Why is Honest Abe in Our Garden?

Some people keep a Buddha statue in their garden. Others have St. Francis. For us, it’s Abraham Lincoln. Not a Lincoln statue, actually, just half of a bookend set I found online.



I’ve been impressed by some of my fellow bloggers who add non-botanical elements in order to deepen a garden’s sense of personal connection and meaning. Most notable is Pat Webster of the blog Site and Insight. I’m trying to follow their example, in my own way, of course.

This is not the place for a thumbnail biography of Lincoln, but I will say that the man had qualities made even more notable by their total absence in the current White House occupant. Lincoln had a powerful intellect and a deep devotion to the public good. He endured great personal loss and for most of his presidency was widely reviled (North and South) in the most degrading terms imaginable. Somehow he maintained a sense of humor and of humanity.


I’ll let Frederick Douglass, the former slave and abolitionist leader (and a key figure in American history unknown to the current President), insert a few last words here about Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln (was) one of the greatest and best men ever produced by this country, if not ever produced by the world at large… He was a man so broad in his sympathy, so noble in his character, so just in his action, so free from narrow prejudice… To know him as I knew him I regard as one of the grandest privileges experienced by me during a considerable lifetime.

So I have my Lincoln bookend sitting in a concrete planter that used to be part of a birdbath. He is surrounded by Sweet Alyssum. Later I added a Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis).

There are some other reasons why I wanted Abe in the garden. Illinois is the Land of Lincoln, after all. Also, he makes an indirect reference to a horticultural hero of mine, Jens Jensen. One of the few Jensen-designed gardens that still remains is the Lincoln Memorial Garden in Springfield, Illinois.

But this may seem rather misplaced and overly serious to some of you. A garden should be a sanctuary from the world’s madness, should it not? For me, though, my little Lincoln bookend is a calming talisman, a comforting reminder that it is possible to be so much better than we appear to be at the moment.

52 Comments on “Why is Honest Abe in Our Garden?

  1. Just now catching up on your blog posts… delighted to come across your Abe in a pot. Perfect choice for an Illinois garden, great choice for anyone who admires integrity in high office. Wish there were more of it.

    So sorry that I won’t see you and Judy at the Fling. I was planning to come but have had to cancel — too much going on. I know it will be fun.

  2. If you can’t Leave politics and political snipes at our President out of your gardening blog please unsubscribe me from your posts

  3. I have an armadillo in my garden. Being from Texas, where the little critters are common, I feel a perverse sense of connection to it.

  4. I so enjoyed this post. Thank you for writing it. I like your choice of yard art and I agree with everything written here.

  5. I smiled at the sight of Abraham Lincoln in your garden. I read a biography about him when I was young and he became a hero of mine … He was a leader of integrity and courage. I read recently that we only get good leaders about once every 60 years … That is depressing thought!

  6. Well done I like your Lincoln figure! A decent, honest man of integrity and he was a gardener too wasn’t he?
    And you can write exactly what you like on your own blog.

    • I don’t know that Lincoln was much of a gardener. He grew up on a frontier farm and had a pretty hard knocks early life. Jefferson was an avid gardener, and Washington to a lesser extent. And Michelle Obama!

  7. I think Mr. Lincoln would have enjoyed knowing a miniature likeness of him was sitting in a gardeners pot somewhere. It seems like he had a sense of humour. Amazing how his kind presence, astonishing humanity and gentle grace has continued to endure throughout generations and time.

  8. I very much enjoyed my trip to Springfield as part of my Route 66 tour. I really don’t have anything unusual used as an ornament in the garden.

  9. Your blog is your own and luckily ours to enjoy. Love your clever use of a single bookend, and I think the looks very handsome overlooking his spot in your garden.

  10. I love the way Lincoln seems to be pondering the alyssum. It’s a beautiful piece (the statue and the post). Oh my, I shudder to imagine what Lincoln would have thought of the current president. Keep your politics coming, this is not a time for censorship, self- or otherwise.

  11. Love the Abe.
    One of my favorite quotes of his is, “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”

  12. Thank you for your comments – it’s good to remind ourselves at this particular time that our country produced such a great man.

  13. I think it’s great to have whatever gives meaning to you in your garden, and you can write whatever you want on your blog.

  14. Yes, gardens should be a sanctuary from the world’s madness but once you’re there and feeling all relaxed, ya gotta think about something, right? Lincoln represents things that are good and noble; what better to contemplate in one’s garden? Whatever is meaningful to the gardener makes sense in his/her garden. Love it!

  15. Abe is a great addition to your garden for so many reasons and as a reminder that from humble beginnings come great things!

  16. I like Honest Abe sitting in your former birdbath pondering the vagaries of life.

  17. Lovely post. More Illinois folks should think about finding a spot for Lincoln in their homes. Madison has a children’s park desined by Jensen. It was restored a number of years ago but I am not sure if that work has been kept up.

  18. I had not thought of using presidents as garden “gnomes” – you might be starting a trend. My own non-plant additions range from Buddha to kitschy flamingos. No bowling balls, though.

  19. I think this is my very favorite of your posts. Thank you for your insights, and thank you for your humanity.

  20. I think this is a perfect addition to an Illinois garden! Last month we visited the Lincoln Library and Museum in Springfield with two of our grands. One room is devoted to all kinds of political cartoons lambasting Lincoln. I couldn’t help but turn to my granddaughter and say that our current President, who thinks he is unfairly ridiculed, should see this. Lincoln bore all that criticism with grace and continued to make decisions that were right for the country and its citizens, not for political gain. The more I think about it, a Lincoln memento is a perfect addition to a garden sanctuary.

    • Yes, I was in that same room and had a similar reaction. I think Lincoln would be shocked that someone like Trump could be elected President.

  21. Excellent. I had little statuettes of both Buddha and Lincoln follow me around for years, with both taking pride of place side by side on a small bathroom shelf. Abe eventually suffered a fall and shattered into hundreds of pieces; Buddha is looking pretty rough –two broken arms, stubbed toes, a scratched face– but he’s still with me. 🙂

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