Garden of Gethsemene

Garden of Gethsemene, Jerusalem, (Pictured Oct 2018).

Good morning!
Today's pictures are relevant more for their cultural/historic significance than anything technically impressive about them. These two different angles on the Garden of Gethsemene just beyond Jerusalem's Old City walls show the gnarled olive trees that grow in the famous garden, alongside small rose bushes and other native flora.

Although the Jerusalem area is lush and green, the actual range of plants that will grow in the city and its environs is somewhat restricted. This is due to a combination of alkaline soil, high summer temperatures, cool winters with frosts and occasional snow and low rainfall. Jerusalem, afterall,  is essentially built on top of a limestone mountain between the Mediterranean to its west and the Judaean Desert to the East. The consequence is that a great many of its private and public gardens contain the same 20-or-so plants in different combinations-
specifically, olive-, orange-, lemon-, pomegranite-, fig-, oak- and cypress trees,
bougainvillea-, hibiscus-, wisteria-, jasmine- and oleander bushes,
with beds of rosemary, lavender, roses, grapes, pansies, cyclamens and wild capers (sometimes).

You might expect a great many other plants to thrive but the growing conditions seem to make it difficult for many plants- for example various Indian, Central- and South- American and Southern East Asian plants that should relish the region's long, hot summers struggle with the winter cold snap. Due to a lack of rain between late April and early October most years, there is widespread use of (often automated) irrigation and this allows the region's contemporary gardeners to grow species that would otherwise perish due to a lack of summer rain. The effectiveness of this kind of irrigation is astonishing,even though its effects are entirely logical. For example, historical photographs from the early 20th Century show a dramatically less green landscape than that found in the region today. However, much of this superficial regional "greening" is down to the generous and extensive planting of the same few species. The relatively thin, alkaline topsoil of Jerusalem remains a major impediment to numerous plants that might otherwise thrive in the climate, given regular artificial watering. The soil in many of the world's lush tropical regions is quite acidic due to a combination of bacterial activitiy on decaying leaf litter (and/or volcanic minerals, wherever the latter are found). This means that, no matter how much water gets added to the soil of Jerusalem's many gardens, there are a lot of tropical plants that will still not grow.

All of this means that the Garden of Gethsemene is actually a very typical garden for the region, in terms of its plants, even if its history is somewhat exceptional. 

Garden of Gethsemene, Jerusalem, (Pictured Oct 2018).


  1. Happy Easter, Victoria. Great post. I love your articles.

  2. Sounds like quite the experience, walking around places from the bible. I wonder how much the garden changed since then?


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