How can you honor our Mother, Mary? There are so many small ways to do this on a daily basis. Many MCCW groups try to find ways to honor Mary, especially during the month of May. A great way to get the whole group involved is by planting a Marian Garden. I started this with my MCCW group at Ramstein, Germany several years ago. We called the event, “Mary, Our Mother” and we gave instructions to bring empty pots, gloves, and an open mind.
The results were incredible! We planted all kinds of seeds that night, and not just flower seeds! Many women didn’t have “green thumbs” or any experience in planting gardens. We set up tables outside the chapel with different kinds of seeds, flower seedlings, bags of soil, trowels, and most importantly, we had ordered small waterproof Mary statues ( a bulk order from Amazon). We also handed out a flyer with names of flowers and their symbolism for the Blessed Mother. I had all kinds of questions about the right way to plant the garden and what the requirements were. The real answer is that there is no right way. The flowers planted represent different aspects of Mary but really any flower can honor Our Lady. We used the event as a way to shine light on Our Lady while sharing the experience with fellow Sisters in Christ.
We were able to get Father Matt there that evening to bless our statues and gardens, which made it even more special. Its definitely an added blessing if you can arrange to have your parish priest there for the event.
Mary Gardens date back as far as medievial times. They were represented in religious art of the time. They may have represented actual small gardens at the time. One of the first references to these gardens is from St. Fiacre, the Irish patron saint of gardening. He planted and tended a garden to Our Lady near a hospital for the poor in France during the 7th Century.
I see a Mary Garden as a work in progress. Many of the suggested flowers can be difficult to find, but just strive to find a few of the flowers having some symbolic meaning for Mary. Here is a short list of some possibilities for your garden, as used in the garden outside St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s parish in Pennsylvania.
“Picture her eyes (Forget-Me-Nots), her hair (Maidenhair Fem), her five fingers (Potentilla). Think about her apparel: her smock (Morning Glory), her veil (Baby’s Breath), her nightcap (Canterbury Bells), her gloves (Foxglove), and her shoes (Columbine). Remember her attributes: Mary’s humility (Violet), the fruitful virgin (Strawberry), Mary’s queenship (Virgin Lily), Mary’s Flower of God (English Daisy), Mary’s glory (Saint John’s Wort), and Our Lady’s Faith (Veronica).
Think about her life: The Bethlehem Star (Bellflower), the Christmas Flower (Poinsettia), Lady’s Bedstraw (Dianthus – Mary used bedstraw to prepare a bed for Jesus), the Epiphany flower (Chrysanthemum), the Flight into Egypt (Fig Tree – legend says that the Holy Family ate the fruit of this tree during their flight into Egypt), Our Lady’s Tears (Lily of the Valley – tiny white nodding bell-shaped flowers can be likened to a train of tears), Our Lady’s Tresses (Asparagus Fern – legend holds that at the foot of the cross, Mary, in. deep agony, tore out a tress of her hair which Saint John preserved), Mary’s Bitter Sorrow (Dandelion), and the Assumption (Hosta – Plantation Lily blooms at the time of the Feast of the Assumption).”
Even on a small budget, Marian Gardens can be planted as a group activity by having participants bring many of their own supplies and by using seeds instead of seedlings or started plants. Perhaps the group can provide the statues or the printed list of flowers and their significance. I brought a few recycled containters for ladies that forgot a pot. Any way you go about it, it’s a great way to bring people together, honor Our Lady, and enjoy learning something new with your Sisters in Christ.
The best website I found with complete information on Marian Gardens was Mary Gardens on the Udayton website (listed below). There are examples of prayers and blessings, gardening ideas (including how to plant an indoor Mary Garden) and much more! At www.fisheaters.com, they have a complete chart of flowers and their meanings for Mary.
I hope you consider planting a Marian garden, either personally, with your family or with your Sisters in Christ this year. Even if you are preparing to move, you can plant a small potted garden and give it to a friend. I love to “leave a little Mary” wherever I have lived. Dianthus, Lady’s Bedstraw, is a great, hardy perienial that will continue to come back and bloom long after you have moved away. As you approach the month of May, a Marian Garden is a beautiful way to pay tribute to a woman who has given us all so much.
Information on Mary Gardens was collected from a variety of sources to includes:
www.fisheaters.com (Permission granted to reproduce for promotion of the greater glory of God through knowledge, honor, praise and veneration of, and through devotion and recourse to, the Blessed Virgin Mary.” Thank you!)
“Marian Gardens” submitted by Katie Hanna.