Best Garden Poems & Quotes: My Favourites

Best Gardening Poems: Honeysuckle

This selection is drawn mostly from my own stash of books.  If I see something I like, I include it. I’ve only ever copied the odd poem (and cited it fully) but if there are any copyright issues please let me know. All of the relevant anthologies are listed below.

If you like any of the poems on this page, I’d urge you to buy the books they’ve been taken from. I’ve been a reader of poetry for as long as I can remember and I think it’s a shame there aren’t more “garden poems”.

Grand nature poems are wonderful, but there’s something about being able to carry the sentiment or insight of a poem back to the original source only a few feet from your back door.

I would like this page to be an ongoing project, that I will add to as more gems come along. Please get in touch if you have found an inspiring quote, poem or extract. I want to hear from you!

Anyhow, onto the poems…

Ah yet, ere I descend to the grave,
May I a small house and large garden have;
And a few friends, and many books, both true,
both wise and both delightful too.
~ Abraham Cowley

Roses, Late Autumn by Mary Oliver

What happens
to the leaves after
they turn red and golden and fall
away? What happens

to the singing birds
when they can’t sing
any longer? What happens
to their quick wings?

Do you think there is any
personal heaven
for any of us?
Do you think anyone,

the other side of that darkness,
will call to us, meaning us?
Beyond the trees
the foxes keep teaching their children

to live in the valley.
So they never seem to vanish, they are always
there in the blossom of the light
that stands up every morning

in the dark sky.
And over one more set of hills,
along the sea,
the last roses have opened their factories of sweetness

and are giving it back to the world.
If I had another life
I would want to spend it all on some
unstinting happiness.

I would be a fox, or a tree
full of waving branches.
I wouldn’t mind being a rose
in a field full of roses.

Fear has not yet occurred to them, nor ambition.
Reason they have not yet thought of.
Neither do they ask how long they must be roses, and then what.
Or any other foolish question.

The Hardy Garden by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Now let forever the phlox and the rose be tended
Here where the rain has darkened and the sun has dried
So many times the terrace, yet is love unended,
Love has not died.

Let here no seed of a season, that the winter
But once assails, take root and for a time endure;
But only such as harbour at the frozen centre
The germ secure.

Set here the phlox and the iris, and establish
Pink and valerian, and the great and lesser bells;
But suffer not the sisters of the year, to publish
The frost prevails.

How far from home in a world of mortal burdens
Is Love, that may not die, and is forever young!
Set roses here: surround her only with such maidens
As speak her tongue.

Extract from A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle

As the consciousness of human beings developed, flowers were most likely the first thing they came to value that had no utilitarian purpose for them, that is to say, was not linked to some way to survival. They provided inspiration to countless artists, poets, and mystics.

Jesus tells us to contemplate the flowers and learn from them how to live. The Buddha is said to have given a “silent sermon” once during which he held up a flower and gazed at it. After a while, one of those present, a monk called Mahakasyapa, began to smile. He is said to have been the only one who had understood the sermon.

According to legend, that smile (that is to say realization) was handed down by twenty-eight successive masters and much later became the origin of Zen.

Caterpillar by Christina Rossetti

Brown and furry
Caterpillar in a hurry,
Take your walk
To the shady leaf, or stalk,
Or what not,
Which may be the chosen spot.
No toad spy you,
Hovering bird of prey pass by you;
Spin and die,
To live again a butterfly.

From Spring by James Thomson

At length the finish’d garden to the view
Its vistas opens, and its alleys green.
Snatch’d thro’ the verdant maze, the hurried eye
Distracted wanders; now the bowery walk
Of covert close, where scarce a speck of day
Falls on the lengthen’d gloom, protracted darts;
Now meets the bending sky, the river now
Dimpling along, the breezy-ruffled lake,
The forest running round, the rising spire,
Th’ aethereal mountain, and the distant main.

This Is The Garden by E.E. Cummings

this is the garden:colours come and go,
frail azures fluttering from night’s outer wing
strong silent greens silently lingering,
absolute lights like baths of golden snow.
This is the garden:pursed lips do blow
upon cool flutes within wide glooms,and sing
(of harps celestial to the quivering string)
invisible faces hauntingly and slow.

This is the garden. Time shall surely reap
and on Death’s blade lie many a flower curled,
in other lands where other songs be sung;
yet stand They here enraptured,as among
the slow deep trees perpetual of sleep
some silver-fingered fountain steals the world.

A garden to walk in and immensity to dream in–what more could he ask? A few flowers at his feet and above him the stars.
~ Voltaire

A Garden Song by Henry Austin Dobson

Here in this sequester’d close
Bloom the hyacinth and rose,
Here beside the modest stock
Flaunts the flaring hollyhock;
Here, without a pang, one sees
Ranks, conditions, and degrees.

All the seasons run their race
In this quiet resting-place;
Peach and apricot and fig
Here will ripen and grow big;
Here is store and overplus,
More had not Alcinoüs!

Here, in alleys cool and green,
Far ahead the thrush is seen;
Here along the southern wall
Keeps the bee his festival;
All is quiet else—afar
Sounds of toil and turmoil are.

Here be shadows large and long;
Here be spaces meet for song;
Grant, O garden-god, that I,
Now that none profane is nigh,
Now that mood and moment please,
Find the fair Pierides!

Song by Alfred Lord Tennyson

A spirit haunts the year’s last hours
Dwelling amid these yellowing bowers:
To himself he talks;
For at eventide, listening earnestly,
At his work you may hear him sob and sigh
In the walks;
Earthward he boweth the heavy stalks
Of the mouldering flowers:
Heavily hangs the broad sunflower
Over its grave i’ the earth so chilly;
Heavily hangs the hollyhock,
Heavily hangs the tiger-lily.

The air is damp, and hush’d, and close,
As a sick man’s room when he taketh repose
An hour before death;
My very heart faints and my whole soul grieves
At the moist rich smell of the rotting leaves,
And the breath
Of the fading edges of box beneath,
And the year’s last rose.
Heavily hangs the broad sunflower
Over its grave i’ the earth so chilly;
Heavily hangs the hollyhock,
Heavily hangs the tiger-lily.

The Tulip Bed by William Carlos Williams

The May sun—whom
all things imitate—
that glues small leaves to
the wooden trees
shone from the sky
through bluegauze clouds
upon the ground.
Under the leafy trees
where the suburban streets
lay crossed,
with houses on each corner,
tangled shadows had begun
to join
the roadway and the lawns.
With excellent precision
the tulip bed
inside the iron fence
upreared its gaudy
yellow, white and red,
rimmed round with grass,

The many great gardens of the world, of literature and poetry, of painting and music, of religion and architecture, all make the point as clear as possible: The soul cannot thrive in the absence of a garden…
~Thomas Moore

Digging by Edward Thomas

Today I think
Only with scents- scents dead leaves yield,
And bracken, and wild carrot’s seed,
And the square mustard field;

Odours that rise
When the spade wounds the roots of tree,
Rose, currant, raspberry, or goutweed,
Rhubarb or celery;

The smoke’s smell, too,
Flowing from where a bonfire burns
The dead, the waste, the dangerous,
And all to sweetness turns.

It is enough
To smell, to crumble the dark earth,
While the robin sings over again
Sad songs of Autumn mirth.

I know that if odour were visible, as colour is, I’d see the summer garden in rainbow clouds.
~ Robert Bridges

Universe And: The Electric Garden by Gwendolyn MacEwan

the protons and the neutrons move, gardener,
sire their sons, spirals of sense,
and servant their planets,
their negative pebbles
in a pool among electrons like
mad bees
the nuclei reach out
to harness them;
will of the sun reach out,
strap earth, strap moon, slowly excite
other stars, set, set the sweet fanatic pace
telescopes turn inward, bend down.

in our garden electric roses
which spark, push light, push fuchsia
in flailing grass

and spines of long magnetic seas cloy…
rake their depths for dusts; all holds;
the spines hold the elemental jelly
of the sea’s flesh there…

I walk warily through
my electric garden

What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below.

What do you think of the selection. Have you got your own favourites? Leave a comment below and let me know!

4 thoughts on “Best Garden Poems & Quotes: My Favourites”

  1. hello Dan,
    I have a drawing looking for it’s text and saw this incredible electron poem by MacEwan— could you tell me which of her books it comes from?
    I’d like to read more of her work and learn more about her.
    Thank you so much for introducing us!
    I appreciate your bloggety devition- you made my day !
    best, ellen

    1. Hi Ellen, please forgive my late response! Thanks so much for your kind words 🙂 And yes, it’s from “The Selected Gwendolyn MacEwen (Exile Classics series)”. She’s such a great poet. And so little-known too.

  2. Thanks, Dan, for sharing these garden-focused poem. Christine Hickey and I will be facilitating an informal poetry gathering at the Deale, Maryland, USA library on Feb. 25, 2023 to use the cold of winter to celebrate the warmth of poetry about vegetable and flower gardens. We plan to showcase poems by a diversity of poets, living and otherwise. And, time permitting, we’ll also encourage participants to write a few lines of their own. Thanks.

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