Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Plant a Mary Garden


For all you nature lovers out there, I think spring is really here....maybe.
We have had some strange weather here in Illinois- With 80 degree weather in March and then freeze warnings in late April, you never can be sure.
I have been meaning to start my flower seeds inside...well, awhile ago, but I never got around to it.  I am still willing to give it a shot. (For a farmer's daughter, I don't have much of a green thumb.)
So I pulled out the seed packets I had picked up.  The flowers that I had selected got me thinking.  Almost all of them were different shades of blue (my favorite color) and the seed packets looked lovely laying all together.  Shades of blue made me think of Mary.  Mary and flowers made me think of Mary Gardens.  Does this remind anyone else of "If you Give a Mouse a Cookie"?

Have you heard of Mary Gardens?  I don't know a lot about them, but here is the gist:
Medieval Europe was a time of great devotion to Mary, partially because of the strong feelings about chivalry and the dignity of women.  The people also wanted to redeem the secular culture, so they started doing it in simple ways.  For example, many flowers had/have names of pagan origin.  So instead of continuing to use the names that connected beauty and nature with paganism, they gave them all new names, centering around Christianity with an emphasis on Mary.

Hence, the Mary Garden.  Not only were they redeeming the flowers, but they created quiet places of prayer.  You can do the same thing today.  You can pick a favorite flower, look up its Marian name, and plant it in a pot in your windowsill.  Or you could create a large, rambling Mary Garden complete with 50 varieties of flowers, statues, Rosary stepping stones, prayer labyrinths, etc.  Guess which choice I will be taking this spring... :)

I also thought that using this idea of the Mary Garden could be fun to use with kids- especially those that really like the outdoors or getting dirty.
You could just teach them about Mary Gardens and look up some of their favorite plants online to find out their Marian Names (there are tons!)
You could also talk to them about the symbolism of a seed dying and rising to new life in connection to Christianity.
If you are really adventurous, you could get permission to plant a Mary Garden at your church, complete with the flowers, statues, and stepping stones mentioned above.
Or, you could just do what I am planning and send the seeds home with the kids :)

I made labels for 24 common flowers that have Marian names.  For example, here is Our Lady's Mantle, aka Morning Glory.  The labels are just circles which I covered with contact paper so that they would weather a little better.  You also could laminated them.  I cut two small slits in the top and bottom of the circle and slid a chopstick so that the label could be stuck in the soil.  Popsicle sticks would work just as well, but a chopstick is what I had handy.
Stick the new plant label and a seed pack into a pretty (but cheap!) pot, and you have a great Mothers' Day gift for kids.
I was also excited to find that a lot of herbs were part of Mary Gardens.  I am planning on planting these little babies very soon.
For example, Basil is also known as the First Communion Plant.  It was used to decorate homes and was given away as a gift.  (What do you think the 2nd graders that I work with would do if I gave them a pot of basil as a gift at their First Communion in a few weeks? Should I give it a shot?)
Dill was known as Devil Away.  (Maybe it is because it gives you bad breath. Just kidding.)
Click here for a long list of plants and their Marian names.
Click on the image below for a link to the labels.  Happy gardening!


  1. What a wonderful idea and awesome printables! Thank you! Now to find time to do this with my little ones! I think maybe next year when my oldest will be three. I think she will understand it more.

  2. I am thinking that next year is sounding better for me, too, because I should have started my seeds in a warm windowsill sometime earlier. Glad that you enjoyed them, Jackie, and hope that you can use them later!

  3. perfect timing. i have a garden project scheduled next weekend for 40 girls. thank you!