Monday, July 12, 2010

Creating a Mary Garden

In this medieval painting Mary gives the Baby Jesus a flower. Strawberries, signifying Fruitful Virgin, grow in the raised garden behind them.

(I realize this is a little late, but consider it early for next spring!)

The Mary Garden is a tradition from the Middle Ages, when gardens were created with flowers and shrubs that all signify names of the Virgin Mary or her attributes. Medieval gardens were usually small and enclosed and featured trellises like the one in the painting above.

If you have a garden, most likely numbers of the flowers and shrubs you have planted signify names of Mary or her attributes, such as humility (violet) and purity (lily), or also her eyes (forget-me-nots) or her heart (begonia), or even an event like Easter (forsythia, known as the Easter Bush), the Flight into Egypt (lavender), or a Lenten rose.

A Mary garden in Australia, compliments of Under Her Starry Mantle.

A Mary Garden gives praise to Mary and also invites us to contemplation, especially if it is centered around a statue of Our Lady. Mary gardens are traditionally enclosed. But even if you are not able to strictly create a Mary garden, it is a lovely thought to know the religious meanings of the plants that you may already have. In my garden, for instance, I have hydrangeas and was very happy to learn that they mean Ave Maria. They sit next to forsythia, the Easter Bush, and a rose bush, meaning Mary's Glory, and in front I have petunias (Lady's Praise).

To learn all about Mary gardens, you can go here and here and to see a beautiful Mary garden in Annapolis, go here.


Hannah Stoneham said...

I had never heard of a Mary garden before reading this - what a fascinating idea.

Thanks for sharing

Karen Joy said...

I'm writing a post that (among other things) is about a book of symbolism in Christian art, and took as an excerpt the author's description of what strawberries mean... In searching for a picture to illustrate, I came upon this post of yours. I find the idea of a Mary garden very intriguing! I'm linking to your post... I have one question, though: Are you certain that the Mary painting is by van Eyck? It doesn't look like his style, and I couldn't find this painting anywhere else among van Eyck's work.