St. Theresa's Parish Home School Mary Garden Start-Up

Kathleen Stento
Douglasville, Georgia USA

28 Aug 2003

A Mary's Garden was begun June 2003 at St. Theresa's Church in Douglasville, Georgia, by the homeschool group.

In the beginning of this year I initiated a homeschool support group for our parish and as we met to plan activities for our group, the Mary's Garden idea was so strong in my mind, I had to ask if this would be something the group would be interested in as one of the activities.

I have wanted to plant a Mary's Garden since the birth of my daughter, Isabella. She is our gift from the Blessed Mother. I was told very early in my pregnancy with her, that the pregnancy would not go to full term, but with daily devotions & Rosary to the Blessed Mother, we were blessed and she was born on May 1st a week after her due date! My husband's family, in Italy and in New York, have Mary Gardens in their yards and I wanted so much to have one as a devotion to Our Lady, for the blessing she bestowed on us. I began a small garden at our home in RI but before I could complete it, my husband's employment moved us to Georgia. I am presently working, with my children, on a garden for our home also.

The idea was warmly welcomed by the group, the priest, and the Parish, and within a few months we had the location chosen (in front of the Parish playground, which is also a full sun area), I had renderings made of our ideas and a sign made to inform the parish of our plans. Parishioners began to offer their expertise in areas ranging from civil engineering to landscaping, and many donations began coming in!

In June, we began breaking ground for the garden and in the hot Georgia sun we worked many weeks on leveling designer stones, leveling out the land, planning for drainage, etc.. (As we worked, we were visited often by 3 young white tail deer who live in the woods around the church, they were very curious as to what we were doing and it was a delight for the children to see them come up so close to us)!

The garden was planned to be low growing, since it is in front of the playground and we didn't want to obstruct the view of the children from their parents. We wanted to include as many plants and flowers as possible that were associated with Mary, but we did run into problems with finding some of the plants and their height (I referred to your website daily, reading as much as I could and learning so much).

So, we planted Dwarf Nandina along the back of the garden (due to it's low growing nature and because it turns red in the winter months. Followed by the planned planting of; Ixora, carpet roses, zinnias, marigolds, chrysanthemums, Kalanchoe, Coleus, Rosemary, Sweet Basil, Cuphea, and impatience.

(Many of these plants were brought to the garden on the day of the blessing). We even received a donation of solar lights, so our garden will be illuminated at night. A BEAUTIFUL 42" statue was donated and arrived for a very special blessing celebration following the Queenship of Mary Mass on August 22nd!

I have included some photos from the beginning of the garden to the Blessing ceremony/Crowning of Mary.

Another wonderful event, which has occurred in the late afternoons when the sun is setting...the sun shines on one of the stained glass windows of the church, sending a beam of light right onto the statue. It is absolutely beautiful and my daughter calls it a miracle.

Future plans for the Fall include the addition of pansies (for our winter months), and bulbs for crocus and daffodils, A permanent sign to list the plants and their Religious names (we have a laminated sign at the present time), and I am hoping to have some sort of educational pamphlet for the Parish.

Thank you so much for your wonderful website! I plan to refer to the "Index for Teachers" often, as we have activities and learning opportunities for the homeschool children.


Sep 03 2003, John Stokes, Mary's Gardens

What a joy to receive your message of Aug 28 and the 8 photos regarding the planting this summer of the St. Theresa's Church School Mary Garden in Douglasville.

They beautifully exemplify the three elements so essential to the starting and continuation of a parish or school Mary Garden: devotion, gardening and organization.

They have been posted to our website CHAT & PHOTOS, with indexing under NEW on our Home Page; and also added to "Some School Mary Gardens" in the "Reference/Index for Teachers"s.

We have found, as we had hoped, that the posting to CHAT of the detailed exchange of messages and photos regarding the start-up of several parish Mary Gardens has been most helpful to those of other parishes starting gardens. We are therefore most pleased to have your message and photos re. the start-up of a school Mary Garden, for the inspiration and assistance of others starting these gardens.

In this we hope you will share with us the "flesh and bones" of approaches which you all may develop in the incorporation of the garden in classroom teaching.

We do have in our archives a number of letters of some years ago of suggestions for the incorporation of the parish Mary Garden ot St. Mary's Parish in Annapolis, MD in their school teaching program. but from which we did not receive (or request) any detailed feedback for sharing with others. I will retrieve these suggestion letters and send copies to you in the hope you may find them to be of some value.

In general, we see the "garden catechism" as an effective means, as was Eden, for teaching the purpose of Creation: of showing forth of the divine goodness - in plants and their flowers; and of the call to the cooperative human sharing in the divine grace and action - beginning with the care of plants in the Garden, and to culminate in the building and coming of the Earthly Peaceable Kingdom, in accordance with God's will, for which we pray each day in the "Our Father."

Likewise, as the place of the original sin and fall from grace, the garden is an appropriate context for reflecting on the mis-use of all creatures for our own ends of pleasure, gratification and personal accumulation, instead of rising through them with all to knowlege of God, and to union with him, in love - which disobedience God has lovingly called us to correct through obedience to the 10 Commandments; and through participation in the loving sacrifice of his Divine Son Incarnate, making satisfaction for sins, restoring grace, and making reparation for the effects of sin, that the misuse of creatures in the 7 Capital Sins may be repented by us, that we may, in love of God and neighbor, be enabled to resume the building of the Peaceable Kingdom, in accordance with God's will and the promptings of his grace.

How appropriate that your Mary Garden is planted at a Parish venerating St. Theresa, the "Little Flower", who - grew spiritually through the waters of sanctifying grace, the glories of God's illumination, and the breathing of the breeze of his wisdom - in emulation of Mary's immaculate purity, utter humility and total obedience to God's word; as symbolized, along with Mary's other virtues and prerogatives, by the flower of her life and mysteries - that she, Theresa, might be most fully responsive to God's word and grace, in the building of the Peaceable Kingdom in love, through her prayer and mortification.

We have recently learned of the importance in St. Theresa's life of her family garden statue of Mary - "Our Lady of the Smile" - as described and illustrated in the article:

Assisting Children In Moving From Garden to World

Thanks again for your detailed message and great photos - love your statue. (Does it have a name: Our Lady of ________?)

You mention that in order not to block visibility, the garden has been composed entirely of low flowers - including some for which specific medieval names of Marian symbolism have not been discovered. In this, recall that, like lowly violets, so named, all low flowers are symbols of Mary's humility - and that thus the entire garden could be said to be so dedicated. Also keep in mind that all flowers are symbols of Mary, the Flower of flowers; and all white flowers symbols of her immaculate purity and her joyful mysteries, red of her co-redemptive suffering and the sorrowful mysteries, and yellow and gold of her heavenly prerogatives and the glorious mysteries. Also, blue flowers, of her fullness of grace. And, privately, we have come to see all pink flowers as symbols of her Immaculate Heart.

Your report of the reflected summer sunlight illuminating the statue in a certain way is indeed an example of the providential and graced little things - "for eyes that can see" - that happen in Mary Gardening, and in life. (See the sunlight "miracle", described with photo in our website article:

Mary Garden Summer Solstice.

08 Sep 2003, Kathleen

Thank you for the beautiful reply to our post of our garden start up! I have shared your site with all who ask about our garden! Our statue is believed to be that of the Immaculate Conception.....there has been some question and discussion to this though. One mention was that the statue could be an Our Lady of Grace, and another Our Lady of Fatima. I have made a search of many sites on the internet and have only found statues which are close to the one we have , and each one is that of the Immaculate Conception.

I have not found our exact statue anywhere in my search. I have also asked the vendor who sold the statue, but he was not even aware the statues of Mary had names, in fact he didn't even know the statue was of the Blessed Mother!

I forgot to mention in my first post that the homeschool children added "homemade" stepping stones in the front section of the garden, near the benches (an idea we LOVED from another Mary Garden post I had found on the site). In each stone (10 in all) the children took pebbles and spelled out the words "Hail Mary" while the concrete was still wet...also adding medals, jewels, and flowers. Since we did not have the space to place all 10 stones together, we have 5 on one side of the garden and 5 on the other side. The children have used them when saying the Rosary (jumping on each stone for each Hail Mary). Some like to start with 5 on one side then "hop over the walkway" to the next 5 stones....others like to jump the 5 and then turn around and jump back. My daughter says she could say all 20 decades at one time by jumping like that!

Our garden is BURSTING with color right now, and I have been amazed at how some of our plants are growing. Some of the flowers I had purchased when they were on their "last petal" at the garden shop, fed and nurtured them ,and prayed. They have bloomed to give us such beauty!

Our CCD classes have begun at our parish and tonight (being September 8th, the Feast Day of the birth of Mary), I plan to use the garden as a teaching tool to discuss Mary and a brief talk about her life. I will post to your site as to how we incorporate the garden with our teaching to our CCD classes and for our Homeschool group.

Thank you also for the additional articles 'Assisting Children In Moving From Garden to World' and 'Mary Garden Summer Solstice'! I would like to ask if I may use those articles for teaching with our homeschool group and also I would like to use the article Our Lady of the Smile, for our Parish Feast Day Festival on October 4 ( were having a Fall Festival/ St. Theresa Fest Day celebration on that day). I would like to have that article available near our Mary Garden .

Again thank you so much!

Sep 10 2003, John

I was pleased to hear how enthused the homeschool children were about adding and embellishing the Rosary steppingstones in the front section of the school Mary Garden. Would you be able to send a photo or two for CHAT of the children at the stones, and maybe a couple of the stones with the "pebbles, medals, jewels and flowers"? - and of parishioners generally in the garden? Also, of the beauty of the garden now that the plants and their blooms have matured.

Incidentally, could you describe for me how the homeschool fits in with St. Theresa's Parish set-up - the teachers, its special goals, etc.?

While we have photos of a number of Mary Gardens with Rosary paths, I somehow omitted to include a section on these, with photos, in the "Reference/Index for Teachers" - which I will now do. Thanks. I have written at length about the parallel between the Rosary mysteries and the Flowers of Our Lady; and clearly the Mary Garden Rosary Path is the ready means of uniting the two. The embellishing of the stones is a devotional extra here. Of background interest for your group is Ann Ball's "Catholic Traditions in the Garden" - see, on the Website:

OVERVIEW > Developmental Articles > 1998 - Two Books For Mary Gardeners - A Review: "Catholic Traditions in the Garden", by Ann Ball, Our Sunday Visitor Press, Huntingdon, Indiana . . .

which suggests some approaches for stepping stones, similar to yours, in the chapter on Mary Gardens, pages 107 - 123.

The other book reviewed

Rooted In the Spirit - Exploring Inspirational Gardens, by Maureen Gilmer, Taylor Publishing Company, Dallas, Texas

also has a chapter on Mary Gardens.

I assume you have a copy of our Associate, Vincenzina Krymow's "Mary's Flowers, Gardens, Legends and Meditations" - reviewed under OVERVIEW on the website.

There is an illustration of some superb Rosary steppingstones in

CHAT > May 26, 2001 - Deborah Pein, Pocatello, ID - New St. Anthony's Parish Mary Garden

Please feel free to make use of as much of the material on the website as you may wish. We grant this in the last paragraph of the Home Page.

The attached small black & white photo is of the actual statue of Our Lady of the Smile of St. Theresa's home, obtained from Carmel of Lisieux where St. Theresa's last surviving sister, St. Genevieve of the Holy Face, resided to an advanced age - a photo provided by our senior Mary's Gardens Associate, Father Tom Stanley (see St. Catherine of Siena Parish Mary Garden and The Garden Way of the Cross in the website).

Sep 15 2003, Kathleen

I will be happy to send some photos of the children's stepping stones and photos with the children with them. Also of some with visitors in the garden.

We have had many, many visitors to the garden, and the children love to go up and touch and hug the big statue. As I was there a few nights ago to water the flowers, there was a family sitting on the benches, saying the rosary together. Yesterday, there was a young couple sitting there together and this afternoon a group of mothers.

How my heart was filled with joy that the parish is enjoying the garden and praying together!!

Our homeschool group consists of approximately 13 families (with children ranging from newborns to teens). All the families teach their children at home (mainly Mom is the teacher) and we all use a variety of curricula.... Seton Homeschool, Catholic Heritage Curricula, St.Thomas Aquinas, and even Calvert School (just to name a few). Each family homeschools for various reasons, but all believe that teaching the Catholic Faith is extremely important in their families.

Homeschooling is certainly on the rise in this country (many families are making the sacrifice to school their own children for a better education, and many, to add religion back into the everyday lives of the children), especially here in the state of Georgia where there are fewer Catholic schools than in the Northern states ( St. Theresa does not have a parish school ......only a building for the Catechism classes ) and the Public Schools here are in serious trouble.....ranked 50th in the country!

The St. Theresa homeschool group was begun at the Parish so that the families could have a Catholic support group to be a part of. There are also very few Catholic homeschool groups here in the Metro Atlanta area and the closest group to Douglasville was too far for most to travel, so many of us belonged to other groups until this group was formed.

The purpose of the group is for families who homeschool their children to get together with other like minded families, share ideas together on teaching the Faith, and support each other in our choice to homeschool. Our group is fairly new, so at the present time we plan field trips and educational presentations. We plan activities like the Mary Garden (our next goal to work on, improve, and beautify is the outdoor Stations of the Cross) and other activities to help the parish. We have plans to celebrate feast days, we're planning to put on Catholic plays for the parish, and other educational opportunities for the children. We are also planning a few "field trips" to Monasteries in the Georgia/Alabama area.

Thank you for the references! Our group will be meeting this Friday and I printed several pieces of material from the site! Also, thank you for the small black & white photo of the actual statue of Our Lady of the Smile of St. Theresa's home. I'm making a poster for our St. Theresa Festival, and will include this information! So many people are surprised to learn this information about St. Theresa.

I really appreciate your correspondence and the wealth of information you and your wonderful website have provided!

God Bless,

Oct 11 2003, John

Thanks for your message of Sep 15.

I haven't previously had any message exchanges with home-schoolers about the actual incorporation of the Flowers of Our Lady and Mary Gardens in their teaching, and am therefore most appreciative of your sharing of details of your organizing and program.

And thanks for sharing your joy that parishioners are enjoying the garden and praying together there. From your photos I see three benches for sitting. I'll look forward to receiving further photos and learning of activities and projects for sustaining and deepening interested in the devotional and teaching use of the garden.

Envisaging the unique teaching potential of your Mary Garden as a "hands on" home-schooling project - as opposed to classroom teaching, as addressed in the website "Teachers' Reference/Index" - I have written a rather extensive approach from the perspective of home schooling Mary Garden projects, based on the truths to be taught, and on the sequence in which they might be taught as learning readiness for them arises over a period of time

I have posted it on the website as, "Home School Mary Garden Projects", and will add the photos of the students in the garden when you send them.

I look forward to learning from you ways in which the garden may be helpful in your actual teaching of Catholic faith and practice.

Prayerful best wishes,

Oct 26 2003, Kathleen

I have attached pictures of the Mary Garden in full bloom, at present (with some of the flowers dying down), of the stepping stones, and other pictures with children and a family at the garden. Our Homeschool group is meeting later this week for Fall planting of bulbs and pansies, and we are carefully saving the seeds from the plants which are dying due to the colder nights (I will be taking photos of the children planting and forward them as soon as I can) .

I attached 5 photos of the stepping stones. We have 10 for each Hail Mary. They are split in the garden between the 2 benches ( 5 one side, 5 the other). The children LOVE jumping from stone to stone as we say the Rosary, some children have even called one of the walkway stones (which is between the benches) the Our Father stone.

One of the stones was embellished with a St. Francis medal, another with dried flowers, and another with little gems. The rest were made with the small stones and all are unique.

We have had more wonderful happenings in our garden! On Monday evenings, a group of Mother's and their children have been meeting to pray the Rosary before their Catechism classes. Many people who I have never met in our parish have come up to me and have commented how they love to go and sit there with Mary and how much they are enjoying the garden. Some of the Parish staff and the Priest have been spotted by members of our group sitting alone enjoying the solitude with Mary...this was a surprise to many since they felt that possibly only those who frequented the playground often, would be in the garden more.

I never imagined truly what an impact a garden like this would have on a Parish! It is wonderful.

Our group has so very much enjoyed "Home School Mary Garden Projects"! We really appreciate all of the time you put into this wonderful article!

I will post again with additional photos in a week and I will give details of our Fall Planting day!

God Bless,

Nov 5 2003, John

Thanks for your message of 26 Oct. and the attached photos. It's great to see the garden with matured blooms, and to see the ornamented stones and the paths.

I'll look forward to receiving the planting photos. Some of the annuals flower seeds can be saved for early starting indoors next spring.

It's a joy that the garden is so well received and visited by the clergy and parishioners. A key factor here is the example that the garden is planted and cared for meaningfully by the home school group, as a parish activity, rather than by one or two parishioners as individuals, or by parish maintenance workers or landscapers.

What I envisage and hope for is a way for groups to move together - parishioners, home schoolers, in your parish - in the mutual deepening of their Mary Garden spirituality as groups, that can be shared with others inspirationally in some way through the website, as I've recently been able to share individual deepening through the posting of "Mary Garden of Virginal Consecration (which, although very special, shows the potential here).

I've set forth some of the concepts for this, in "Home School Mary Garden Projects", but what is hoped for are persons who give this the "flesh and blood" of actual spiritual discovery and experience in the garden.

Prayerful best wishes,

Nov 10 2003, Kathleen

I will certainly send along the larger pictures, new pictures, and a description of what we have been doing with our planting shortly.

My children and I have also been working on our own home garden! They have been very excited about this and have urged my husband and I to get the plans going and start the planting, so our weekend project turned out to be starting our garden!

I will email more, hopefully, by the weekend.

Nov 20 2003, John

Thanks for the additonal photos received today - now added to our Sep 3, 2003 ff CHAT thread.

In my letter to you of Sep 3, I mentioned that there were in our archives a number of letters I wrote in 1994 to Nan Sears, founder of the Mary Garden at St. Mary's Parish and Carroll House in Annapolis, MD in 1989, and Chairperson of the parish Mary Garden Guild, with suggestions for a smaller students' garden then being planted in a hedge enclosure within the main Mary Garden.

I have now found these, and for general interest have posted them, with some update editing, to our website as "School Mary Gardens Through The Year".

(From 1980 to 1995 - pre Internet and e-mail - my principal Mary Garden activity was extensive postal correpondence such as this with a view to in depth furthering of Mary Garden devotion and continuity.)

Due to age and failing health, Nan had to give up her work with the Annapolis garden a few years later, and also her correspondence (arthritic fingers); so I never received feedback as to which suggestions for the students' garden may have actually been adopted. However, the children's participation in the garden appears to have been fruitful, per Nan's 1998 brief Christmas note:

"The garden has helped in so many ways to spread devotion to Mary, our Blessed Mother...and has brought Mary closer to thousands of parishioners, and to the school children. . . It's truly joyous to see the interest and pride the young children share in the garden. Happily they will always savor this memory and pass it on to the next generations"

In thinking about the successful development of student participation in the Annapolis Mary Garden, I judge that the keys to this were that 1) the main Mary Garden is entirely cared for by members of the parish Mary Garden Guild (as required by the Pastor in granting the initial permission for the garden), and 2) student participation has been cultivated by parents who are regularly active in this care and devotion of the larger garden.

This active and instructional partipation in garden devotion and care by parents, together with their children, is very different from attempted classroom teaching of the Flowers of Our Lady and Mary Gardens away from an actual garden, or just having a devotional parish Mary Garden primarily cared for by groundkeepers or landscapists. Happily, this parent and student participation is precisely the situation with your home schooling parish Mary Garden project.

I assume that the Annapolis Mary Garden Guild has recruited new parent participants as the children of other parents have graduated from the school; and I envisage that through the years new parents will likewise join in your home schooling group, and in its care for the Mary Garden as one of its instructional projects.

As distinct from the more general approaches of Lisa Creamer's "Teachers' Guide", and the website "Background Reference/Index for Teachers" and "Home School Mary Garden Projects", these Annapolis letters were written with a focus on the various aspect of Mary Garden devotion prompted by the sequence of liturgical feasts and plant bloomings through the year - imparting a continuing sense of newness to the garden and its care.

In this connection I strongly recommend to you and your group the recent book, "God in the Garden", by Maureen Gilmer, Catholic author and landscape consultant - whose earlier book, "Rooted In The Spirit", contains a chapter on Mary Gardens, on which she has also written several articles. "God in the Garden" suggests plants for reflection for the seasons, for each month through the year, and for liturgical feast days - including a number of Flowers of Our Lady - for all of which she includes meditations, gardening information and prayers.

Finally, one particular: among the numerous flowers of the saints, blooming on their feastdays, there is a special import for the present of the many flowers named for their bloom and former use at the time of the feast of St. John the Baptist, on June 24th. One such flower is "St. Johnswort" - widely used today as an herb, and known in Mary Gardens by its naming also as "Christ's (bloody) Sweat" from the symbolism of the red dots on its blooms.

Historically, in widespread practice, these flowers were woven by the faithful into "girdles" of the long stemmed plant Artemesia vulgaris, "St. John's Girdle" - commonly known today as the herb "mugwort" - which they wore on St. Johns Eve, in the belief that their sins and their effects were transferred to them and then burned away when the girdles were cast into the large bonfires of that eve.

While this practice was condemed by the Church, as was the supposed removal of sins and their effects from souls by "sin eaters" and purchased indulgences. etc., it was so widespread that many flowers so used were given, and retained, namings for St. John. Bauhin's "De Plantis A Divis Sanctisve Nomen Habentibus" (1591) lists 21 flowers named for St. John, and cites 18 books and field reports of botanists from European countries referring to Artemesia vulgaris as "St. John's Girdle".

The significance of these flower sacrifices - for our reflection - is their evidencing of the intense concern in the medieval Age of Faith, and up through the 19th century, over sin, if not forgiven and its temporal effects not repaired, as leading souls to hell.

Today, with the belief in hell much diminished, it is believed that souls generally all come to rest in heavenly peace, after a purgatorial cleansing of the effects of sin with which they die - shortened through the prayers of loved ones here on earth.

What has been lost in this is the understanding that the cumulative unrepaired effects of sin in the world are still leading to hell - to the hell on earth of separation in judgement, alienation, prejudice, discrimination, exploitation, oppression, conquest, war, weapons of mass destruction and terrorism. etc. - all sins against love.

Now, with the increased focus of the Church on the coming of the Peaceable Kingdom of God on earth, as it is in heaven, per Pope John XXIII's "Pacem in Terris"; the "Constitution of the Church in the Modern World" of the Second Vatican Council; the teaching of Pope John Paul II; and the luminous mysteries added by His Holiness to the meditative praying of the Rosary - and for which we pray each day in the "Our Father" - there is much praying for peace, but only in a dependent sort of way.

Lacking today is faith that God created us to share in the divine goodness and action - not just to pray dependenly for peace, but to paricipate actively in the building of the Peaceable Kingdom and in Christ's sacrifice to that end. Lacking, in particular, is the medieval understanding that it is the unrepaired effects of sin which are leading to hell - this hell on earth, with the accompanying lack of medieval intensity of concern, so widely evidenced by the sacrifices of the flowers of St. John, that the effects of sin be sacrificially repaired for by us in union with Christ. Properly, today, we are to accomplish this through the sacrament of reconcilation, and the offering of all the adversities and sufferings of our daily lives and duties in union with Christ's continuing sacrifice in the Mass - as called for by Mary at Fatima.

What is needed for peace on earth is recourse, on a widespread basis, to the sacrament of reconciliation, for the forgiveness of and satisfaction for our sins, and for penances offsetting their temporal effects in our own lives; but also, as revealed by God through Our Lady at Fatima, the undertaking of Rosary prayers for the graces of peace, together with the sacrificial offering for and with Christ, through Mary's Immaculate Heart, of all the work and adversities of our daily lives and duties - in reparation also for the temporal effects of the sins of all others circulating in the world - "bearing one anothers' burdens" - that leaders and all may, in their innate gooodness, created in the divine image and likeness, be responsive to the prayed for graces of peace, with de-escalations and cessations of violence, followed by dialog, compromise, cooperation, just exchanges of goods, and mutual help - in truth, justice love and freedom.

In the Mary Garden, the sense of the urgency for confession, penance, mortification and the sacrificial offering of all daily duties, work and adversities, for and with Christ in the reparation for the temporal effects of sin in the world, is developed through children's reflection, through the year, on the Fires of St. John - quickened on daily beholding St. Johnswort, and, especially the long stems of St. John's Girdle.

Further, the research shows that in Germany Artemesia vulgaris was known both as "St. John's Girdle" and "The Virgin's Plant" - one of the many intances of the reference of plants quickening specific prayers also to Mary - as universally interceding Advocate of all prayers, and Mediatrix of all bestowed divine grace light, wisdom and power.

An extensive account of the flowers of St. John and their burning in the medieval period is to be found on the website at:

ARCHIVAL > Developmental Correspondence (posted for the Mary Gardeners of St, John the Baptist Church, North Bennington, Vermont (CHAT - Dec 29, 2002.)

Prayerful best wishes,

Dec 29 2003, Kathleen

I pray you had a blessed Christmas !! Thank you for all the work you put into the Mary Garden has certainly blessed us here in Georgia.

God Bless,

Dec 29 2003, John

Good to hear from you.

Sorry to hear about your computer difficulties. I've had my share.

I'll look forward to receiving the photos and news when you can get to it. I know how demanding of attention a small child can be.

I appreciate your contacting your family in Italy re. the Italian Mary Gardeners and research.

Thanks for the good words re. the website. Our long-term Associate, Paula Mucha, who has had lots of and Mary Garden and website experience - see CHAT Sep 7, 2000 & Feb 22, 2001 - is able to make time to work with me on it now and is working at the moment to consolidate our research and gardening info spreadsheets up to par, for which I hope you will be successful in obtaining some Italian research.

Happy New Year.

Mar 11 2004, Kathleen

I apologize for the lapse in my updates about our Mary Garden and Homeschool group involvement. There hasn't been very much news to pass along, we've all been very busy with the holidays, school lessons, and Lenten activities.

Most of the plants in the garden faired well over the winter months, but we did have a casualty.....our Ixora shrubs died from a freeze we had. We replaced them with cone-shaped Rosemary.

Around our Blessed Mother we had planted multi-colored pansies and the deer enjoyed every blossom (and even whole plants in some areas), so we let them have their fill and instead we put some artificial pansies in where a few of the plants remained. It confused the deer enough that they began leaving the plants alone and the blooms returned!

In the Fall we had planted crocus and mini daffodil bulbs which all are very close to blooming this week( we took pictures, but our "photographer" accidentally deleted the entire set with that activity).

Our group met last week and we had the children start some flower seeds ( in pots which they have taken home to care for until the the threat of frost has passed) we are hoping to plant the flowers before Easter Festivities begin at our Parish. I inherited a few palm trees which I am planning to place in the garden on Palm Sunday , as our procession with palms to our church passes right in front of the garden.

I will send additional news in the coming weeks as our flower seeds begin to grow and when we have the children plant their flowers in the garden.

Our group is taking on another project at the up the neglected outdoor Stations of the Cross! The Stations are located in a wooded area and right now is a mess! On March 19th ( after our St. Joseph Day Festivities), we plan to clean up the crosses, clean and add stones to outline the path, and possibly plant some azaela bushes. Would you have any ideas for flowers to plant in a wooded area?

God Bless,

Mar 11 2004, John

Thanks for your update message of 11 Mar.

I was especially interested in your story about the deer eating the winter pansies and your confusing them by setting out artificial ones. You are the fourth person who has written about Mary Garden deer problems in the last week or so.

Take a look at the message thread on "deer deterrents" beginning out of the mention of deer in a 22 Feb 2004 "Re: welcome" message to Michelle from Petunia in the very new Flowers For Our Lady chat website, at:

Join this website and let its members know about the coming of spring to your parish home school Mary Garden (of which they can get the background in the Sep 3, 2003 entry in our main Mary's Gardens website Chat and Photos section). We administratively select developmental basics for our website Chat section, but the new website provides an opportunity for the direct posting of devotional messages.

In your request for shade plants, here is the following from our website:

GARDENING > Starting Your Mary Garden
For Experienced Gardeners
Mary Garden Design and Plant Selection Guide

Plants Which Do Better in Partial Shade


208 O.L.of the Snow Lady of the Snow    Purple      Apr      6    P
505 Eyes of Mary    Forget-Me-Not*      Blue        Apr     12    B*
811 O.L. Wedding    Wild Sweet William  Pinkish Blu May     10    P
212 O.L. Cushion    Rockfoil            Violet-Rose May      6    P
614 Madonna's Herb  Kenilworth ivy      Lilac-Blue  Jun      3    P
806 O.L. Eardrops   Garden Fuchsia      Red, Purple May-Sep 12-36 P
205 Our Lady's Keys Cowslip Primrose    Yellow      Apr      8    P
103 Christmas Rose  Christmas Rose      White       Feb-Mar 12    P
702 Candlemas Bells Snow-Drop           White       Mar      6-9  P
210 O.L. Smock      Cuckoo-Pint         White       Apr     10    P
813 Our Lady's Seal Solomon's Seal      White       May     36    P
213 Our Lady's Seal False Solomon Seal  Creamy Whit May     18-36 P
214 O.L of Meadow   Meadowsweet         White       Jun     24-48 P
809 Assumption Lily White Day Lily      Waxy White  Aug     12-20 P
802 Our Lady's Fern Lady-Fern           Green       May-Oct 18    P

The ID numbers refer to the accompanying For Experienced Gardeners Flowers of Our Lady Data Base which gives horticultural details for each plant.

* 2004 note: use perennial Myootis scorpiodies

(This is an old 1955 data base for 80 Flowers of Our Lady. A project for this year is to enlarge this to 300 or more flowers, with photos - out of the 1,000 Flowers of Our Lady from our research.)

Of course Feb -> Apr blooming plants come out before the leaves on the trees. Daffodils ("Mary's Star", "Mary Looking Down From Heaven") fall in this category - and also are deer deterrents for the Mary Garden, per one of the recent messages.

Prayerful best wishes,

Apr 5 2004, Kathleen

Yes, the artificial flowers worked for a time, but they have been back lately , eating the newest blooms of the pansies! I guess they were tricked only once! There has been so much development near our parish and it is driving the deer into a small wooded area right behind our church, and of course right near our Mary Garden! They are magnificent, beautiful animals, and they will come so close while we are there praying at times. We have come to believe that we need to "share" our pansies with these poor animals. Someone did give me some chemicals to put out, but I cannot bring myself to use them for the sake of the deer and mostly for the sake of our children....since they are always in the garden investigating the flowers! :-) Our garden has been blooming now with mini daffodils and crocus, the roses are beginning to bloom, Chrysthanemums are growing, and in a few weeks the flowers the children are growing from seed will be planted.

Yesterday for Palm Sunday, we placed two Palm trees behind our Mary statue and it looked wonderful as the Parish processed passed the garden on the way into the church!

Thank you for the list of shade plants for our Stations of the Cross area! Our Homeschool group is teaming up with the Knights of Columbus and we nowhave plans to make a garden in the front of the Stations with a Sacred Heart of Jesus Statue.. we are looking into purchasing this Statue:

We began with clearing the path and now have the Azalea's to plant hopefully this week or next. Our plans have only just begun. The Grand Knight in our church will be presenting this plan to the Knights next week at their monthly meeting.

Thank you for the invitation to join Flowers For Our Lady chat website! I will join today and post an introduction.

I will post again soon with hopefully some pictures of the children planting their flowers in the Mary Garden. I may also send photos of our work on the Stations area.

May you have a blessed Holy Week,

Apr 30 2004, John

Thank you for your message of 5 Apr with your Holy Week blessings and update on the parish home school Mary Garden - (added to the Sep 3, 2003 website CHAT thread).

Did you take a picture of the palm trees placed behind the garden statue for Palm Sunday?

Be sure to take one of the new Stations of the Cross garden and statue. A garden is very appropriate for the stations, as these begin with the Garden of Gethsemani.

Are you familiar with our senior Associate, Father Stanley's "Garden Way of the Cross"? (click-accessible from the website index under GARDEN PRAYER & MEDITATION). This is very much accessed on the website - 600 (exactly) accesses just now in March. You will note all the flowers associated with the 14 Stations (a 1975 Holy Year revision of the 14 iniitiated by Pope John Paul II, but basically the familiar stations) You have an opportunity here for a little pioneeering - a first Stations of the Cross Garden of symbolic flowers.

Spring weather is very late here this year. The snowdrops (Candlemas Bells) were two weeks late, amd the daffodils (Mary's Star, Mary looking down from heaven),three. One striking providential timing was that of the bloom over Easter weekend in the park across the street of a red crabapple -for Good Friday sorrows, and then a white one for Easter. As I open the blind each morning, I look directly up the 2-blocks street onto our parish church, St. Patrick's - praying, "Blessed be Jesus Christ in the most holy sacrament of the altar". And with the white dogwood in the same view, adding "Christ is risen". The lower church, used except for major holy days, has 12 stained gloss windows for Our Lady's appearances. For example as you enter, the first triple dormer window on the left has panels depiting Lourdes, Guadalupe and Knock. Displayed in a glass case at the front left is a coyy of the Book of Kells.

With the writing of "Home School Mary Garden Projects" and the "Background Reference/Index for Teachers ast year - now click-indexed on the website home page under SCHOOLS & EDUCATION - I've pretty much rounded out the Flowers of Our Lady "apologia", and am undertaking for this year the consolidation of the various flower listings in a Macintosh computer "iPhoto" library, which permits the posting of the photo of each flower with descriptive keywords - permitting the selection of search albums of those flowers from the total library having any desired combination of keywords - such as "zone 8, hardy perennial, medium height, red, partial shade." I'm also constructing parallel database and spreadsheet listings. I attach the iphoto library entry for Achillea millefollium, "Christ's (bloody) Back", the first flower alphabetically by botanical name for which I have a photo at hand just now. An excellent plant for your Stations garden, if there's a sunny spot. Also a miiniaturized portion of the library (names and key words showm when enlarged).

There's good interest in the two schools postings: in March, 776 website accesses of the Baxkground Reference, and 123 of the Home School Projects. I would appreciate any feedback from you as to the extent of their helpfulness to your group, plus any criticisms and suggestions.

Have your inlaws been able to find out in Italy who are the academic persons there who are advocating the growinh of Mary Gardens there? 640 website file "hits" from Italy in March.

Since writing the above I read your informative message on the Flowers For Our Lady chat website, which I m posting to our Aug 2, 2003 Mary Gardens Chat thread.

I note you mention not having photos at hand, and remind you I have 17 of them which you sent me and are mostly posted to Chat, of any of which I can send back to you as e-mail attachments. Let me know of any you may want.

Prayerful Best wishes,

Apr 24 2004, Kathleen

(posted from Flowers For Our Lady Website at


I am also new to this group. My name is Kathleen and I was directed here from the Mary"s Gardens webpage.

My children, along with our home school group at our Parish ( St. Theresa's in Douglasville, GA) planted a Mary Garden last Spring, and it was blessed on August 15th ,the Feast of the Assumption with a procession of children with their plants to the garden from the church.. What a wonderful project it has been and the garden is SO beautiful. Our Mary garden is planted right in front of the children's playground and is intended for the children of the Parish to enjoy and get involved in planting of flowers, weeding , etc. But many of the parishioners visit the garden often, and during Lent there were parishioners there daily.

Right now our garden is blooming with winter pansies, mini daffodils, Easter lillies, and the roses are budding. Crocus have passed. We also have Rosemary lining the sides of the garden, dwarf Nandina along the back, mums growing and behind the 2 stone benches we have blue rug junipers. The children in the home school group made "Hail Mary " stepping stones and they are placed in the garden and used when our group prays the Rosary....the young children like to jump from stone to stone as they pray.

Our Parish is located in a wooded area and there has been so much development around the area , that we had deer all winter long eating all the pansies. We were so disappointed that we "planted" a bunch of artificial pansies where the real ones grew and that actually deterred the deer for a bit! They were desperate for food, so when they came back and ate around the artificial flowers, we figured Mary wanted them there. They could occasionally be seen during the daytime too and the children loved that. With the trees in full foliage right now, the deer have left our garden alone and it is brimming with pansy blooms.

The home school groups next gardening project is the Stations of the Cross area , which is right now hidden in the woods and hasn't been cared for in awhile. We started last week with planting azaela's at each cross. We are planning a " Family Clean Up Day" (to try to involve more families in the project), to clean up the wooded area of small brush, downed trees , Poison Ivy, etc.. I might be seeking suggestions for a woodland garden soon.

Many in our home school group have also planted Mary gardens at their own homes. My children and I planted our garden at our home in the Fall and it is also so beautiful, we planted it directly outside our dining room window so we can enjoy the view at every meal and during our family Rosary time. We have Roses behind Mary, Bleeding Hearts at her side, mini daffodils, crocus, snapdragons, and of course pansies (the flower that seems to do wonderfully in GA).

I am not sure if I will be able to post pictures. I had computer problems awhile ago and lost many files. I look forward to joining in on your discussions!


May 17 2005, Kathleen

It has been quite awhile since I have corresponded with you about our homeschool group and the Mary Garden we take care of at our parish! Our garden is growing well and is enjoyed so much by our parish family, especially the children!

The last weekend of April, and 1st weekend of May our parish celebrated First Communions and the garden was well visited by professional photographers as well as many families!

On May 20th our homeschool group will be learning some gardening tips from a local Master Gardener and a parishioner at our parish.

We'll be working in the garden in the coming month, changing the annuals and taking care of all the perennials, adding mulch, and also adding a stand to hang Rosaries from.

We thought providing Rosaries at the garden would be a good way to encourage both the children and families to stay awhile and maybe pray a decade or more while there.

Our group also started work on the Outdoor Stations of the Cross area on our parish grounds. As of this date we have only cleared the area of low growing brush and weeds and planted Azalea's around the crosses.

I have provided a few pictures for you of the Mary Garden just last month, and of our Stations of the Cross area we will be working on this summer. The Palms were added (temporarily) to the Mary Garden for Palm Sunday and for the First Communions, they have since been taken out.

I will try to send additional pictures next month and continue to correspond about our garden and how we are incorporating it with lessons for our homeschooled children. Members of our group have started Mary Gardens (with their children) at their homes and we recently had a May crowning and garden blessing for one of them. I will see if we can send pictures.

God bless,





May 18 2005, John

Thank for your messages of 17 May re. contacting your in-laws about Mary Gardens in Italy, and the update on the St. Theresa's Parish Home School Mary Garden.

I color- and contrast-adjusted the photos before posting them to the CHAT thread.

The idea of having Rosary beads at the garden for use by visitors is one I'll share with others.

The Stations of the Cross in the woods is likewise innovative.

My personal focus at the moment - for example in the article "From Mary Garden to Eternal Kingdom" and my message of 18 May to Angelo Papi in Italy - is how to nurture the fullest Catholic commitment in young people, as the most fundamental need of our times. Would appreciate your thoughts on this - from the viewpoint of Home Schooling.

I am especially joyed to learn of the starting of home Mary Gardens by members of your group and their children - a concrete step in fulfillment of my vision of a "Mary Garden Parish", as distinct from a "Parish Mary Garden".

Your arranging for the learning of some gardening tips by your group from a local Master Gardener and a parishioner at your parish is a key step to this end. My full vision includes the sharing of seeds and plant divisions among parishioners; and the establishment of home indoor seed starting, cold frame outdoor forcing, and nursery beds for developing plants to size for eventual planting in the parish Mary Garden.

This opens up the joy of starting rarer Flowers of Our Lady, not readily commercially available. In this there is the ultimate resource of botanical gardens rare seed exchange network. You may have noted our differentiation to this end of seed starting temperatures and times in our (1955) Mary's Gardens Catalog plant database, posted to the Website as:


Starting Your Mary Garden (For Experienced Gardeners)

Flowers of Our Lady Data Base researched in the early days when we made available Flowers of Our Lady seeds.

In checking this just now, I note we said:

Referring to our plant lists, obtain seeds or plants from your established sources. For rarer varieties, check with wild flower seed and plant collectors and suppliers. For the rarest, check with botanical gardens to see if desired species are available through the botanical gardens seed exchange listings.

As I write I'm getting nostalgic re. fifty years ago when I was able to maintain my own extensive home seed starting, nursery beds, etc.

Yes, please keep me posted as to details of your overall program,


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