Puttering in potted plants brings peace of mind, planting a bed of seeds reflects hope and nurturing bare ground into a bed of flowers inspires joy.
Healing gardens in the form of Japanese Zen gardens, Cloister gardens and Sensory gardens, contain plants, open spaces and art selected to calm visitors and benefit the environment.
While St. Francis of Assisi is commonly placed in gardens, St. Fiacre is actually the Patron Saint of Gardeners.
The Irish born St. Fiacre lived from 600-670 and devoted his life to tending a garden of medicinal plants. St. Fiacre’s culinary garden fed the poor and the herb garden cured the sick. A flower and herb garden occupied the expanse of property surrounding the monastery. This may have been the first healing garden on record.
Mary’s Gardens are the little gardens at churches, graveyards and homes that have a statue of the Virgin Mary at their center. At the website http://www.mgardens.org/, volunteers published historical information about 300 plants and described their horticultural requirements and Christian, spiritual significance.
The site lists plants by their type: Annual, perennial, etc. Examples of hardy and half-hardy perennials for our area:
Monk's Hood; Aconitum napellus, Mary's Slipper
Naming: Slipper-like, deep blue flowers in showy spires, Aug-Oct. Grown from seed and root division in moist, rich soil. Plants grow 4-feet tall in full sun; blooms last longer in light shade.
Honeysuckle, Our Lady’s Fingers
Naming: Clusters of finger-like buds. Grow from cuttings in moist soil in sun to light shade. Blooms June-July. Caprifolium and Asian variety Lonicera japonica, become invasive. Look for Coral Honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens.
Periwinkle, Vinca minor, Virgin Flower
Associated with Our Lady through the blueness of its flowers; it is in bloom in some areas at the end of March for the feast of the Annunciation.
Goat's Rue; Galega officinalis, Wild Holy Hay
One of the forage Holy Hay plants reputed by legend to have burst into bloom in the manger when the new-born Christ Child was laid on it by Mary. Bushy plants bearing tall spires of purplish blue or white pea shaped flowers. Grow from seed in full sun in common garden soil.
Meadow Rue; Thalictrum dipterocarpum and T. rochebrunianum, Our Lady's Rue
Naming: Association with sorrow and mourning. Grows 6-feet tall in dappled shade to full sun. Grow from seed or plant division in well-drained soil. Lavender mist blooms in July.
Cuckoo-Pint; Arum italicum, Our Lady's Smock
Naming: Smock shaped leaves. Plant seeds or roots in moist dappled shade
False Solomon's Seal; Smilacina racemosa, Our Lady’s Signet
Naming: Signet-like scar left on top of rootstock by each year's shoots after they wither. Arching stems of creamy white flowers followed by clusters of ruby-like berries. Grow from seed and root starts in moist shade.
Spiderwort; Tradescantia virginiana, Our Lady's Tears
Naming: Named for Our Lady after introduction to England from America in the 17th
Century. Spring-blooming, triangular violet-blue blossoms in half sun or full sun. Grow from seed and division.
Sweet Violet; Viola odorata, Our Lady's Modesty
Naming: The modest manner refers to the tiny flowers partially hidden among leaves.
Grow in sun from seed and root division in sandy soil. Blooms in spring.
Love-in-a-Mist; Nigella damascena, Our Lady in the Shade
Naming: Dense, finely divided, needle like foliage surrounding the white or blue flowers, symbolizing Our Lady overshadowed by the Holy Spirit. Easily grown from seed in any soil in sun. Sow seeds in spring for June bloom and again in June for September bloom.
Catchfly; Silene armeria, Mary's Rose
Naming: One of several red flowers associated with Mary, the Mystical Rose of Heaven. Bright pink flowers on plants grown from seed in sandy soil in full sun. Start seeds indoors for spring bloom and in garden in June for fall bloom
Check out the website for articles about garden design, as well as plants’ spiritual meaning. Plant lists are at www.mgardens.org/OLG-SBG-1.html.
The Alabama Cooperative Extension Service also has an informative link at http://www.aces.edu/urban/faithgardens/.