Gardens have been used in poetry to refer to paradise, secrecy, innocence, safety, and many other themes. It makes sense that this would make its way into modern popular music as well.
These 23 tracks about gardens draw comparisons to universal themes in many different musical genres.
1. Octopus’s Garden — The Beatles
Octopus’s Garden is known as being one of the few songs written by Ringo Starr; The Beatles drummer also sings lead vocals on the track. He was inspired after talking to a boat captain about how cephalopods gather beautiful rocks and shells to make underwater “gardens.”
At the time, The Beatles were in the process of recording their 1969 album Abbey Road in the midst of interpersonal tensions that would lead to them disbanding before the album was even released. This song describes Starr’s desire to be somewhere peaceful and beautiful away from the fighting.
2. Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny) — Elton John
Elton John’s 1982 song Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny) is a tribute to the late John Lennon, who was murdered in October 1980. The idea for the track came from Madison Square Garden, where John and Lennon had performed together shortly before the latter’s death.
From this, John uses a metaphor of a gardener who lovingly tended to his life’s work to memorialize the late musician. Because of the painful associations of the song, he has rarely performed it live; subsequently, not many people are familiar with this gentle, heartbreaking homage.
3. Strawberry Swing — Coldplay
Others think that the phrase “strawberry swing” is a way of referring to childhood memories or other important life moments. Regardless, the hypnotic rhythm of the track evokes the feeling of swinging gently in a garden; it is considered one of the most mentally relaxing songs ever made.
4. Garden Song — John Denver
John Denver’s 1979 Garden Song has become so famous that most people know it even if they don’t know the title. Beginning with the famous lines, “Inch by inch, row by row, gonna make this garden grow,” the track has even made its way into children’s music, and many kids learn it from the time that they are toddlers.
It describes the patient toil of a gardener as they labor over the earth and also gives a nod to the importance of taking care of the planet.
5. Garden — Dua Lipa
Dua Lipa’s 2017 song is a reference to the most famous garden in human history—the Garden of Eden. She uses the analogy of paradise to describe a relationship that was supremely happy. However, now she realizes that the happiness is fading and it has become bad enough to make her consider leaving the “garden.”
Like Adam and Eve, however, leaving the garden requires eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In this case, that means acknowledging the truth that their paradise is gone.
6. Atomic Garden — Bad Religion
Garden imagery has been used to represent many different topics in music. In Bad Religion’s 1992 song Atomic Garden, the lyrics criticize modern industrialization and imperialism, which seem intent on destroying the natural paradise of the world.
It includes heavy references to the Cold War and the threat of nuclear warfare, which contrasts with the propaganda that shows Americans happy in a green world full of flowers. Joni Mitchell said it first: “They paved paradise to put up a parking lot.”
7. Will It Grow — Jakob Dylan
Trying to grow a garden takes hard work and healthy soil—much like a relationship. In his song Will It Grow, the son of folk singer Bob Dylan wonders whether he will be able to flourish in the face of countless obstacles.
These are all presented in the concept of gardening challenges: rocky soil, sudden cold snaps, and droughts. As the narrator tirelessly puts work into the garden of his life, he worries if it will grow or if all his work will be for nothing.
8. The Garden — Guns N’ Roses
The Garden was a 1993 collaboration between Guns N’ Roses and Alice Cooper. While many people think it is about drug addiction, the song is open to interpretation. It uses garden imagery to describe what could be the experience of substance abuse, comparing it to a happy garden that tricks you into thinking that it’s paradise. Though the singer knows that it is actually dangerous, it is still difficult to resist when all his friends have gone to spend time in the garden.
9. Bloom — Troye Sivan
Comparing one’s virginity to a garden is a metaphor as old as gardens themselves. Troye Sivan returns to the tradition in his 2018 song, the title track of his sophomore album. The singer invites someone to “come into his garden,” saying that he has been saving it just for them. The metaphor might come from the days when walled gardens were commonplace, meaning that you could carefully choose who was invited in.
10. Tend My Garden — James Gang
James Gang’s 1970 song Tend My Garden has plenty of lines that are open to interpretation, but the general meaning is clear. The track is a metaphor for sex, with the narrator making a suggestive overture to an unknown person. You’d have to be very innocent not to understand the overall gist of the song, though some lines—such as “she’s like a stoned Moses”—might raise an eyebrow.
11. In The Garden — Bob Dylan
The Bible is full of imagery of gardens, one of which is the Garden of Gethsemane. In Bob Dylan’s song In The Garden, he wonders about the events that happened in Gethsemane, where Judas betrayed Jesus. The track hearkens back to African-American spirituals with its themes and repeated lyrics. Here’s a fun fact: Gethsemane is a real place in Jerusalem, and there are still olive trees grown there as there would have been in Biblical times.
Recommended: Songs about trees
12. Hanging Garden — The Cure
The Cure released The Hanging Garden on their fourth album in 1982. It wasn’t popular at the time and subsequently isn’t well known today. The title seems to be a reference to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, a former one of the wonders of the world. Frontman Robert Smith said that the song handles themes of sex and innocence, a common metaphor for garden-related language.
13. Garden Shed — Tyler The Creator And Estelle
Tyler The Creator ventured heavily into garden imagery on his 2017 album Flower Boy. In Garden Shed, he takes the idea of being in the closet even further and puts it in a shed.
The song is a collaboration with singer and LGBTQ+ activist Estelle, making the metaphor even more overt. The rapper has frequently made references to coming out in his music and has said that he knew he was gay by the time he was in his early teens.
Recommended: Songs about gay pride & LGBTQ+ pride
14. Homegrown Tomatoes — Guy Clark
In 1983, country singer Guy Clark recorded a song about homegrown tomatoes, and while you would think there is a more complex meaning, the track really is about tomatoes.
On a deeper level, however, Homegrown Tomatoes is about the joy of living and finding pleasure in the little things, such as working hard in your vegetable garden and literally tasting the fruits of your labor. Sometimes, the simple songs really are the most complicated.
15. In The Garden — Van Morrison
Irish singer Van Morrison ventured into complex territory with his 1986 song In The Garden, a track that combined themes of spirituality, philosophy, and self-discovery. He uses the metaphor of being in a garden to represent encountering God and himself.
It is a surprisingly moving song, describing scenes of peace that really do sound like paradise.
16. Safe In My Garden — The Mamas & The Papas
The late 1960s was a time of great upheaval for The Mamas & The Papas, both personally and professionally. The group had been torn apart by Cass Elliot embarking on a solo career, as well as drug addiction and infidelity.
Additionally, the political upheaval of the decade made many people feel as though life was increasingly unpredictable. Safe In My Garden was a response to all of these factors, imagining a secure retreat from the chaos of the world.
17. Garden — Emeli Sandé Feat. Jay Electronica And Áine Zion
Gardens are frequently used to symbolize a happy retreat or paradise, partially a nod to the Biblical story of the Garden of Eden. Emeli Sandé’s Garden describes what it’s like to experience an intense, private relationship for a season.
It feels as though the couple has retreated into their own personal garden where no one else can find them—even if it’s just for a short time. The lovers also know that they will eventually leave their paradise for a place of suffering when they’re torn apart.
18. Scarecrow In The Garden — Chris Stapleton
Scarecrow In The Garden tells the story of an immigrant from Northern Ireland who came to America in the hopes of having a successful farm and making a better life. However, farming is unpredictable by its nature, and the song draws comparisons to the Biblical plagues as it follows the family down the generations. The singer compares his garden scarecrow to the devil and wonders if their fields will continue to flourish.
19. After The Garden — Neil Young
Neil Young’s song After The Garden weaves garden imagery with commentary about the government, prompting questions about its real meaning. The singer may be drawing a comparison between the Garden of Eden and the desire of world powers for war and conquest.
The track comes from his album Living With War, suggesting that he means that the government’s desire for war is destroying the world’s natural peace and harmony.
20. Let It Grow — Eric Clapton
Garden metaphors have been used for many aspects of life. In his 1970 song Let It Grow, recorded after breaking off from his group Derek And The Dominos—with whom he recorded a similar song, Keep On Growing—he uses a garden analogy to describe a new love that he hopes to root in healthy soil. It’s not a new comparison, but it’s done so beautifully that we can’t help but give his track a nod.
21. Rose Garden — Glen Campbell
Rose gardens have become a symbol of happy domesticity, showing that a family has the space to establish their own roots—literally! Glen Campbell’s cover of Rose Garden seems a bit callous at first, as the narrator points out that he’s not responsible for his lover’s unrealistic expectations.
But he goes on to say that a shared life involves both sunshine and rain, and they promised one another they’d be together in good times and in bad.
22. English Country Garden — Jimmie Rodgers
Jimmie Rodgers’ 1961 song English Country Garden is based on an old English folk song. The UK is famed for its stunning gardens, which feature plenty of variety. His version describes both gardens and beekeeping and how these can be seen as symbols of happiness and prosperity.
For most of history, having a garden and a beehive meant that you had a steady supply of food—not to mention a permanent home over which you had your own control.
23. Droppin’ Seeds — Tyler, The Creator And Lil Wayne
Gardening and hip hop don’t exactly seem to go together, but Tyler, The Creator, would clearly disagree. His 2017 album Flower Boy is heavily themed around plants and gardens, including Droppin’ Seeds.
The collaboration with Lil Wayne manages to explore classic themes of hip hop—such as sexual bragging, with plays on the use of the word “seed”—in a way that is totally unique. Who said you can’t be a rapper and love flowers at the same time?
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