hope. I saw myself losing touch with the people connected to me over social media, and I decided to remove myself to salvage what little willingness to make peace with others was left inside of me. "Out of sight, out of mind" hopefully renewing my faith in humanity and restoring the poor reputation I had left behind.


Since then, I have spent the time in my hermitage so far removed from influences that I chose to go back to the word of God. I had no real idea where to search, so I just started all over again. Right to the very beginning with Genesis, but this time I read something completely different. I mean, they were the same words but the emphasis had changed for me. Beforehand, it was the eating of the apple and the "who done it" that kept playing in my mind. I was influenced in my youth to be obsessed with the questioning of fault and the introduction of sin. Was Adam an honest and innocent man and Eve a manipulative and deceitful woman? Is the serpent, the woman, or the man more to blame or are they equal in being wrong? Am I as guilty of this original sin? Is knowledge a sin? These questions would distract me for decades and had I not found myself in seclusion wanting to return to God I would have missed the most important part.


He gave us a garden! How did I miss that? We have a distinct purpose written in those first chapters of Genesis.


“God blessed them, saying: ‘Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it...” excerpt from Genesis 1:28


“Then the Lord God planted a garden in Eden,...” excerpt from Genesis 2:8


“The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it...” excerpt from Genesis 2:15


Knowing that anger is a secondary emotion that masks hurt and love, I can read this whole part now through the eyes of a parent. As a child reading the Bible, I did not know there was more to this then just a punishment. But as a parent it reads more to me along the lines of pushing a bird from the nest to force a child to learn to fly. He gave us a garden that we did not appreciate, so he took it away in hopes that we could learn to make a garden for ourselves. With hard work, we may finally deserve the earth we have come from and earn the gifts once given to us as a blessing.


“The Lord God therefore banished him from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he had been taken.” Genesis 3:23


Since then, I’ve had several chances to visit gardens with a new eye. And being in Italy, I’m amongst some of the most astounding places to see what man can do with a love of and for the land. Being in these gardens of villas, botanicals, and parks have made me remember all the other wondrous exhibits I’ve visited around the world. From the temples of Japan to the massive parks in my own country, I know I have always felt this presence of something beautiful and pure inside me.


Is it the love of plants or the plants’ love for us that captivates the spirit? Do the plants themselves influence us? We know about the trickery of orchids in the way that they survive, and how the carnivorous plants consume their nutrients to live, but do certain plants find their way into our own psyche where we play a part in their procreation? It appears to be true by the way that many gardens set up such similar displays of specific plants such as the often viewable iris garden. Am I drawn to these displays because a flower does for me what no other living thing can do? The excitement I feel to witness their fleeting beauty and to just be in their presence, is it all a coy way of exchanging our needs of oxygen and carbon dioxide?


These gardens of merit that can claim visitors from far and wide all appear to follow the same chronological progression of flowerings and in that sense display similar blooms as their major lures to reel in enthusiastic tourists. Contributing also to the influence of the grand gardens is the way the master gardener creates his art of horticulture, how he prunes his sculptures into masterpieces, and how he showcases his prized possessions. The landscapes are tilled in a performance that give away the meaning of life and how time can be exceptionally well spent within the rule of cultivation. The attention to perfection with every tiny detail hidden in the crevices or just beyond the designated path is proof of the immense love shown to these places of divinity.


It is the closest I can feel to God and perhaps that is the real influence of a grand garden. They provide us with an example of Eden to remember why we are here, how it all began, and even perhaps what we should be doing within our own lifetimes.


Much love and kind regards, Shainna 🌼


An iris garden seen outside the Santuario Basilica La Consolata while enjoying a delicious traditional chocolate coffee at Caffe Al Bicerin Dal 1763 in Torino, Italia 2019





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-Shainna Mathilda (Dusoe) Callaway