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John Stokes and Mary's Gardens

Blind, Mary Garden for the

Dish Mary Garden for the Blind

General. In Sacred Scripture God instructs us in the profound analogies of spiritual life to be found in the life and growth of plants, for example:
"Consider the lilies; how they grow . . . "

(Matt. 6:28)


"Bud forth as the rose planted by the brooks of waters. Give a sweet odor as frankincense. Send forth flowers as the lily and yield a fragrance and bring forth leaves in grace, and praise with canticles and bless the Lord in his works."

Sirach 39:13-14 (Ecclus. 39:17-19)

An intuitive knowledge of plant life and growth, and their spiritual analogies, is best acquired through close and unhurried attention to plant stewardship. Significantly, the freshness of plant life is best smelled; its suppleness felt; and it is through the sense of touch that the gardener best knows and judges the texture, moisture and warmth of soil, the swelling and unfolding of buds and the softness or dryness of foliage. Thus, with some initial assistance in reading instructions and procuring materials, the sightless can participate fully in the work and rewards of plant stewardship.

Planting Instructions. (1) Procure some Mary's Dish Garden Plants, of your choice, such as those listed below. (2) Select a figure of the Virgin and Child 10" to 15" tall. (3) Select an appropriate dish or planter 3" deep and 10" to 15" in diameter or length. (4) Bend a piece of 1/8" diameter aluminum or galvanized iron wire into a flat loop and place in the bottom of the container, with one end extending upward 3" or more above the top of the container to insert into the bottom of the miniature figure, at the desired location. (5) Spread a 1/4" deep layer of charcoal chips or pellets over the bottom of the container and wire loop. (6) Fill the balance of the container up to 1/2" from the top with soil mixture. A good dish garden soil mixture is 2 parts fine sand (salt free), 2 parts milled sphagnum moss, and 1 part compost or leaf-mold, plus an all-purpose organic and mineral fertilizer, as directed. (7) Shake the original soil from the roots of your plants; place roots in the dish garden soil; place and firm new soil around the roots. (8) Place miniature statue on the soil over the wire, drilling a hole in its bottom if necessary. (9) Affix a thin aluminum marker adjacent to each plant, with religious plant name abbreviation impressed on it with braille stylus and stencil. (10) Water the garden with a volume of water equal to that of the 1/2" space from the top of the soil to the rim of the container. (11) Place garden in the shade for the first 3 days. (12) Place garden in the full sun of an East or West window, or in the filtered sun of a south window.

Tending Instructions. (A) Add an amount of water as in (10), above, whenever the top of the soil feels dry and the container responds with a ringing sound when tapped with a hard object. It is convenient to have a glass or jar which holds the required amount for each watering. (B) Moisten the plant foliage with a water mist spray each morning. If the foliage begins to feel generally dry or stiff under dry house conditions, spray 2 to 4 times daily, as required, to return suppleness. (C) Pinch off any shriveled blooms, leaves or shoots. (D) Remove any small insects you detect, by sliding and squeezing them off foliage between thumb and forefinger. (E) In late spring and summer, if soil and container feel hot from full sun, filter the sun's rays with a fine cloth screen or curtain (F) Once a year, in late winter, loosen soil; lift out plants; shake or brush soil from outer root ball; cut back root tips and also foliage shoots to original size; place new charcoal and soil in dish and re-plant, (5) to (12).

The Plants

From over 500 plants associated with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the following eight are suggested for their symbolism of touch and fragrance, and their suitability for cultivation as house plants. Following the instructions above, plant them in a Dish Mary Garden in arrangement around a miniature figure of the Virgin and Child.

In visiting the garden, we find first of all the B1essed Mother. She leads our touch to the Child and our thoughts to the truth of the Incarnation: that the Eternal Word of God was made flesh and dwelt among us. We then pass your fingers from plant to plant, meditating on the mysteries of Our Lady's life symbolized by their forms, texture and fragrance. We then make our own meditations such as the following:

Mary's Rose - Miniature Rose - Rosa hybrida
On recognizing the rose, we recall that Mary is the beautiful Mystical Rose in God's garden of souls. The leaves are her joys, the thorns her sorrows, the blooms her glories. We pray that our soul, too, may bud forth as the rose, praising God.

Mary's Tresses - Asparagus Fern - Asparagus plumosus
In feeling the beautiful, soft texture of this plant, we contemplate the immaculateness of Mary's beauty and the delicacy of her goodness, magnifying the Lord. We pray that the sweet gentleness of Our Lady, dwelling place of the Holy Spirit of God, may pervade our lives.

Our Lady's Fringes - Star Begonia - Begonia heracleifolia
As we move our fingers over the fringed leaf edges, we think of Our Lady's wonder and joy as she sewed garments for the Divine Redeemer she was to bear. Like Mary, we direct all our actions to God, pondering his words in our heart.

Mary's Bouquet - Rosemary - Rosmarinus officinalis
While taking in the fragrance of Rosemary leaves, we dwell in thought on the spiritual fragrance of Mary's soul, pleasing to God. We pray that as the fragrance of Rosemary remains with our fingers, so may the fragrance of Mary's holiness infuse our soul as we imitate her virtues.

Mary's Sword of Sorrow - Apostle Plant - Neomarcia gracilis
As we finger the sword-like foliage, we meditate on the mystery of Simeon's prophecy that Mary's soul was to be pierced with a sword of sorrow so that the thoughts of many hearts would be revealed. We open our hearts in compassion for the bitter Passion of Christ and the tears of Mary.

Christ's Thorn - Crown of Thorns - Euphorbia splendens
When the sharp thorns prick our fingers, we ponder the full horror of the thorns and nails which pierced the flesh of the Divine Redeemer. Like Mary, we join our sufferings with Christ's, helping to fulfill His work of redeeming the world.

Mother-of-Thousands - Strawberry geranium - Saxifraga sarmentosa
As the shoots spread from the mother plant and take new roots, we pray that Mary, whom Jesus gave us as our Mother from the Cross, may strike her spiritual roots in our souls, that we may be joined more perfectly with her in service to God, to our neighbor, and to all humankind.

Beautiful Lady - scented Geranium - Pelargonum crispum
As we feel the beautiful and fragrant growth of stems, leaves, buds and flowers beneath our daily touch and care, we consider the goodness of God in sending Mary, the "Beautiful Lady", on missions of mercy to his children on earth. We pray that all may heed her exhortations.

Mail Order Source For House Plants (specify small plants):
Logee's Greenhouses, 55 North Street, Danielson, CT 06239

(c) Copyright Mary's Gardens, 1996

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.


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