Lent and Easter
in the Domestic Church

A Garden for Mary

Peter Fournier and Catherine Fournier

Page 38 in "Lent and Easter in the Domestic Church"

Planning a garden is, in many ways, like decorating the interior of your house. Both contribute to imparting a sense of beauty to your domestic church, and this beauty in turn teaches and reassures the family of the Beauty of God.

Lent and Easter in the Domestic Church

"Lent and Easter in the Domestic Church"
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Both your home and your garden should be practical, attractive living spaces that suit your family. Three major factors govern the arrangement of both inside and outside the home: the area, the intended use of the space, and your own personal taste. In other words, what you have, what you need, and what you like.

Unlike a house, garden design changes from one week to the next. Plants grow, bloom, and die back; sunlight moves across the area; seasons come and go. For many, this element of change and surprise is the main appeal of gardening. Certain plants may be quite spectacular in one season yet unobtrusive in others. Color schemes, views, and density can change from season to season, too. It all gives glory to God, to His great plan and His marvelous creation.

So, attractive and well-kept gardens surrounding your house express your appreciation for the gifts God has given you. In case this has just increased your garden-guilt to unbearable levels, let me assure you that gardens need not be expensive, time-consuming, or elaborate. A collection of perennials (gathered from friends and relatives who are dividing theirs) needs very little maintenance and looks better every year. Adding annuals to brighten the edges finishes a garden off nicely.

A Mary Garden

I have reserved one special corner of our front garden (where a pile of rocks too big to move makes a jumbled grotto-like space) to make a Mary Garden. A Mary Garden is one that is designed to honor Mary with both its arrangement and the choice of flowers. It can include a statue or small shrine to Mary. Some Mary Gardens have stepping-stones laid out in the form of a rosary winding through the plants. Mary Gardens are a simple and beautiful devotion, an act of faith with a long history in Europe.

Our Mary Garden is in a quiet corner of the front yard, in a spot that is easily seen from the windows and by visitors. I have already planted my Mary Garden corner with lots of narcissus and daffodils, recycled from forcing in the house for Easter. Several lilac bushes form a backdrop for the rocks. Columbine and lily of the valley bloom yearly, and I plant marigolds and morning glories in the spring. A small concrete statue of our Lady will be added this year, and flowers planted around her feet. I plan to add a bench for quiet moments of contemplation in the future.

Early spring (just after Easter, in fact) is the perfect time to begin planning your Mary Garden and starting seeds for later transplanting. There is a long history of honoring Mary with flowers, and in this tradition many flowers were named after the Blessed Virgin in medieval times. All are almost as beautiful as Mary herself and appropriate for a Mary Garden.

Always remembering that gardening should be enjoyable as well as creative, consider starting your Mary Garden with annual plants (annual plants last for one growing season and then die over the winter) either started from seed yourself or purchased from a local nursery. There is usually a wide variety of inexpensive annuals available at nurseries; for your Mary Garden try to choose mostly blue and white flowers, like alyssum, pansies, and petunias.

Depending on your time and budget, you can start with some perennials (plants which overwinter and may spread every year-they are initially more expensive than annuals) or add them one at a time as your Mary Garden develops. The beauty and fragrance of roses are a natural addition to a garden dedicated to our Blessed Mother. Peonies are as fragrant and beautiful as roses but usually not so difficult to grow, provided you don't transplant them. Daylilies, while not the same kind of lilies as those associated with Mary and other virgin saints, are reliable and attractive, as are lilies of the valley. Clematis, also known as Virgin's bower, is a perennial climbing plant with blue, purple, or white flowers, a good choice for an arbor or trellis.

How Flowers Got Their Scent (An apocryphal tale.)

It is said that all the flowers in the world lost their scent when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and were exiled from the Garden of Eden. Flowers were still beautiful to behold, bees and birds still flew around them, but they had no pleasant fragrance to fill the summer air and no perfume to scent a winter evening.

Of course, since all the people born of Adam and Eve had never smelled a flower's beautiful scent, no one knew what he was missing and no one noticed the lack. Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, Daniel, all through the history of God's people no one ever thought to wish for the perfume of a flower.

And with so many things happening in the land of Israel, no wonder. There were wars and famines, conquering armies and terrible storms, cities to build and fields to plow, children to raise and grandchildren to teach, stories to tell and songs to learn. Then, most amazing of all, there came a great Teacher.

His name was Jesus, and He was the Son of God come to redeem God's people for the disobedience of Adam and Eve.

But this story isn't about Jesus; it's about His Blessed Mother, Mary. Now Mary, being the Mother of Jesus, was conceived and born without the sin of Adam and Eve on her soul. She was obedient where Adam and Eve had been disobedient; she was kind and gentle, patient and humble. Everyone loved her.

Even after Jesus returned to His Father in heaven, His Apostles and disciples looked after His Mother and tried to follow her example of love. When it was time for the Virgin Mary to die, all the Apostles were there in the house with her, except Thomas. Poor Thomas, he had missed the first appearance of Jesus after the Resurrection, and then he missed saying good-bye to our Blessed Mother.

Thomas knew that Mary was dying, and he traveled hard all through the night. When he arrived at Mary's house the next morning, he was grief-stricken to hear that he was too late. All the apostles tried to comfort him. But Thomas would not be comforted, and he begged to see her face one last time.

So the apostles took him to the tomb where they had laid Mary's body the night before. With great effort, they moved the stone aside. To their amazement a beautiful fragrance wafted from the tomb.

When they looked into the tomb, where Mary's body had been, they saw only a mound of beautiful flowers. Flowers that had regained their scent.