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All About Mary

The Flowers of Our Lady

– Edward A. G. McTague

Mary, "The Garden Enclosed," is said to be symbolized by all gardens.

Our Lady, "the Flower of the Field," is held to be symbolized by all flowers.

All blue and white flowers are associated with Mary as bearing her colors.

The Rose is an emblem of Mary in art, poetry, and the liturgy. In some regions the Carnation replaces the Rose in art. The purity of Our Lady is denoted, chiefly, by the Madonna Lily.

The Rose of Sharon, the Lily-of-the-Valley, and some other genera and species bear titles attributed to Mary in Sacred Scriptures.

Candlemas Bells, Assumption Lily and a number of other cultivated plants and wild flowers have names derived from the liturgical season of bloom in the European areas where the names originated and became established.

Mary's Gold (there are several), Rosemary, and some other plant life have their associations with Mary because of old legends.

Madonna's herb, Our Lady's Delight, and certain other wild flowers and horticultural material are also associated with Our Lady by name . . . but the origins of the associations are left to our conjecture.

The largest number of cultivated and uncultivated plants which we know to be associated with the Virgin Mother are named so because they evoke images of womanly work; or they bear some physical resemblance to personal or household articles; or they have, in some particular, a resemblance to the female form.

Besides "Mary's Gold," there exist several other groups of plants of entirely different genera or species which bore identical Marian names. We incline to a conjecture to cover these instances of different plant life receiving identical names in old popular Christian tradition.

It seems to us that, the religious symbolic plant associations having entered into use in one area, they came to be reported to other regions mainly because of travels: through missionaries, monks and friars, pilgrims, members of the Crusades and other warriors, the wandering scholars, roving singers and travelling players, and merchants. The people of a region chose to give the general, basic religious associations to native plants of their own countryside that were suitable for conveying them.

Holding to such visualizing of the centuries when Europe was the center of Christendom, keep in mind that those centers of religion and learning, the monasteries, were places of refuge and offered hospitality for travelers. In fact, a supplementary practical purpose for locating some monasteries - on the pilgrimage routes, for example - was to fill a dire need: safe and honest hostels, the reduction of severe hardships of travel, protection from local robber bands, and freedom from petty swindling and gouging by tradesmen. Also, the monks were adept in agricultural and horticultural works and the monasteries were almost the sole repositories of knowledge for such pursuits. Being dedicated to religion in the sense of a binding to God, the monks (like their transient guests) were probably the main sources for the spread of plant and flower "love names" of religious association or significance.

Begin now to use the timeless Christian names for plants and flowers as an aid to the restoration of Christian religious sense to gardening. Help, also, by growing some of the many plants bearing Christian religious names from the research and lists of Mary's Gardens.

Copyright 1955, 1996, Mary's Gardens

The John Stokes and Mary's Garden collection was transferred to the Marian Library in May 2013. In addition to his archives, manuscripts, artwork, and personal library, John S. Stokes also donated his extensive website. It was transferred to the Marian Library in early 2010. This particular entry is archived content original to Stokes' Mary's Gardens website. It is possible that some text, hyperlinks, etc. are outdated.

All About Mary includes a variety of content, much of which reflects the expertise, interpretations and opinions of the individual authors and not necessarily of the Marian Library or the University of Dayton. Please share feedback or suggestions with


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