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John Stokes and Mary's Gardens

Background on Mary's Gardens

Mary’s Gardens was founded in 1951 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to research the hundreds of flowers named in medieval times as symbols of the life, mysteries and privileges of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus—as recorded by botanists, folklorists and lexicographers; and to assist in the planting of “Mary Gardens” of “Flowers of Our Lady” today.

After the passing of John S. Stokes, Jr., his estate arranged for the migration of the original Mary’s Gardens website to the Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute in Dayton, Ohio. 


The inspiration for this work was the first public Mary Garden in the United States, at the Angelus Tower of St. Joseph’s Church, Woods Hole, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, established in 1932, comprised of some fifty Flowers of Our Lady of the medieval countryside of England, and beautifully maintained today.

The initial means for spreading the Mary Garden idea, starting in 1951, was to make available, through volunteer lay initiative, “Our Lady’s Garden” kits. Comprised of an informative leaflet, packets of seeds for Flowers of Our Lady, together with lists of additional seeds, bulbs and plants obtainable through us–for the planting and tending of Mary Gardens as a prayerful, religious work of stewardship for God’s flower riches and artistry with devotion, praise, thanksgiving, meditation and commitment. Proposed first for home gardens, Mary Gardens were soon established at schools, parishes, burial plots, institutions, and shrines.

By 1965, our research, had documented over eight-hundred flowers named for Christ, Our Lady and the Saints, as listed in Mariana I, and Tropical Flowers, Trees and Shrubs for Mary Gardens. A sufficient variety of these were available from commercial sources, which enabled us to discontinued offering seeds, bulbs and plants, and devote our time to research, writing and consultation by mail. (Mary’s Gardens was always a spare time, a-vocational work.)

Early gardens of note in the first years of our work included the rooftop Mary Garden of the Ambos Mundos Hotel in Havana, and Mary Gardens at the high schools of the Diocese of Cotabata, and the Manila Observatory, in the Philippines.

Some of the better known Mary Gardens today are those at Our Lady’s national shrines at Knock, Ireland, and Akita, Japan; at the Artane Mary Garden of Remembrance in Dublin; and in the cloister planting of Lincoln Cathedral in England. Of special note in the United States, in addition to the mother garden at Woods Hole, are the Mary Gardens at Saint Mary’s Parish, Annapolis, Maryland, adjacent to historic Carroll House, and Saint Catherine of Siena Parish in Portage, Michigan.

The work of Mary’s Gardens is carried forward today by an informal association of committed persons in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts. Maryland, and Ohio in the United States and in Dublin, Ireland. This Internet website opened on September 8, 1995 to make our literature and photographs available in electronic form, and is now spreading our work worldwide.

All texts and graphics of this web page and site are copyrighted to Mary’s Gardens, 1995. All rights reserved. Permission granted to reproduce for promotion of the greater glory of God through knowledge, honor, praise and veneration of, and through devotion and recourse to, the Blessed Virgin Mary.

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 2010. This particular entry is archived content original to Stokes' Mary's Gardens website. It is possible that some text, hyperlinks, etc. are outdated.


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