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Extension agent Jerry Chenault and East Lawrence Memorial Gardens owner Stanley Newman with plans for a faith garden designed by Chenault.
DAILY Photo by Emily Saunders
Extension agent Jerry Chenault and East Lawrence Memorial Gardens owner Stanley Newman with plans for a faith garden designed by Chenault.

Seeds of faith
Garden to feature plants of the Bible

By Kristen Bishop
DAILY Staff Writer 340-2443

CADDO — Lawrence County will soon be home to one of the largest faith gardens in the United States, giving area residents a 2-acre retreat to meditate, pray and reflect.

Jerry Chenault, a regional agent with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, is designing a garden featuring plants found in Scripture for the East Lawrence Memorial Gardens on Lawrence County 434.

Faith gardens, sometimes called biblical or ecumenical gardens, are a fairly new concept, said Chenault, but are being designed across the United States as more people recognize their spiritual value. A small section in the Huntsville Botanical Garden's herb garden is devoted to biblical plants, and Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Decatur is planting a faith garden.

The Bible mentions at least 128 plants, often in Jesus' parables to illustrate his teachings. Jesus tells his followers in Luke 17:6, "If you have faith as small as mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you."

Chenault's design for East Lawrence calls for mustard seed and mulberry trees, sometimes called black mulberries. Throughout the garden, people will be able to stop at the plants and read plaques with biblical references and information, he said.

"It's educational as well as aesthetic," he said. "It's a great place to go for introspection when the world gets heavy on a person. Lots of people are also using them for Sunday school classes and Bible studies."

The garden will not have all the plants mentioned in Scripture because many cannot survive in the North Alabama climate. The climate of the Middle East, where biblical events took place, is comparable to the climates of South Carolina and Florida, said Chenault.

"They can grow more out there than we can, but we're definitely better off than places like Vermont or Ohio," he said.

The current design for the faith garden features 40 biblical plants. Visitors will find pomegranates, fig trees, olive trees, black cumin, wheat and more.

Some plants found in Scripture will be represented by a similar plant that is more likely to survive in this climate. For example, the palm tree mentioned in the Bible is likely a date palm, but because the date palm cannot grow here, Chenault plans to use a pindo palm.

The 2-acre garden owned by Stanley Newman will surround an existing pond at the cemetery between the Serenity Garden and the Prayer Garden. The next closest public garden completely devoted to biblical plants is Eden, a one-third-acre lot at Hartford Baptist Church in South Alabama.

Once the design at East Lawrence Memorial Gardens is approved, Newman plans to begin constructing a path through the garden, a rock bridge and arbors. There is already a gazebo and swing for visitors to rest.

Construction should begin in the next few months, said Newman, but the garden will not be completed for at least a year.

"It's going to be a slow project," he said. "We'll do as much as we can now and slowly add to it as we go."

Chenault is part of a team through Alabama A&M University charged with educating people about the benefits of faith gardens. The program receives state, local and federal funds.

The state gave a $1,000 grant for the faith-garden project in Lawrence County, but the majority of funding will come from the memorial gardens and private donations.

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