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Posted on May 18, 2016 |

Plant a Mary Garden this Month

Plant a Mary Garden this Month

mary garden rita

Mary Gardens, popular since the Middle Ages, feature statues of Our Lady and plants associated with her. Rita’s Mary Garden, shown here,is planted with herbs and flowers.

This piece by Rita Heikenfeld was originally written for Mother’s Day but, due to technical difficulties, was not able to be posted last week. Rita wishes a belated Happy Mother’s Day to all of our Son Rise Morning Show and Catholic Beat moms, and reminds you that it is never too late to plant a Mary Garden!



Mary Gardens were started during medieval times and were usually gardens that were enclosed, often in monasteries. I have a portion of my herb garden devoted to Bible herbs and MaryI have always felt that an herb garden needs a statue of Mary, even before I had ever heard about Mary Gardens.  They were places of quiet beauty, reflective areas where one could pray and think about our Mother.


Medieval Christians searched for the most exact likeness of Mary. They 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.

Mary Gardend on’t have to be enclosed. Today, 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? Any kind of garden will do.

Plants for the Mary Garden 

Roses are always appropriate for a Mary Garden. She is called the First Rose of Martyrs, and the rose was also adopted as the emblem of Mary’s love of God. Other plants with Marian and Biblical roots include:

Mint, Fennel and Dill – all tithing herbs but great in cooking

Mary’s Bedstraw – a low-growing perennial that looks like what might have been put in the manger.  My statue of Mary stands on the bedstraw.

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 mark their door posts.

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.

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.

A Mary Garden would make a great family project, especially as a present for moms. Dad and the kids can go to the garden center and choose a few of these plants.  Put them  in a container with a small statue of Our Lad, as a wonderful gift for Mom.  If there’s time, have the container blessed, as well!

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