By Julie Filby
Picture this: a little boy picks a bright pink fuchsia and holds the blooms up to his mother’s ears. He giggles and says, “Look Mommy, earrings!” The mother smiles lovingly at her son, who is so pleased with the gift he’s given her.
Now, imagine that child is Jesus and the mother is the Blessed Virgin Mary.
This is just one of the hundreds of legends associated with flowers and the life, virtues and mysteries of Our Blessed Mother. And just like I appreciate every flower, leaf, stick and weed presented to me by my children, I’m sure Our Blessed Mother did as well.
One can honor Mary and enjoy the beauty of nature by spending time in a Mary garden. A Mary garden is an area, any size, filled with flowers, plants or herbs either named after the Blessed Mother, or that carry a legend related to her. It also contains her representation, such as a statue, plaque, icon, holy card or other image.
A Mary garden can range from a single pot indoors to a large plot outdoors (or anything in between). They can be planted at homes, churches, schools, shrines, convents and other institutions.
Recently I had the opportunity to have a small part in a Mary garden established at Denver’s Gabriel House, a pregnancy center that provides spiritual, emotional and material support to women and families. I’m the first to admit I don’t have a green thumb (a friend of mine was the mastermind behind it), but I was grateful to be involved by digging holes, moving rocks and pulling weeds to help provide a holy place for Gabriel House mothers, families and volunteers to reflect on and pray for Mary’s intercession.
The garden was blessed last Saturday, Sept. 3, just days before Our Blessed Mother’s Sept. 8 birthday, a date traditionally set for blessing such gardens. Though summer is winding down and spring planting seems far off, fall could be a good time to plant bulbs, consider a plot for a Mary garden next spring, or start a small potted garden indoors.
Such a tribute to Our Mother can provide a place for reflection, inspiration and meditating on Mary’s joys and struggles—while experiencing the joys and struggles of motherhood ourselves. Below are just a few examples of Marian flowers and their legends. For more [click here] and [here], and for one of the best books on the subject [click here].
Madonna Lily: The angel Gabriel is said to have been holding a lily, a symbol of purity, when he appeared to Mary to announce she would bear a child.
Columbine: Known as “Our Lady’s Shoes” because they were said to have sprung up wherever Mary’s feet touched the ground on her journey to visit Elizabeth.
Oxeye Daisy: Legend tells of the Magi being led to Jesus’ manger by stars that turned into these “Star of Bethlehem” flowers.
Rose: A privileged symbol for Mary, queen of heaven and earth. When St. Dominic instituted the devotion of the rosary, he described each separate prayer as a tiny rose.
About Julie Filby: I’m a wife, mother of two (8 and 4), and reporter for the Denver Catholic Register newspaper. In addition to covering the news of the Denver Archdiocese, I enjoy blogging about motherhood and the unmistakable presence of Christ in my family and work life at www.juliefilby.wordpress.com and on Facebook.