Guest Author - Candice Redfern
What is a Mary Garden?
Mary gardens are tended in honor of Mary, Mother of Christ. The purpose of planting such a garden is to provide a space of holy wonderment whereby one can reflect on the divine attributes of Mary by contemplating on the beauty of the flowers that symbolize her qualities. Whether strolling through in meditative repose, or sitting humbly amidst the ladybirds, a Mary garden can provide a sacred retreat.
When you visit a Mary garden, you are visiting a place that was created in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. When you step into a Mary garden, you step into a mystical experience of the Divine as manifested in nature. Flowers and herbs come alive with biblical meaning and, as you walk along the garden paths, stories are told in the petals, fragrance and colors of the cultivated vegetation. Whilst your eyes become filled with the beauty of the landscape, similarly your heart becomes filled with love for the Mother of God who is represented by such.
History of Mary Gardens
The representation of deities in nature is not unique to Christianity alone. The ancient Greeks, for instance related their many gods and goddesses to the plants in their environment. Saint Fiacre was the first Christian known to plant a garden in honor of the Mother Mary in 7th century Ireland. Much later, Mary gardens were noted as being prevalent in Europe during the medieval period.
How to Create a Mary Garden
There is no particular formula to how you landscape your Mary garden, but there are a few key ingredients to consider for the layout. First, have a statue of Mary as the centerpiece in the design. Situate a bench before her statue as a place for quiet devotion. If space permits, plan for divergent paths that lead up to the image of Mary. When choosing flowers, knowing the symbolic meaning is of utmost importance. Each blossom and herb represents her features, her inner qualities and the events of her life. Often, the flowers are planted chronologically so that the garden path becomes a storyline of her trials and tribulations.
Particular Flowers and their Meanings
Baby's Breath: Mary’s veil
Forget-me-not: Mary’s eyes
Lily-of-the-Valley: Mary’s tears
Geranium: Mary as gentle Virgin
Tulip: Mary's prayer
Mary gardens can be planted anywhere one may wish. Your own backyard can be just as special of a place as a church yard. They can be as simple as a miniature window sill display or as grandiose as a formal botanical garden. Teachers can also include Mary gardens in their religious curriculum by having the class plant a sacred garden in the school yard.
Expressing heartfelt devotion to the Mother of Jesus through gardening is a wonderful way to connect nature with the divine in the Catholic tradition. Transforming your garden into a sacred place in honor of Mary will provide you with your own spiritual retreat right in your own backyard. It is a perfect way for gardeners and green thumbs to unite their talents and their faith together in honor of the celestial Mother.