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What is a Mary Garden?

By Katy Kelly, Kayla Harris, Olivia Gillingham

From March 25 through May 10, you can visit the University of Dayton Libraries’ very own indoor living garden bursting with flowers and plants named for Mary. If you are not familiar with Mary Gardens, perhaps you’re curious about the significance behind this special kind of garden and the history behind the movement.

A Mary Garden is a collection of plants and flowers that have specific “Mary names” or religious names in addition to their botanical and common names. As you’ll see in our own garden at the library, often they include a statue of Mary, sometimes holding the infant Jesus, as a focal point for meditation.

John S. Stokes Jr. was the founder of the Mary’s Gardens movement, which started in 1951 to promote the creation of Mary Gardens and to connect gardeners of all skill levels. As outreach was an important aspect of the movement, Stokes wrote, designed, and compiled gardening guides and garden plans to encourage people to plant Mary Gardens, promoting them as prayerful, religious works of stewardship, devotion, praise, thanksgiving, meditation, and commitment for God’s artistry in creation. Proposed first for home gardens, Mary Gardens soon became fixtures at schools, parishes, burial plots, institutions, and shrines. People even created miniature versions called dish gardens.

Come visit Roesch Library to see our Mary Garden and learn more about John Stokes and the history of the Mary’s Gardens Movement!

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