About our Gardens
Have you noticed our gardens at Woods? Lots of new plants are blooming, and birds and butterflies are everywhere. Woods Church is an Earth Care Congregation in the PCUSA and a River-Wise Congregation in the Anne Arundel County Watershed Stewards program, so we are working hard to be responsible stewards of the gardens, lawns and woodlands that make up our property. We are trying to reduce our storm water runoff wherever possible and support our native bird and pollinator populations using native trees, shrubs and plants. We no longer use herbicides or pesticides on our gardens and lawn areas, we do not fertilize the grass in the spring, and we are planting native plants in our gardens and grounds wherever possible to absorb storm water and provide food and habitat for our native birds, insects and pollinators. We are thankful for the native oak trees, red and silver maples, sweet gum, dogwoods, American holly and Eastern redbud trees that exist on our property.
Woods gardeners have masterfully incorporated native plants to preserve the balance and beauty of our local natural ecosystem. We planted black eyed Susan’s, and cone flowers for seed eating birds. We planted cardinal flowers, butterfly weed, joe pye weed, white turtlehead and milkweed for butterflies and hummingbirds – the list provided by the US Fish and Wildlife Service of native flowers and shrubs for the Chesapeake Bay watershed is extensive. We planted native shrubs such as American beautyberry, lowbush blueberry and viburnum for their berries that nourish birds, and silky dogwood, sweet spire, smooth winterberry and spicebush for their high wildlife value. These native plants are so essential in supporting our birds and pollinators in ways that plants alien to our ecosystem do not.
We give tours to show people the many native flowers, shrubs, and trees, and we have marked the plant species with ID tags around the property to help people identify the plants. At Woods we know that keeping natives in the landscape is vital to keeping the species we love strong and thriving; it is vital to being good stewards of our local wildlife and waterways.
Woods Church was recently honored by the national Interfaith Power & Light organization with their first place award for "Cool Congregations" in the Sacred Grounds category for the storm water and native plant efforts that we have made on our campus. More information about the award is on the IPL website: https://www.coolcongregations.org/2021-sacred-grounds-winner-woods-church-loves-native-plants/
Come enjoy the beauty of our campus anytime, request a tour, or join our gardeners - we love company and no experience is necessary. Email
for more information.
Genesis 1:29-31 - "God said, "See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit, you shall have them for food."
[In many cases the plants in our garden are the varieties nearest to the Holy Land species that can be grown here in Maryland.]
Bible Leaf (costmary) Chrysanthemum balsamita
Also called “alecost” because in Middle Ages it was used to spice ale for weddings and church fundraisers. In the 17th century colonists used the leaves as bookmarks in their bibles and to keep the bugs out. Tales are that they also chewed on the leaves to keep awake during the long church services.
Blueberry, berries, watermelon, cucumber, stone fruits, other fruits and vegetables – Isaiah 1:8; Numbers 11:4-6, 10
The Hebrews grew and consumed these even as slaves in Egypt, as the Nile periodically overflowed and provided rich soil. Their cucumber was the same species we grow in the US today.
Boxwood - Isaiah 60:13
To be used as wood material for rebuilding the temple.
Fig – Genesis 3:6,7; I Kings 4:25; Deuteronomy 8:8; I Samuel 25:18; Matthew 21:18; Mark 11:12; Revelation 6:13
Adam and Eve covered themselves with fig leaves in the Garden of Eden. To “sit under one’s own vine and fig tree” was the Hebrew concept of domestic peace and tranquility. Dried figs were taken on trips, threaded on long strings. Christ used the fig tree for many lessons about the consequences of sin.
Hyssop – (Old Testament) – 1 Kings 4:33; Exodus 12:22; Leviticus 14:4-6
A marjoram native to Egypt with hairy wiry stems, small golden flowers, and small leaves that hold water well.
Hyssop – (New Testament) – John 19:28-29
Jerusalem corn. A prehistoric Palestinian grain. A single seed head is large enough to supply bread for a family. Still eaten in Palestine today.
[NOTE: This is NOT our Western herb of the same name.]
Iris – Hosea 14:5 (Assurance of forgiveness)
Biblical Horticulturalists feel the lilies referred to here are one of the 50 kinds of iris that grow in the Holy Land.
Laurel – Psalms 37:35
Sweet Bay tree. Symbolized the prosperous wicked.
Mint – Mentha spearmint, peppermint, and pennyroyal – Matthew 23:23; Luke 11:42
Used for paying tithe taxes (along with anise and cumin), also cooked with meat and used medicinally. Strewn on the temple floor. Grows wild in some areas.
Mustard – Mark 30-32. Matthew 13:31
“The Kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed…. when it is grown it is the greatest among herbs and becometh a tree…” Leaves are used as a vegetable and the seeds are ground and used to flavor food (used in our modern-day black mustard). Finches are also fond of the seeds.
Onion – Numbers 11:5-6
Papyrus – Job 8:11; Isaiah 18:1-2
The reed, cattail and papyrus were used in much of everyday life, for making flutes, pens, house building material, basketwork, and for manufacturing of boats, shoes and the inner pith sliced and made into paper. This papyrus is the dwarf form. The biblical varieties were over a foot wide in stem and 8 to 15 feet high.
Raspberry – Exodus3:1-2
A red raspberry plant living today in a monastery in the Sinai is thought by some to be related to the original burning bush, but scholars believe it was probably one of the many wild thorny bushes on which mistletoe or similar vine-like plants climb.
Redbud – Matthew 27:5
An American native form of cercis from which Judas Iscariot was purported to have hanged himself. [C. siliquastrum is the tree native to the Mediterranean.]
Reed – 1 Kings 14,15; Matthew 27:79; Exodus 2:3
Phragmites australis and Cattail typha
Rose of Sharon (Red tulip) – Song of Solomon 2:1
Grows on the Sharon plain – a 60-mile-long region along the coastal area of Judah.
Sage – Exodus 37:17-18
“He also made a lampstand of pure gold.” The design of the menorah is taken from the branching shape of this salvia plant.
The Vine (grape) – Genesis 9:20, 40:10; Micah 4:4; Deuteronomy 24:21; John 15:1; Isaiah 5:7 and others.
Was the first plant planted by Noah after the flood receded. In Roman times (and others) was made into wine in large stone presses, partially underground (many as large as a room) and trodden underfoot by servants. Valuable vines were guarded. The sour vinegar wine was the principal drink of Roman soldiers. Families carefully tended the family vine which took 4 years to produce grapes from cutting to fruit. Isaiah likened the vineyard of the Lord to the House of Israel. The plant became the most valued in the world when Christ declared, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.”
Thyme, Parsley, Horseradish – Exodus 12:8; Numbers 9:11
Some of the bitter herbs eaten with the Hebrew Passover meal, along with lamb and unleavened bread, nuts and apples.
[Some of the plants in the garden have connections with Christian history – they are not mentioned in the texts of scripture but are associated with later Christian life and traditions. These include Rosemary (associated with Jesus’ mother Mary), Lenten Rose (the Lenten season), Lamb’s Ear (Jesus as the Lamb of God, Shepherd), and Holly (which remains green throughout winter, representing eternal life).]
“PLANT GARDENS AND EAT WHAT THEY PRODUCE.” – Jeremiah 29:28
“All the Plants of the Bible” by Winifred Walker, 1957.
“Bible Plants for American Gardens” by Eleanor A. King, 1941.
Created for the Watershed Steward Program, the rain garden diverts runoff by steering the water into the garden where it is then recharged back into the aquifer. Previously the runoff dumped into the storm drains and sewers. Now, instead, the rain garden allows the water to be naturally filtered and purified as it makes its way through the garden and ground so that the quality of the water in the Chesapeake Bay is improved, thereby improving the quality of the water we use everyday. The rain garden was spearheaded by Dale Moeller and Peter Cooper who participated in the Watershed Stewards Academy and received a grant to create the garden. It is one way Woods can help to be a good steward of the earth and be environmentally conscious and responsible.
Custodian Walter Ford put an ad in the Woods Church newsletter asking for someone to please come help clean up the church grounds and make it a beautiful place to be and to find refuge. This call for help and beautification began a journey where many involved in the life of the church began to capture the beauty of God's creation through gardening around the church property. Specifically, the area of the meditation garden began with Jane Iglehart and Lee Kaus circa 1998. Their desire was to give people a place to connect with God's creation and to have a place to be still; to dwell in God's presence and meditate.