Mary's Garden

The Mary Garden at St. Jane Frances de Chantal

by Elin Haaga

The dedication of most gardens in Medieval Europe was to Mary. The garden may not have had a statue, but Mary was the honored person. Most flowers that were grown in Europe at this time were symbols of Mary. Roses, lilies, iris and daisies are the flowers that currently evoke Our Lady, but there are also many others that have a traditional association with Mary.

Any plant with the word “Lady” in the name is a Mary flower. Lady’s Bedstraw, Lady’s Mantle or Lady Fern are all old English garden plants that are symbols of Mary. Lilies of the valley are sometimes called Mary’s tears, clematis is known as Lady’s bower, and marigolds are really “Mary golds”.

Our Mary garden is shaped like an open heart, carved out of the grass by the curving path. This represents the Sacred Heart of Jesus. There are also some azaleas and rhododendrons in our garden, because they bloom in Mary’s month, May. Redbud trees were also chosen because their leaves are heart shaped.

It is more difficult to find shrubs and trees that are symbols of Mary. Some legends say that juniper, boxwood and rosemary bushes sheltered or hid the Holy Family on their flight to Egypt. Holly and hawthorn both reflect the suffering of Christ because of their sharp spines or prickly leaves symbolize the crown of thorns and their red berries, Christ’s blood. We have holly, boxwood and a hawthorn tree in our de Chantal Mary garden.

As the trees grow in our Mary garden, the garden will change. The areas under the tress will become shady planting places for plants like lilies of the valley and lady ferns, but much of the garden will remain in open sun so that we will always be able to grow her roses, lilies, irises, marigolds and daisies.

Anyone interested in volunteering with the garden is invited to contact

Mary's Garden - Sodality