Professors Promote Holy Land Garden

By JoAnn Jones


Plants from Jewish, Christian and Muslim Scripture can be seen existing together in the Holy Land Garden in front of AT&T Science Center.

The garden was started in the fall of 2005 after about a year of planning by Dr. Richard Peigler, a biology professor, and Sister Martha Ann Kirk, professor of religious studies. Peigler said he began planting the seeds shortly after AT&T Science Center opened, in the raised planters in front of the building.

“My intention was to present [the garden] as a normal landscape, so if someone is walking from the parking garage, they would think the front of the building is landscaped. They would have no idea that this was a garden,” Peigler said, adding that, when the garden began, he did not think he would have enough plants to fill the planters.

Now, the garden contains about 20 to 30 different varieties of plants found in either the Bible or the Qur’an. Peigler said he chose the particular plants found in the garden from books on biblical and Holy Land plants, obtaining some of these seeds and plants online from places such as Europe, California and Australia as well as from places locally.

Some of the plants in the garden include pomegranate, frankincense, myrrh and date palm. Each plant is labeled with its common name, its botanical name and the citation where it is found in the Bible or Qur’an.

Frankincense and myrrh are two plants that must be kept indoors because of climate concerns. These are kept in pots on the fourth floor of AT&T Science Center. The other plants, Peigler said, do not face the same climate problem.

“Our climate and our soil are so similar to [the Holy Land], it is perfect. We are able to plant some of the actual plants they had back then,” Peigler said.

Peigler said he maintains these plants by himself throughout the semester by trimming and weeding when necessary.

“[The garden] is pretty easy to maintain. It is overgrown but it is not really needing a lot of work. It has its own watering system so it does not need to be watered,” Peigler said, adding he has thought a couple of times about getting some of his students to help maintain the garden.

“Occasionally people will throw trash or cigarettes in the garden. Occasionally one of my plants dies and I have to track down the seeds on the Internet from overseas or the plants from California. [But] I will not allow this garden to be a source of stress. I will only allow this garden to be a source of enjoyment.”

Some of the plants, Peigler said, are annuals, but others he has to replant each spring, such as flax and crown daisy. Some years, he said, not all of the plants are replanted because of a lack of space.

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