Why is Honest Abe in Our Garden?

Some people keep a Buddha statue in their garden. Others have St. Francis. For us, it’s Abraham Lincoln. Not a Lincoln statue, actually, just half of a bookend set I found online.

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I’ve been impressed by some of my fellow bloggers who add non-botanical elements in order to deepen a garden’s sense of personal connection and meaning. Most notable is Pat Webster of the blog Site and Insight. I’m trying to follow their example, in my own way, of course.

This is not the place for a thumbnail biography of Lincoln, but I will say that the man had qualities made even more notable by their total absence in the current White House occupant. Lincoln had a powerful intellect and a deep devotion to the public good. He endured great personal loss and for most of his presidency was widely reviled (North and South) in the most degrading terms imaginable. Somehow he maintained a sense of humor and of humanity.

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I’ll let Frederick Douglass, the former slave and abolitionist leader (and a key figure in American history unknown to the current President), insert a few last words here about Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln (was) one of the greatest and best men ever produced by this country, if not ever produced by the world at large… He was a man so broad in his sympathy, so noble in his character, so just in his action, so free from narrow prejudice… To know him as I knew him I regard as one of the grandest privileges experienced by me during a considerable lifetime.

So I have my Lincoln bookend sitting in a concrete planter that used to be part of a birdbath. He is surrounded by Sweet Alyssum. Later I added a Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis).

There are some other reasons why I wanted Abe in the garden. Illinois is the Land of Lincoln, after all. Also, he makes an indirect reference to a horticultural hero of mine, Jens Jensen. One of the few Jensen-designed gardens that still remains is the Lincoln Memorial Garden in Springfield, Illinois.

But this may seem rather misplaced and overly serious to some of you. A garden should be a sanctuary from the world’s madness, should it not? For me, though, my little Lincoln bookend is a calming talisman, a comforting reminder that it is possible to be so much better than we appear to be at the moment.

52 Comments on “Why is Honest Abe in Our Garden?”

  1. Just now catching up on your blog posts… delighted to come across your Abe in a pot. Perfect choice for an Illinois garden, great choice for anyone who admires integrity in high office. Wish there were more of it.

    So sorry that I won’t see you and Judy at the Fling. I was planning to come but have had to cancel — too much going on. I know it will be fun.

  2. I smiled at the sight of Abraham Lincoln in your garden. I read a biography about him when I was young and he became a hero of mine … He was a leader of integrity and courage. I read recently that we only get good leaders about once every 60 years … That is depressing thought!

  3. I love the way Lincoln seems to be pondering the alyssum. It’s a beautiful piece (the statue and the post). Oh my, I shudder to imagine what Lincoln would have thought of the current president. Keep your politics coming, this is not a time for censorship, self- or otherwise.

  4. Yes, gardens should be a sanctuary from the world’s madness but once you’re there and feeling all relaxed, ya gotta think about something, right? Lincoln represents things that are good and noble; what better to contemplate in one’s garden? Whatever is meaningful to the gardener makes sense in his/her garden. Love it!

  5. I think this is a perfect addition to an Illinois garden! Last month we visited the Lincoln Library and Museum in Springfield with two of our grands. One room is devoted to all kinds of political cartoons lambasting Lincoln. I couldn’t help but turn to my granddaughter and say that our current President, who thinks he is unfairly ridiculed, should see this. Lincoln bore all that criticism with grace and continued to make decisions that were right for the country and its citizens, not for political gain. The more I think about it, a Lincoln memento is a perfect addition to a garden sanctuary.

  6. Excellent. I had little statuettes of both Buddha and Lincoln follow me around for years, with both taking pride of place side by side on a small bathroom shelf. Abe eventually suffered a fall and shattered into hundreds of pieces; Buddha is looking pretty rough –two broken arms, stubbed toes, a scratched face– but he’s still with me. 🙂

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