The Bible is full of references to plants and flowers, and to understand some biblical imagery it is helpful to have a knowledge of the flora of the Holy Land.

The idea of creating a biblical garden at St. George’s College was first conceived in 1985. It was hoped that the garden would be a place of meeting, prayer and reflection and also a unique educational resource.
After a major renovation project of the College building in the late 1980s, the grounds were in need of reconstruction. Plans were drawn up for a new biblical garden by Mr. F. Nigel Hepper, one of the leading botanists at Kew’s Royal Botanic Gardens in London. Mr. Hepper had specialised in the plants of the Bible and written books on the subject, including Planting a Bible Garden (HMSO, 1987) and An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Bible Plants (IVP, 1992).

The College gave certain specifications. The new garden had to be easy to maintain, so the planting of shrubs and trees was given priority over labour-intensive herbaceous plants. As the College is used throughout the year, the garden needed to be colourful through the different seasons. Careful consideration was therefore given to the flowering season of a wide variety of plants and to foliage colour.

Work on the new garden began in late 1990. Adam Toft, a British horticulturist, worked with two Palestinian gardeners to realise Nigel Hepper’s designs. Today, years later, the garden still provides a microcosm of the botanical environment experienced by Jesus and the prophets and patriarchs before him.

Spacious paths wind through shady spots where there are tables and seats which allow visitors and students to reflect and pray. Here there are fragrant plants, including lavender, sage and mint. Fruit trees, fig, pomegranate, lemon and olive, lead to the College entrance. A Judas tree stands with cypresses; a young cedar of Lebanon gives shade as it did in King Solomon’s time. The planting scheme provides opportunities for reflection: “by planting a Christ-thorn near the date palm there is a contrast between the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem with palm leaves (symbolising victory) with the crown of thorns on the Cross.” Next to every plant there is a plaque. Each is identified by its name in Arabic, English and Latin along with a relevant biblical reference.

The dedication of the garden in May 1993 by the Most Revd. Samir Kafity, together with the Dean of the College, The Very Rev. Dr. John L. Peterson, marked the completion of a major phase in the College’s enlargement and renovation.

The Biblical Garden at St George’s College has delighted pilgrims, friends and visitors for several decades. They find their minds, bodies and spirits refreshed in this veritable oasis of biblical flora.