Photo of what is believed to be the first U.S. Mary's Garden planted in Woods Hole, Massachusetts in 1932.
"The Rose is a mystery'- where is it found?
Is it anything true? Does it grow on the ground?
It was made of the earth's mould, but it went from men's eyes,
And its place is a secret, and shut in the skies.
In the Gardens of God, in the daylight divine
Find me a place by thee, Mother of mine."
from the poem Rosa Mystica by Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.
It's the time of year when blogging loses its appeal and our gardens both vegetable and flower are calling us. Though the demands of a "Mary's Garden" always seemed like an intimidating undertaking I'm starting to think I'm in the right frame of mind to attempt one. And when I happened along this website and learned of the ancient origins of the Mary's Garden the idea became irresistible.
The Tradition of a Mary's Garden comes from the Middle Ages. In this definitive website where you learn everything you wanted to know about such gardens,this history is given:
The few detailed records of medieval gardens are almost all
of monastic vegetable and herb gardens. The name, "Mary Garden"
has its recorded origins in medieval religious art and
illustration, in which prints, and then paintings, of the Virgin
and Child in enclosed gardens of symbolical flowers were entitled
"Mary Gardens", and presumably were inspired by actual small
gardens of the period.
St. Benedict is known to have had a monastic rose garden, or
"Rosary", in the 4th Century, but the first reference to an actual
garden dedicated to Mary of which we know is from the life of St.
Fiacre, Irish patron saint of gardening, who planted and tended a
garden around the oratory to Our Lady he built at his famous
hospice for the poor and infirm in France in the 7th Century.
The association of specific flowers with Mary perhaps begins
with the old legend from patristic days that after her Assumption,
soul and body into heaven blooming roses and lilies were found in
her tomb. One of the earliest recorded symbolic associations of
distinct parts of plants with Mary's attributes was that of St.
Bede in the 8th century, who saw the translucent white petals of
the lily to be a likeness of her pure body as she was assumed
into heaven, and its golden anthers, of the glorious resplendance
of her soul.
These beautiful notecards are from a series of 10 or 12 printed in the 1950s and the founders of the website are seeking information about the missing cards. Please contact them if you have any information. How I would love to see these reprinted.
Here is another source of information about Mary's Gardens. The website is owned by St. Mary de Haura in the United Kingdom. And if anyone knows about formal gardens it is the English.
And the ever reliable Fisheaters has a quickstart guide to Mary's Gardens.