#101: How to Plant a Mary Garden

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Mary Garden by Chau Nguyen

In the Church, no human being receives more reverence than the Virgin Mary.  The term for this is hyperdulia.  It means the veneration (dulia), over (hyper) that granted to any saint or angel.

We do not worship Mary.  Worship is given to God alone.  But we do honor her in a particular way as the theotokos, or God-Bearer, the one, alone, of all women, asked to carry Christ in her womb and deliver him to a waiting world.

An entire month, the month of May, is devoted to Mary.  (The name, May, is a variant of the name, Mary.)  It’s also the month when we want to go outside and enjoy the warmth of spring.

A good way to honor Mary is to plant a Mary garden, a garden in which every plant has some connection to the Blessed Virgin.  Just as God sewed the seeds of eternal life in Mary’s womb, so we can sew the seeds of new life in our gardens.   First check out the number of your planting zone.  Based on how far north you live and how high your altitude, you may not be able to plant outdoors until the end of May.  But even late planters can began with seedlings indoors.  There are hundreds of plants associated with Mary, and the tradition of planting gardens in her honor dates from at least the 7th century.  Here are some of the hardier and more common Marian plants.

Lady’s Mantle is a perennial ground cover.  The plant grows 8 to 14 inches high, with lobed, silvery green leaves.  The scalloped edges of the leaves are said to be like those of a woman’s cloak, so the Germans call it frauenmantle.   But the Italians call it Madonna Mantello, or the Madonna’s cloak.

There are hundreds of plants associated with Mary, and the tradition of planting gardens in her honor dates from at least the 7th century.

After a rain, drops of water catch in the lobes of the leaves and glisten like sequins.  It is a beautiful to see the water cupped and held in the leaves.  Some people believe the water caught in Lady’s Mantle has healing properties.  Lady’s Mantle does better where the summer is cool and fairly moist.  It will need some protection from hot sun and dry conditions.

Columbine, or Lady’s Slippers, grow wild in the Rocky Mountains.  According to tradition, these flowers are said to have sprung up under Mary’s feet as she hurried to her cousin Elizabeth’s house.

Columbine, as befits a wild mountain flower, aren’t particular about soil conditions, as long as the soil is well drained.  If you live at high altitude or far north, plant these perennials in full sun.  If you live farther south, plant them where they will receive shade in the hottest part of the day.

Lavender is said to be the plant on which Mary hung the baby Jesus’ diapers during the flight into Egypt.  It is hard to imagine a sweeter smelling wash than one hung to dry on lavender.  This plant is native to the Mediterranean, so it likes bright sun and fairly dry soil.  But there are many varieties of lavender, and you can find one for your area.  England is planted thick with lavender and neither dry soil nor bright sun characterize their climate.  You can use lavender for cooking as well as crafts, like lavender sachets.

If you have limited outdoor space, you can plant a Mary herb and fruit garden in pots.  Here are some herbs associated with Mary: rosemary (Mary’s bouquet), thyme (Mary’s modesty), parsley (Mary’s vine) marjoram (Mary’s bedding), and sage (Mary’s cape.)  Strawberries (Mary’s fertility) can also be grown in patio planters.

- Melissa Musick