This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V26", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Those unacquainted with the subject will simply be astonished at the wealth of floral imagery contained in the Bible, no less than the number of plants, flowers, fruits, and shrubs mentioned therein, and of which, it may be noted en passant, not one twentieth part is known to the average reader of the Scriptures. The Holy Land is one of those favored countries which, like the greater Empire of the far East, might justifiably have arrogated to itself the designation, "The Flowery Land." The indigenous "flora" is rich beyond belief, even in our days. The wild rose, varieties of free-growing lilies, sweet-smelling stocks, fine-odored mignonette, many-colored crocuses, gorgeous anemones, the bridal favorite myrtle, every species of gladiolus, pungent narcissus, and the yellow and white water-lilies have here their native habitat; they grow wild, and positively luxuriate in their freedom. Even the wilderness, given over now, as in former times, to herds and flocks, is carpeted with gay-colored gems during the moister days of early spring. And, in ancient times, as we shall later on show, many of these favorites were as carefully cultivated and sedulously tended as the most ardent floriculturist could desire.
Naturally the Jewish poet and Hebrew seer made these "gems of heaven's own setting subservient to their teaching. Their rarest images, their fairest allusions, their most telling illustrations, were culled from the fields. More intensely than the modern singer did the ancient Jewish writer draw from the transient flower and ephemeral blossom lessons of enduring worth. Apart from this, the passion for flowers is eminently eastern. To this day the Persian will sit before his favorite flower in mute adoration, taking a kind of sensuous pleasure in its beauty. And it is no detraction from this worship that he is probably sipping tea and talking scandal while his eye revels in its dainty color and graceful form. There is ample evidence to show that the love of flowers was a passion with the ancient Hebrews. The extent to which floral language is employed, the frequency with which floral similes are used in the Scriptures, would in itself be suggestive, but for the perfunctory habit of reading the narratives of Scripture as the record of goody-goody platitudes.
But the floral lore of the Bible deserves elucidation for more important reasons. In the first place, the beauty of the floral allusions abounding in the Scriptures is wholly missed, owing to many misconceptions and mistranslations. The worthy translators of the wise King James's days, however anxious they may have been for truth, were by no means solicitous about beauty. The veriest dry stick of polemical divinity was to them of infinitely greater importance than the flora and fauna of all Palestine. To them, except where it affected some point of orthodoxy, the rose of Jericho might have been the thorn of the wilderness; so that, owing to the Anglican Version, the oddest misconceptions prevail in the matter of Bible flowers. It will probably surprise many readers of the Sacred Volume to be told that the rose of the Scriptures, the rose of Sharon, is not a rose at all - is nothing like a rose; bears no resemblance whatever to our "Queen of flowers." The lily of the field, the lily of Ecclesiastes, is certainly not the virgin flower to which we give our name, just as the apple is not an apple, and the oak of Mamre something very different from an oak.
Owing to these defective renderings the beauty and significance of floral allusions and illustrations, the aptness of such similes in the eyes of the Hebrew are wholly lost in our reading of such passages. - Jewish World.