Mary Garden is a garden,
filled with flowers, plants and trees named for Our Lady and Jesus, designed
to be a place of beauty that reminds us of our Lord and our Lady, allows
one to experience God's creation, and invites prayer and contemplation. Because
Mary is a type of the Church as Bride, the garden should be enclosed if at
all possible, based on the words in the fourth chapter of Solomon's Canticle
How beautiful art
thou, my love, how beautiful art thou! thy eyes are doves' eyes, besides
what is hid within. Thy hair is as flocks of goats, which Come up from mount
Galaad. Thy teeth as flocks of sheep, that are shorn which come up from the
washing, all with twins, and there is none barren among them. Thy lips are
as a scarlet lace: and thy speech sweet. Thy cheeks are as a piece of a
pomegranate, besides that which lieth hid within. Thy neck, is as the tower
of David, which is built with bulwarks: a thousand bucklers hang upon it,
all the armour of valiant men. Thy two breasts like two young roes that are
twins, which feed among the lilies.
Till the day break, and the shadows retire, I will go to the mountain of
myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense. Thou art all fair, O my love, and
there is not a spot in thee. Come from Libanus, my spouse, come from Libanus,
come: thou shalt be crowned from the top of Amana, from the top of Sanir
and Hermon, from the dens of the lions, from the mountains of the leopards.
Thou hast wounded my heart, my sister, my spouse, thou hast wounded my heart
with one of thy eyes, and with one hair of thy neck. How beautiful are thy
breasts, my sister, my spouse! thy breasts are more beautiful than wine,
and the sweet smell of thy ointments above all aromatical spices.
Thy lips, my spouse, are as a dropping honeycomb, honey and milk are under
thy tongue; and the smell of thy garments, as the smell of frankincense.
My sister, my spouse, is a garden enclosed, a garden enclosed, a fountain
sealed up. Thy plants are a paradise of pomegranates with the fruits
of the orchard. Cypress with spikenard. Spikenard and saffron, sweet cane
and cinnamon, with all the trees of Libanus, myrrh and aloes with all the
chief perfumes. The fountain of gardens: the well of living waters, which
run with a strong stream from Libanus.
Arise, O north wind, and come, O south wind, blow through my garden, and
let the aromatical spices thereof flow.
St. Benedict had
a rose garden ("rosary") at his monastery in the 4th c., but the first garden
we know of that was specifically dedicated to Mary was one created by the
Irish St. Fiacre in the 7th c. The earliest record of a garden explicitly
called a "Mary Garden" involves a "fifteenth century monastic accounting
record of the purchase of plants "for S. Mary's garden" by the sacristan
of Norwich Priory, in England."
Before the rise of Christendom, many flowers were associated with pagan deities
-- Diana, Juno, Venus, etc. -- but when the "Age of Faith" ascended and
superceded the pagan, these
flowers were "christened" and re-dedicated to Christian themes. So
many flowers were named for Jesus, Mary, the angels, holy places, etc. --
enough such that you can create a garden focused on specific aspects of Mary
and Jesus' lives, such as His Passion or her sorrows. Enchanting names, like
"Our Lady's Tears" (spiderwort), "Christ's-Cross Flower" (Summer phlox),
"Joseph's Coat" (Amaranthus), "Pentecost Rose" or "Mary's Rose" (peony),
and "Our Lady's Mantle" (Morning Glory), abounded. Sadly, during the Protestant
rebellion and the rise of secularism, many of these flowers were re-named
yet again with more wordly names but, of course, these flowers still exist
and to many Catholic gardeners, their religious names are still meaningful.
The St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish's (in Pennsylvania) Mary Garden Dedication
Booklet includes the following, which will give you an idea about how Mary
Gardens recall the lives of Mary and Jesus. The booklet asks the reader to
visit the garden and think of Mary:
"Picture her eyes
(Forget-Me-Nots), her hair (Maidenhair Fem), her five fingers (Potentilla).
Think about her apparel: her smock (Morning Glory), her veil (Baby's Breath),
her nightcap (Canterbury Bells), her gloves (Foxglove), and her shoes
(Columbine). Remember her attributes: Mary's humility (Violet), the fruitful
virgin (Strawberry), Mary's queenship (Virgin Lily), Mary's Flower of God
(English Daisy), Mary's glory (Saint John's Wort), and Our Lady's Faith
Think about her life: The Bethlehem Star (Bellflower), the Christmas Flower
(Poinsettia), Lady's Bedstraw (Dianthus - Mary used bedstraw to prepare a
bed for Jesus), the Epiphany flower (Chrysanthemum), the Flight into Egypt
(Fig Tree - legend says that the Holy Family ate the fruit of this tree during
their flight into Egypt), Our Lady's Tears (Lily of the Valley - tiny white
nodding bell-shaped flowers can be likened to a train of tears), Our Lady's
Tresses (Asparagus Fern - legend holds that at the foot of the cross, Mary,
in. deep agony, tore out a tress of her hair which Saint John preserved),
Mary's Bitter Sorrow (Dandelion), and the Assumption (Hosta - Plantation
Lily blooms at the time of the Feast of the Assumption)."
You can plant flowers
whose names and form evoke the Fourteen Stations of the Cross or the Fifteen
Mysteries of the Rosary so that by walking through your garden you not only
enjoy its natural beauty, but practically "make the Stations" or "walk the
Rosary," turning your backyard , schoolyard, or churchyard into a holy shrine
(especially when accented with beautiful statuary).
If you don't have lots of room, you can make mini-gardens on your patio or
apartment's balcony, or grow miniature plants in dishes or terraria for inside
your home (nice gifts for the homebound!). If you do have lots of room,
especially if you live in the country, consider setting up a little
roadside shrine and garden so people passing
by can stop and rest at a beautiful sacred place.
Below is a table of modern common names, scientific names, and medieval,
religious names and meanings of flowers, plants, and shrubs, along with a
few other plants relevant to our Lord's life. Separately below in the table,
you'll find the same for herbs. The month associated with those flowers deemed
as "birth flowers" have the birth months rendered in (italicized
Name and/or Religious Meaning
||? Found on
Shroud of Turin. See footnote for more information on the flowers of the
||Heart of Jesus
||Heart of Mary
Nightcap, Mary Bells, Our Lady's Smock
||? Found on
Shroud of Turin. See footnote for more information on the flowers of the
of God. These flowers are said to have bloomed at Christ's Nativity, according
to a German legend. (January)
(Damascus Roses or Damask Rose)
||I am not sure
of the medieval name for these native-to-Spain flowers, but these are the
variety that St. Juan Diego found after the vision of Our Lady at
Flower. Chrysanthemums in general are associated with death and are used
and funerals and to adorn graves (Chrysanthemum coronarium is believed by
scientists to have been present when Christ was laid in the tomb. See footnotes).
Shoes, Lady's Slipper. Said to have sprung up under Our Lady's feet as she
went to visit Elizabeth. The dove-shaped petals of this flower invited --
and invites -- its use for decoration on the Feast of the Pentecost.
||? I don't know
the medieval name for this flower, but "Crown Daisy" is appropriate: this
flower shows up on the Shroud of Turin. See footnote for more information
on the flowers of the Holy Shroud.
|| St. Anthony
||I don't know
the medieval name for this interesting flower, but it has sentimental interest
for me so I would love to discover it if anyone happens to know and cares
flowering plant -- closely related to, resembling, and sometimes called the
same name as the Morning Glory -- is pervasive once planted and, so, is generally
considered a weed. Its old common name according to the Grimm's short tale
of the same name is "Our Lady's Little Glass." The story in its entirety:
"Once upon a time a waggoner's cart which was heavily laden with wine had
stuck so fast that in spite of all that he could do, he could not get it
to move again. Then it chanced that Our Lady just happened to come by that
way, and when she perceived the poor man's distress, she said to him, 'I
am tired and thirsty, give me a glass of wine, and I will set thy cart free
for thee.' 'Willingly,' answered the waggoner, 'but I have no glass in which
I can give thee the wine.' Then Our Lady plucked a little white flower with
red stripes, called field bindweed, which looks very like a glass, and gave
it to the waggoner. He filled it with wine, and then Our Lady drank it, and
in the self-same instant the cart was set free, and the waggoner could drive
onwards. The little flower is still always called Our Lady's Little
Drops or Our Lady's Eardrops
||Heart of Jesus,
Ladder to Heaven
(May). The Crataegus Oxyacantha praecox variety is the plant of England's
"Glastonbury Thorn" -- a plant of Mediterranean origin but which, in Somerset,
blooms twice: at Easter and at Christmas. It, therefore, has become a symbol
of Christmas. The Glastonbury Thorn is said to have arisen when St. Joseph
of Arimathea thrust his hawthorn staff into the ground in Somersetshire.
The original plant was destroyed by Puritans (the soldier who did the chopping
is said to have been struck in the eye by a large splinter from the tree),
but shoots from it were taken, and England's Glastonbury Thorn lives. Since
1929, blossoms from the Glastonbury Thorn are sent to England's Monarchs
for their table on Christmas Day.
Earrings, or Mother Love
||Where God has
(Job 16:20). The seeds of this plant are often used for Rosary beads.
||Said to be
the tree upon which Judas hanged himself after betraying Our Lord. It is
a beautiful tree, with lovely pink flowers in the Spring.
ajacis, Delphinum (grandif.)
Tears. These flowers are said to have blossomed from Mary's tears for her
Son as she stood at the foot of the Cross. (May)
Our Lady's Milk Herb, The Virgin Mary's Tears
Lily, Virgin Lily or Mary's Lily
Note: The Venerable
Bede (A.D. 672-735) described the white petals as symbols of Mary's body,
and the golden anthers as symbols of the glory of her soul. Roses and lilies
were said to have filled Mary's empty tomb when it was opened by the Apostles.
While lilies' association with purity cause them to be depicted with many
Saints, such as SS. Francis and Claire, they are most strongly associated
with St. Joseph, whose rod is said, in the Gospel of the Nativity of Mary,
to have blossomed to prove he was worthy to guard Mary and become her spouse;
with St. Anthony of Padua, because lilies left in chuches on his Feast Day
miraculously remained fresh during the French Revolution; and with the archangel
Gabriel, who is depicted as presenting Mary with the lily at the Annunciation
(hence the name "Annunciation Lily"). Lilies are also associated with Solomon's
Temple (III Kings 7:19-22), and their beauty is commented on by Christ Himself
|| "Maltese Cross"
(or "Jerusalem Cross"). The shape of these flowers' petals strongly evokes
the Maltese Cross, and they are said to have been introduced into Europe,
from Russia and Siberia, by the crusading Knights of Malta.
Our Lord's Back
Crucifixion Blood-Drops (August)
The legend told is that the Magi followed the star to Bethlehem but weren't
sure where to go once there. King Melchior then saw the ox-eye daisy growing,
which looked very much like the star they'd followed. He picked it, and the
door to the stable opened revealing the Holy Family.
Our Lady's Delight
whose 5 stamens symbolize the Five Wounds of Christ; the outer fringe, the
crown of thorns; and stigmas, the nails. See more
(does anyone know of any name or meaning associated with Paeonia
Our Lady's Braids
||I don't know
the medieval name for this flower, but it's a gorgeous blossom.
Red: Mary's Sorrow and the Blood of Christ. Also martyrdom.
Gold: Mary's Glory
Red and White: Visitation
Note: The Rose symbolizes Mary herself (she is known as "The Mystical Rose,"
see Litany of Loreto) and is described in
Dante's Paradiso when the guide asks him to contemplate Mary, "Why are you
so enamored of my face that you do not turn your gaze to the beautiful garden
which blossoms under the radiance of Christ? There is the Rose in which the
Divine word became flesh: here are the lilies whose perfume guides you in
the right ways."
Roses and lilies were said to have filled Mary's empty tomb when it was opened
by the Apostles.
Roses are also associated with SS. Dorothy and Thérèse of Lisieux
(who both send roses from Heaven), Elizabeth of Hungary, and Rose of Lima.
St. Francis once threw himself on the thorns of a rosebush as penance. Since
then, the rosebushes in that garden (near the cloister of Santa Maria degli
Angeli in Assisi) have no thorns. See also the entry for Castilian Roses.
||? Shows up
on Shroud of Turin. See footnote for more information on the flowers of the
| Rose of
plant survives in a curled up, dormant, brown, dessicated state for years,
and then opens up and turns green with a bit of water. After returning to
a lovely green, it goes dormant again when its water source is removed. Because
of this fascinating property, it is often kept dormant in the home and brought
out at Christmas time to blossom and then close in order to symbolize the
opening and closing of Mary's womb. The plant is also known as the Resurrection
Plant, Siempre Viva ("Everlasting"), and Dinosaur Plant. Read more about
this plant on the Rose of Jericho page off
the Chrismastide Overview page.
|Rose of Sharon
||Rose of Sharon
Cushion. These flowers are said to have made a place for Mary to sit during
the Flight into Egypt.
||a symbol of
St. Patrick and his evangelization of Ireland, and of Ireland itself -- but
St. Patrick used it as a symbol of the Trinity, with each leaf representing
a Divine Person while the plant remains one plant.
Bells" or "Purification Flowers." These flowers are said to have bloomed
on Candlemas, when Mary took Jesus to the Temple for His "redemption."
zebrina (Zebrina pendula)
The name for this plant -- often used as a houseplant -- derives from an
old legend about a Jew who mocked and hit Christ during His Passion and so
was condemned by Him to wander the earth until the Last Judgment. Two other
species of this plant are also known by this name: Tradescantia fluminensis
and Tradescantia pallida (Setcreasea purpurea, Purple Heart).
||symbol of the
star that led the Magi to Christ
Mary, Mary's Little Cross
||? Found on
Shroud of Turin. See footnote for more information on the flowers of the
or Lent Rose. A German Christmas symbol.
of French royalty, Mary as Queen, the Immaculate Conception
name means "Little Dragon" and evokes St. Martha's slaying of the dragon
known as La Tarasque
Plant. Pots of basil are used to decorate homes and to give away as gifts
on St. Anthony of Padua's Day.
Sprig, Lady's Tobacco
Tea, Mary's Nettle
||I am unable
to find a medieval name for this plant, but include it because of its importance
in the Passover, Psalms and Passion. The variety of hyssop properly called
Hyssopos officinal., and known as St. Joseph's Plant in the Middle
Ages, is not the variety spoken of in the Bible and at the Mass. The Biblical
plant is Origanum maru.
Wort, Fuga Daemon ("Devil's Flight"), John's Blood, Jesus' Blood Drops, Christ's
Sweat, Mary's Glory
grandiflora (or Nardostachys jatamansi)
of the plant just above the roots has a patchouli-like scent which was used
by Mary Magdalen in the ointment she used to annoint Christ.
As you plan your garden, consider planting, depending on where you live,
the following to help the liturgical year come alive:
a cherry tree so
you can use some of its branches on St. Barbara's
Day (December 4)
for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
laurel, holly, ivy, mistletoe, Christmas Roses, poinsettias, fir trees and
other evergreens for use during
Christmastide until Candlemas (25
January - 2 February)
and Ox-eye Daisy for Twelfth Night and the Feast
of the Epiphany
to bring inside on Candlemas
red roses for
St. Valentine's Day (14 February)
some pussy willow
for its branches on Ash Wednesday
to harvest and wear on St. Patrick's Day
for the Feast of the Annunciation (25 March)
a dogwood tree
for Good Friday (3 days before the first
Sunday after the first full moon after 21 March)
Easter lilies for
Easter (the first Sunday after the
first full moon after 21 March)
some roses to
crown and adorn Mary's statue in the month
columbine for the
Feast of the Pentecost
pansies for the
Feast of the Trinity (the Sunday after
some lilies to
have blessed, and some basil to decorate with and give away on the
Feast of St. Anthony of Padua
and St. John's Wort to harvest on the
Feast of St. John and its Eve,
and flowers that dry well to make wreaths (23 and 24 June)
Spikenard in honor
of Mary Magdalen (22 July)
tarragon in honor
of St. Martha (29 July)
some herbs and
fruit to harvest and have blessed on the
Feast of the Assumption (15
some asters, an
apple tree, and blackberry bush to harvest on the
Feast of St. Michael (29
for All Souls' Day (2
See the page on
the Customs of the Liturgical Year
for more information on these practices.
... and when you plant your Mary Garden, let's hope some of "Our Lady's Birds"
named for Mary when, according to medieval legend,
they miraculously came to save crops from aphids -- come to protect your
plants! The red color of the "Lady Beetle's" body is symbolic of her red
cloak, and the 7 black spots found on some species in Europe represent her
7 Sorrows. Lady Bugs are almost universally considered symbols of "good luck"
because of the benefits they bring to man.
2 You might want to pray to St. Fiacre,
patron of gardeners, for God to send some of these critters your way...
One more tip: you can make flower pots and cement objects, like statues,
look more interesting by inviting moss to grow on them. To do this, mix a
quart of buttermilk, a pint of pulverized wood-land moss, a pint of composted
manure, and a little Miracle-Grow. Paint onto object with a paintbrush and
set the object in a cool, shady place. Keep it moist by spritzing
with water or stale beer.
Some of the information
for this page comes from
Mary Gardens website.
Their site graciously states, "All texts and graphics of web page and site
copyright Mary's Gardens, 1995. All rights reserved. Permission granted to
reproduce for promotion of the greater glory of God through knowledge, honor,
praise and veneration of, and through devotion and recourse to, the Blessed
Virgin Mary." Thank you!
Just for fun: "They
say" that the nursery rhyme most in the English-speaking world grew up with
(see below) comes from medieval farmers burning their fields to clear them
for the next sowing season:
fly away home,
Your house is on fire and your children all gone.
All except one whose name is Anne
Who hid herself under the frying pan.
of many plant species have been found, either visibly, in pollen form, or
both, on the Shroud of Turin. Five of these are below:
The "Crown Daisy" was laid on His Body when He was entombed. It's the most
prominent flower seen in the Shroud, and it blooms between March and May
when the Crucifixion took place. The flower appears in many Jesus icons (ex.
the 6th c. Pantocrator icon at St. Catherine's Monastery in Egypt and a 7th
century solidus coin minted under Justinian II).
Zygophyllum dumosum leaves and flowers are visible in the image, too,
and its pollen has been found in the Shroud also. This is the second most
prominent flower found in the Shroud's image.
Flowers of this plant open up between Noon and sunset. The flowers visible
in the Shroud indicate a time of around 4PM.
Many pollen grains of this lovely flower, also known as "Rock Rose," have
been found on the Shroud, which support the identification of an unclear
image of what appears to be this flower on the Shroud.
Gundelia tournefortii pollen is found in abundance on the Holy
Shroud. It is believed by some experts to be the plant that, when dried,
made up the crown of thorns.