The project’s inspiration, the Song of Solomon (or Song of Songs), provides the plants of the month for this first page (future pages will have illustrations):
I.12 While the king is at his table, My spikenard** sends forth its fragrance. 13 A bundle of myrrh is my beloved to me, that lies all night between my breasts. 14 My beloved to me is a cluster of henna blooms… 17 The beams of our houses are cedar, and our rafters of fir… II.1 I am the rose of sharon and the lily of the valleys… 3 Like an apple tree among the trees of the woods, So is my beloved… 5 Refresh me with apples for I am lovesick… 13 The fig tree puts forth her green figs, And the vines with the tender grapes… III.6 …perfumed with myrrh and frankincense… IV.3 …Your temples behind your veil are like a piece of pomegranate…
IV.12 A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse, A spring shut up, a fountain sealed. 13 Your plants are an orchard of pomegranates with pleasant fruits, fragrant henna with spikenard, 14 Spikenard and saffron, Calamus and cinnamon, With all trees of frankincense, Myrrh and aloes, With all the chief spices – 15 A fountain of gardens, A well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon.
V.13 His cheeks are like a bed of spices, Banks of scented herbs. His lips are lilies, Dripping liquid myrrh… VI.2 My beloved has gone to his garden, To the beds of spices, To feed his flock in the gardens, And to gather lilies…VII.2 …You waist is a heap of wheat set about with lilies…7 This stature of yours is like a palm tree, And your breasts like its clusters…11 Come my beloved, Let us go forth to the field; Let us lodge in the villages. 12 Let us get up early to the vineyards; Let us see if the vine has budded, Whether the grape blossoms are open, And the pomegranates are in bloom. There I will give you my love. 13 The mandrakes give off a fragrance, And at our gates are pleasant fruits….
**Nigel Hepper’s Planting a Biblical Garden (London, 1987) is written primarily for gardeners, so does not claim to be a comprehensive survey of the plants named in the Bible. He does, however, highlight the challenges of accurately identifying the plants named here – spikenard, for instance, could be a fragrant oil of the desert camel-grass (cymbopogon) or a rare variety of valerian (nardostachys jatamansi), and suggests substituting red valerian (centranthus ruber) as a more easily-grown option!