Create a Garden Altar

Every moment and every event of every manís life on earth plants something in his Soul.
–Thomas Merton

Being in nature can nourish us in so many ways every day. Creating a garden altar is one way to honor the power of nature to soothe and uplift us. It is so easy and so completely satisfying to spend a little time creating a special spot outdoors. Here are some simple, inspiring ways to begin:

A garden altar can be without any traditional religious significance but can reflect, instead, the beauty of nature herself. Consider an arrangement of treasured pebbles, a sand garden dotted with bonsai, a koi pond edged with protective grasses. Anything that touches your heart and brings you peace when you look upon it can be considered a garden altar.

Planting trees or flowers to cherish the memory of someone you love needs no altar or labeling; the quiet loveliness of a rose, the vibrant color of a hibiscus, the strength of an oak tree–any of these marvels of nature is enough to remind you of that special someone.

Statuary of Buddha, the Virgin Mary, or other religious icons can be part of a garden altar, to which you can offer morning or evening prayers or your own personal spiritual reflections.

Or consider a garden altar in remembrance of someone who loved gardening or the outdoor life. A laminated photo of her, perhaps a spade or a glove she used while gardening, or her garden clogs, can be placed among the statuary or in front of a tree planted in her honor.

Add an incense burner or ash catcher to your garden altar and light incense when you visit. The scent will carry your thoughts and prayers to the clouds. Give yourself time to relax completely. Breathe in deeply and observe a note of gratitude for the pleasures of your garden.

For a garden altar with religious icons, a natural choice would be incense such as that used by temples and churches; to remember a friend, choose the scent of her or his favorite garden flower or plant or personal fragrance. And for your personal garden altar, select a scent that matches the favorite flowers in your own garden or of places nearby that you would like to commemorate. Many incense manufacturers now have scents that echo the sea, rain, mountains, and other smells that recall nature.

Adapted from The Essence of Incense, by Diana Rosen (Storey Books, 2001). Copyright (c) 2001 by Diana Rosen. Reprinted by permission of Storey Books.
Adapted from The Essence of Incense, by Diana Rosen (Storey Books, 2001).

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LMj Sunshine

Beautiful ideas, thank you for sharing.

LMj Sunshine

Beautiful ideas, thank you for sharing.

LMj Sunshine

Beautiful ideas, thank you for sharing.

LMj Sunshine

Beautiful ideas, thank you for sharing.

LMj Sunshine

Beautiful ideas, thank you for sharing.

Empress Ginger
Ginger Strivelli4 years ago

Being Pagans we have several outdoor (and indoor) altar spaces...and I agree they are a good thing to have.

Robert O.
Robert O.4 years ago


Lanie L.
Elaine L.5 years ago

I have a large St. Francis statue in front, which my daughter finished with an antique white wash, and gave me at least 10 years ago. St. Francis sits next to a hydrangea plant, with small pebbles, as opposed to just soil, and larger pretty stones lining the area.

My beloved pets have their place in my back yard, under a lovely Canadian Hemlock tree. The entire space is encircled with beautiful medium to large stones in the shape of a heart. My daughter gave me a memorial etched slate plaque which is in the front of the site.

When I care for these special areas in my yard, I feel a special sense of reverence and connection to my pets and have a deep feeling of spirituality.

Judith C
Judith C.5 years ago

Wonderful way to honor nature and people through gardens and honor the soul too through attention to all living things.

Alicia Nuszloch
Alicia N.5 years ago

We own a small patio and I was thinking in doing something good with it this summer, so now I know where I am going to be creating. Love lavender and herbs. The sound of water gives me so much pleasure, besides it's so relaxing !!!!! I will follow some of this tips, thanks so much for sharing. Have an amazing day.