The garden brought Psalm 23 – 'The Lord is my shepherd' – to life.
‘As a landscape architect and a garden designer I am fortunate to work on landscapes and gardens from the tiny to the vast,’ says Sarah Eberle. ‘Although the Psalm 23 garden is diminutive in size, it is huge in stature and in this year of Covid-19, increasingly pertinent and relevant to all, as the need to engage with nature becomes increasingly important.
‘The Psalm 23 Garden aims to engage our emotions, to be a place of contemplation and spiritual renewal, portraying an ultimate destination that makes the trouble of life’s journey worthwhile.
‘The garden has a feeling of calm, a place where you can be embraced by your surroundings. This is the sense that I took from the psalm. I hope the garden will enable people to reflect on their own lives.’
It’s been really exciting for me to watch behind the scenes as Sarah Eberle has developed the design of the Psalm 23 Garden, says Hazel Southam, the garden’s project manager. But this has been a year of challenges too. I think we all feel the resonance of this psalm even more now than we did at the beginning.
Psalm 23 is really visual. Sarah’s used those visual cues in her design: the green pastures, still waters, and the valley of the shadow of death.
But she’s done far more than that. Her design takes us on the journey of life, about which the psalm speaks. The submerged rock at the front of the garden shows that even starting out on that journey can be difficult.
‘He makes me lie down in green pastures’
‘He leads me beside still waters’
‘Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil’
‘You prepare a table before me’
The journey then continues in the sinuous path of rocks, an inspiration from Sarah’s beloved childhood home of Dartmoor. It’s not a straight path. It twists and turns. It has ups and downs.
But it culminates in a broad rock where you can just sit and rest at the journey’s end, which the psalm describes.
When Sarah and I first chatted about this, more than two years ago, we didn’t just want to evoke the journey that the psalm talks about, but the spirit of it too.
There’s a key line early on in the Psalm which says, ‘He restores my soul.’ We wanted people to feel that sense of restoration just looking at the garden. And Sarah’s drawn on the sense of restoration she felt, and still feels, in Dartmoor.
We hope that, when you see the Psalm 23 Garden, you’ll love it, and whatever it says to you, that sense of restoration will be palpable.
One of the great things about Chelsea is taking inspiration from all of the amazing gardens you get to see. Who knows, maybe they will inspire your own garden, or your community garden.
We’re excited to announce that the garden will find a permanent home at the Winchester Hospice, in Hampshire after the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
Maddy Thomson, clinical matron of palliative and end of life care at Hampshire Hospitals, said, ‘The garden will represent such a special place for our patients and their families, who can enjoy precious moments together or perhaps find quiet reflection in this beautiful outdoor space.
‘We are absolutely delighted that we will be able to offer this as part of the care and support we provide, and know that it will make such a difference to the families being supported by Winchester Hospice.’
Would you like to find out more about how to create your own Psalm 23 Garden – and read moving stories about people whose lives the psalm has changed? Sarah Eberle's Psalm 23 Garden is due to publish in October. It features tips from garden designer Sarah, some true-life stories, and reflections about the meaning of the psalm for today. There'll also be stunning photographs by Clare Kendall of the Psalm 23 Garden at the Chelsea Flower Show, capturing the beauty of the garden as it portrays the message of the psalm in visual form. It's a book to keep and treasure – and great as a gift for a friend.