By: Deacon Marques Silva
The best memories my grandmother formed with me all revolved around working with her in her gardens. In fact, the majority of her backyard was a garden. It is probably for this reason why I love working in gardens (even though I have little time to do so lately) and have developed a great appreciation for so many different flowers – all of which my wife appreciates every two weeks. I also do not find it a coincidence that I was given a lifelong penance during my sophomore year of college to meditate on John 15 (Vine and the branches) every time I work in my yard or garden.
As you know, May is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary in a special way. I thought I would provide a few nuggets concerning the long tradition of Marian Gardens. Maybe you might consider planting a Marian Garden with your kids this year while teaching them about our Lady.
The first recorded purposeful organizing of a “Marian Garden” is from the 15th century by a sacristan of Norwich Priory in England. Although, it should be noted that St. Benedict in the fourth century speaks of a rose “rosary” garden at his monastery and St. Fiacre explicitly called his garden a Mary Garden in the seventh century.
Prior to the rise of Christendom, many of the plants and flowers were named after pagan deities. Once Christianity became “the law of the land,” the majority of these flowering plants were renamed for Jesus, Mary, Saints and the angels. In fact, it was very popular to plant your gardens organized around various life events or mysteries of Jesus or Mary. Mr. John Stokes, Jr., provides a great historical perspective for those who desire more information in an article he wrote entitled, Mary Gardens Historical Perspective. Mr. Stokes, in detailing a history of U.S. Mary Gardens, states that the first recorded U.S. Mary Garden was “at Woods Hole on Cape Cod founded in 1932.”
Most are familiar with the Yellow Flag Iris as a fleur-de-lis and the Rose are common enough for us recognize its symbolism. Additionally, here are some my favorites:
|Common Name||Scientific Name||Medieval Name and/or Religious Meaning|
|Amaryllis||Amaryllis belladonna||Beautiful Lady|
|Baby’s Breath||Gypsophila panicul.||Lady’s Veil|
|Bleeding Heart||Dicentra spectabilis||Mary’s Heart|
|Blue Phlox||Phlox divaricata||Lady’s Wedding|
|Daffodil||Narcissus pseudo-narc.||Mary’s Star|
|English Holly||Ilex aquifolium||Burning Bush|
|German Iris||Iris germanica||Mary’s Sword of Sorrow|
|Impatiens||Impatiens Wallerana||Our Lady’s Earrings, or Mother Love|
|Lily-of-the-Valley||Convallaria majalis||Our Lady’s Tears|
|Morning Glory||Ipomoea purpurea||Our Lady’s Mantle (September)|
|Pansy||Viola tricolor||Trinity Flower, Our Lady’s Delight|
|Periwinkle||Vinca rosea||Virgin Flower|
|Petunia||Petunia hybr.||Lady’s Praise|
|Rose of Sharon||Hibiscus syriacus||Rose of Sharon|
|Sunflower||Helianthus annus||Mary’s Gold|
|Tulip||Tulipa gesneriana||Mary’s Prayer|
|Violet||Viola odorata||Our Lady’s Modesty (March)|
|Water Lily||Nymphaea alba||Lady-of-the-Lake (July)|
|Wisteria||Wisteria frutescen||Virgin’s Bower|
There you have it! I hope that you are able to get out into your garden and have some fun constructing a Marian Garden. It is a great opportunity to teach your children and/or grandchildren as well as give a simple witness to your devotion to Our Lady.