Chris Beardshaw plans multi-faith garden


credit: Nicola Tomkins

Garden designer Chris Beardshaw is creating a spiritual garden which will feature at the 2014 RHS Chelsea Flower Show and then tour the country, it is hoped.

The garden will be a space where Judaism, Christianity and Islam come together and will be sponsored by Coexist, a foundation working to promote better understanding between the three faiths, and the University of Cambridge.

Speaking at the Cheltenham literature festival last week, Beardshaw said the garden will be “a space to change emotions” and “a catalyst for dialogue between the three faiths”. It would move beyond the specific garden features associated with the different religions “to make suggestions where the individual will be invited to fill in the gaps”.

The designer’s research has included extensive discussions with religious leaders into the history and traditions of Christian, Jewish and Islamic gardens.

Outlining the historic development of the garden from its origins to the present day and describing some current trends in gardening as being “about aesthetics and ego”, Beardshaw outlined how the spiritual garden, with its focus on nature and faith, will reflect the values of some of the earliest gardens, albeit in a new way.

He began the talk by advising the audience to look at each aspect of their gardens or even their lives as the ancient Egyptians – some of the earliest gardeners – did, asking ourselves, “Do I want to spend eternity with you?”

Those early Egyptians with their earthly paradises or afterlife gardens, containing all they held most dear, established some of the key ingredients of a garden, he said – the walled enclosure; the (geometric) beds filled with fruit and flowers; the astrological orientation from East to West based on the sun’s rising and setting; and the link with water- from the Nile. These were developed later in Christian cloisters and Islamic courtyards and will be elements included in the garden.


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