Mary Gardens were started during medieval times and were usually gardens that were enclosed, often in monasteries.
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.
And you don’t need a plow and the lower 40 to plant a Mary Garden. Any container will work well, as long as it has good drainage and decent soil.
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 figured out early on that out of all God’s creations none could rival the flowers in representing Mary 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. Container Mary Gardens are big this year. But think about the May Crowning again when you were a kid. Remember the grotto that Mary was always in? We had Mary Gardens without realizing it!
What kinds of flowers and plants would be appropriate in a 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. I’m sharing a list appropriate plants, some of which are mentioned in the Bible and some of which are associated with Bible times but not specifically mentioned.
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.
Day LilliesAnd Angel Gabriel is often shown holding a lily.
These are edible but most lilies represent our Lady for her purity and chastity. White Lilies especially.
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.
Forget Me Nots – These remind us of Mary’s eyes. They’re a beautiful blue.
Impatiens – A Mother’s love
Larkspur: Mary’s tears
Marigold “Mary’s Gold” equates itself also with sunflowers and common marigolds.
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. (Matt, didn’t you have this in your garden at one time?)
Mint, Fennel and Dill – all tithing herbs but great in cooking
Mint: A variety of Spearmint is called Mary’s mint.
Morning Glory: Our Lady’s mantle -her cloak again of blue
Oregano/Hyssop –Moses told the Israelites to dip a branch of hyssop in lamb’s blood to mark their door posts.
Pansies – These are called Our Lady’s Delight. they look like happy little faces
Petunias – Angel’s “trumpets”
Poppy: Christ’s blood
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.
Snapdragon – called infant Jesus’ shoes
Strawberries: Designated as the fruit of Mary
Thyme – this herb grew wild in the hills of Jerusalem and the area. Some folks use this as a bed for the manger.