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Mary Garden: A Tribute to Mary in the Garden

A Mary Garden for Mother’s Day

Gardens were started during medieval times and were usually gardens that were enclosed, often in monasteries. I understand you have a portion of your herb garden devoted to bible herbs and Mary called a “Mary Garden”.

I have always felt that an herb garden needs a statue of Mary, even before I had ever heard about Mary Gardens.  You’re right – from what we know Mary Gardens date back to medieval times and were enclosed.  They were places of quiet beauty, reflective areas where one could pray and think about our Mother.

When I pray for the people on my prayer list, I put them into what I call my Mary Garden – it’s in my heart, really, but I feel like anyone I put there is protected and receives her blessings.

When you think about Medieval Christians,  their search was for the most exact likeness of Mary.  How did flowers and herbs fit into this?

The Christians realized that out of all God’s creations none could rival the flowers in representing her purity, her holy beauty and her glory.  So, fragrant herbs and flowers remind us of her spiritual sweetness, the soothing and healing herbs remind us of her heavenly mercy and compassion and we even have the bitter and sour herbs, which remind us of her bitter sorrows. The Christians saw these plants as special signs of heaven so they gathered them for churches, and eventually started placing them on altars.

I understand that for special occasions they were strewn throughout the church and woven into garlands and crowns which were worn by the priests.

So crowning Mary with a crown of flowers dates back to ancient times.
When you’re planting a Mary Garden,  does it have to be enclosed?

Not at all. As a matter of fact, most aren’t.  But think about the May Crowning again when you were a kid. Remember the grotto that Mary was always in? Isn’t that a garden?

What kinds of flowers and plants would be appropriate in a Mary Garden?

Thyme - Mary Garden

Thyme – Mary Garden

Well, roses certainly. That’s the emblem of Mary and she is called the First Rose of Martyrs.  The rose was also adopted as the emblem of Mary’s love of God. Here’s a list of appropriate plants, some of which are mentioned in the Bible and some of which are associated with Bible times but not specifically mentioned.

  • Mint, Fennel and Dill – all tithing herbs but great in cooking
  • Mary’s Bedstraw – it’s a low growing perennial that looks like what might have been put in the manger.  My statue of Mary stands on the bedstraw.
  • Violets
  • Day Lillies – These are edible but most lilies represent our Lady for her purity and chastity. White Lilies especially. And Angel Gabriel is often shown holding a lily.
  • Cilantro – the seed of this plant, Coriander, is sometimes mentioned as the manna of the Bible.
  • Rosemary – supposedly this herb was named Rosemary because Mary tossed her blue cloak over the bush and the flowers turned blue.  This is a piney tasting herb full of antioxidants.
  • Oregano/Hyssop –Moses told the Israelites to dip a branch of hyssop in lamb’s blood to marke their door p
    Rita's Mary Garden

    Rita’s Mary Garden


  • Flax – it has beautiful blue flowers and the linen from the shroud  of Turin is supposed to have been made from the stem of this flower.
  • Snapdragon – another edible flower which is called infant Jesus’ shoes
  • Marigold – I like Calendula, an edible member of this family and one I use in my homemade spa products.  “Mary’s Gold” equates itself also with sunflowers and common marigolds.
  • Rose of Sharon – another edible flower for the Mary Garden. It  becomes a nice background bush.
  • Pansies – These are called Our Lady’s Delight.
  • Forget Me Nots – These remind us of Mary’s eyes. They’re a beautiful blue.
  • Garlic, leeks & onions – not fragrant is a sweet sense, but all mentioned in the Bible.
  • Thyme – this herb grew wild in the hills of Jerusalem and the area.
  • Costmary – I love this herb – it’s called the Bible herb because folks used to put a leaf in their Bible to keep them awake during long sermons. It has a balsam like aroma.

It seems like a Mary Garden would make a great family project.

It would especially for Mother’s Day. Dad and the kids can go to the garden center and choose a few of these plants.  The nice thing is all of these plants are useful in some way: whether it’s in cooking, making spa products, herbal teas, etc.

If you put them in a container with a small statue of Our Lady,  that would  be a wonderful gift for Mom.  If there’s time, have the container blessed, as well.

 Rita has a wonderful Mary Garden at her home.


Catherine: Thank you also for your discussion of your Mary Garden and foods from the Bible. It is a highlight for me as I trod off to Mass in the morning. Thank you for your work.
Tom:  I love the bible foods and Mary Garden info.
Sandra: Good Ms. Rita – I love to hear you each morning on my way to work.  I’m planning on starting a Mary Garden in the spring.  Need to know how to start one.  Thanks

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  1. Mary Jane peck

    What was the recipe again that you did on the Son rise morning show… About God and the 7 days he created the earth??? Snack treat activity for children

    1. Rita Heikenfeld

      HI, MARY JANE,
      There are lots of fun recipes w/Bible passages. I just reposted it again – look for Bible snacks fun for kids to make.

  2. Jim Reinhart

    Hi Rita, We have some people coming over this weekend and I’m doing your recipe from years back of Pasta Fagiole (spelling) I’m putting grilled chicken strips on it with black beans and cannelini beans

    1. Rita Heikenfeld

      OK my friend, take a photo of it. That is such a good, easy one!

  1. Grow Your Knowledge Of Mary Gardens | beesfirstappearance

    […] “An Historical Note” pamphlet written for the Annapolis Mary Garden in 1991, and “A Mary Garden for Mother’s Day,” by Rita […]

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