Page 6 - Life and Times

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By T.C. Conner
to Catholi-
cism 14 years ago I had never
before heard of a Mary Gar-
den. So when my cradle Catholic wife
suggested putting in one, I was in-
trigued by the possibilities. As it turns
out, we didn’t put enough effort into our
Mary Garden for it to be what it
could’ve been. But I don’t have any re-
grets, gardening is just as much about
our successes as it is our failures.
In “Mary’s Flowers: Gardens, Leg-
ends & Meditations” (St. Anthony Mes-
senger Press, Cincinnati, Ohio) Vincen-
zina Krymow writes: “Likening Mary to
the ‘garden enclosed’ of the Song of
Solomon (Song of Solomon 4:12), they
(Early Christians) envisioned her in a
garden, sometimes called
a Paradise Garden,
and dedicated gar-
dens to her. These
special gardens
were filled with
the flowers and
herbs that re-
minded them of
Our gardens
are filled with re-
minders of what
we love, expressed
in all kinds of
colors, textures,
shapes, contain-
ers, trellises, arbors, the list is long. The
history of gardening is also lengthy, tak-
ing us back to ancient times before the
Christian era. Evidence of flower gar-
dening has been found in the tombs of
Egyptian mummies; The tomb of great
Pharaoh Tutankhamen (King Tut) was
opened in 1922 and historians discov-
ered flower petals from the blue lily
(Nymphaea caerulea).
According to Krymow, the earliest
known Mary Garden in the U.S. was lo-
cated at a church in Woods Hole, Cape
Cod, Mass., in 1932. From images on
Google Maps, St. Joseph Church in
Woods Hole can be seen, I called the
parish office but got no answer. Per-
haps they were busy in the Mary Gar-
den. Krymow mentions that the garden
has been restored.
Allow me to introduce a few Mary
flowers mentioned in Krymow’s book
and the historic oral legend associated
with it. You probably have many of
these same flowers in your garden.
˛ Violet
(Viola odorata)
– I know
you’ve seen these gorgeous little wild
beauties sprouting all over your yard in
spring. Known as Our Lady’s Modesty
in Mary Gardens, legend says violets
“blossomed outside the Virgin Mary’s
window when she spoke the words,
‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord,’ to
the angel Gabriel and accepted God’s
plan for her.”
˛ Thistle
(Carduus benedictus and
other varieties)
– Take a second look at
what we consider to be a common
weed and you might notice its beauty.
“Feather softness, scarlet purple crown,
silver-lined spiked leaves,” as described
by Krymow. There’s one of the Canadi-
an types growing in an abandoned
homestead that reaches to at least 7
feet tall.
Legend: “The white veins on the
leaves of the plant are said to be from
the drops of Mary’s milk falling on
them when the Blessed Mother moved
her baby from her breast after feeding
˛ Clematis
(Clematis vitalba)
– Be-
ware, there is an invasive warning relat-
ed to the wild species, but local garden
centers carry plenty of hybridized tame
Legend: “Wild clematis sheltered
Mary and Jesus on their flight into
Egypt. Clematis, growing among the
hedgerows along the road and vining
from 20 to 30 feet, provided shelter for
the Holy Family from the sun during
the day and the cold during the night.”
˛ Rosemary
(Rosemarinus offici-
– Hardy to Zone 8 and grown as
a potted annual or houseplant here, the
herbal and cooking uses of this popular
herb are many. “From Melrose Abbey
in Scotland comes the legend that after
a shower Mary threw her blue cloak to
dry over the rosemary bush and the
white flowers turned blue in her honor.”
If I’ve sparked your interest in Mary
Gardens, consider reading Krymow’s
book or do some research on the web
and find out how you can create a spe-
cial place in your garden for spiritual re-
newal and reflection. í
September 2013
Terry “T.C.” Conner
and gardens on 3 acres just
outside Mercer. Terry moved
to Mercer from south-central
Kentucky in 1988, bringing
his love for bluegrass music,
gardening, and a dedication
to helping his generation
come to a better under-
standing of what it means to
be a “cotton top” baby
boomer. Contact him at or
follow his blog thewritegar-
Mary, mother of gardening inspiration
A ‘Mary Garden’ can be yet another expression of what we love
The Blessed
Virgin Mary
This is what is believed to be the first public Mary Garden, established in
132 at St. Joseph’s Church, Woods Hole on Cape Cod,
T.C. Conner/Life & Times
Clematis vines are said to have
sheltered Joseph,
Mary and Jesus on
their flight into Egypt.