Annapolis Mary Garden

The Mary Garden in the court of St. Mary's Parish, Annapolis adjacent to historic Carroll House was initially laid out through the expertise of horticulturalist Tony Dove, who at that time was Curator of the London Tower Public Gardens in Edgewater, Maryland. It was dedicated in a special blessing ceremony on the Vigil of the Assumption, 1988, in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary and her Divine Son, and as a tribute to the deep faith in Mary of John Carroll, first Bishop of the United States, and to his constant recourse to Mary for the protection and blessing of his undertakings for the development of the early United States Church.

The Garden was planted, and incorporated into Parish life, with the blessing of the pastor, through the initiative of parishioners who wished to share more fully with others the spiritual riches, devotion and prayerful work of their home Mary Gardens. The Garden is maintained by volunteer members of the parish Mary Garden Guild.

A special section of the Garden, in the boxwood circle, is developed and maintained by pupils of the parish school.

The pink Vermont granite focal statue of Mary and the boy Jesus, "Mary of Nazareth" - especially designed for the Garden by renowned sculptor, Leo Irrera, in residence at the Pius VI Religious Art Center in Washington, D.C. and designer and coordinator of the Navy Memorial in D.C. - was installed in 1991, with dedication blessing on the feast of the Birth of Mary.

The Flowers of Our Lady in the Mary Garden include many flowers uniquely native to the Americas which were adopted and named as symbols of their faith by early Christian explorers, missionaries, converts and settlers. Notable among these are three which have become known and cultivated throughout the world: the Marigold (recalling the European Marigold), Passion Flower and Fuchsia (Our Lady's Eardrops).

Other widely cultivated American plants commonly known by religious names locally or regionally - as recorded, like those of Europe, by botanists, folklorist and lexicographers - include the Poinsettia ("Christmas Flower"), Zinnea ("Little Mary"), Blue Morning Glory ("Our Lady's Mantle"), Ageratum ( "St. John's Flower"), Celosia ("Jesus Plant"), Cosmos ("St. Michael"), Caladium ( "Heart of Jesus"), Calceolaria ("Our Lady's Slipper"), Gloxinia ("Canterbury Bells"), Tiger Flower ("Christ's Knee"), Dahlia ("Church Flower"), Sunflower ("Marigold of Peru") and Yucca ("Tower of Ivory").

Also included among the Flowers of Our Lady are some of the numerous centuries-old flower symbols of articles in the Nazareth household such as Mary's needlework, lace, pincushion, mirror, brushes, comb, duster, drying plant, ladle, candle, knives and forks, etc. Symbols of Mary's features such as her eyes, hair, hand, fingers; of her garments such as her mantle, smock, veil, shawl, slippers; and of her food such as bread, cheeses, flavoring.

Reflection on these symbols brings visitors to the Garden to meditation on the daily life of the Holy Family in Nazareth, as Mary and Joseph nurtured the boy Jesus in his growth "in age, wisdom and grace before God and man".

The flower symbols of Mary's spiritual life and mysteries include: the white "Madonna Lily" of her immaculate purity, "Mary's Rose" of spiritual love, the pansy of "Our Lady's Delight" in the Trinity, first revealed to Mary, the "Lily-of-the-Valley" of her humility, the violet of "Our Lady's Modesty", "Mary's Tulip" of spiritual openness, the strawberry - "Fruitful Virgin" - of her virginal motherhood (in flower and fruit at the same time), "Our Lady's Bedstraw" of the manger, "Christmas Rose", "Star of Bethlehem", several "Mary's Milkdrops" plants, and the "Mother Love" Impatiens, named from its constancy of bloom.

Also, "Lent Lily", "Penitent's Rose", "Passion Flower", "Crown of Thorns", "Christ's Back", "Christ's Knee", "Christ's Blood Drops", "Tree of the Cross", the tiny pendant flowers of numerous "Our Lady's Tears" plants for Mary's weeping at the foot of the Cross, "Mary's Sword of sorrow."

And, "Pentecost Rose" of the descending flames of the Holy Spirit, white "Assumption Lily", "Mary's Gold" of her heavenly glory and the glory of her appearances on earth, "Mary's Crown", "Christ's Eye", "Sweet Mary" of her heavenly sweetness, the wild orchid of "Mary's Hand of Pity", "Mary's Balm" and other fragrant healing herbs of her spiritual comfort, "Our Lady's Keys" of her mediational access to the storehouses of heavenly grace, "Ladder to Heaven", "Heavenly Way", and so many others.

Since many graces and spiritual illuminations have been received through the years as hearts have been raised to prayer while beholding the symbolical Flowers of Our Lady, and since Mary is immediately present by her action as Mediatrix of All Grace, wherever grace is distributed, the gift of a sense of her presence has been experienced by many in garden and countryside. As a consequence many flowers resembling the human form have come to be named as symbols of Mary's presence: "Mary", "The Virgin", "Mary's Face", "Our Lady by-the-Gate", "Our Lady in the Corn", "Our Lady of the Meadow", "Our Lady of the Lake", "Beautiful Lady"; along with indirect symbols of her presence such as the leaves of "Our Lady's Thumb" (prints), "Our Lady's Bite" (marks), etc.

Those Flowers of Our Lady planted in the Garden are listed in the Visitor's Guide, revised from time to time as the planting is enhanced, and available in the pole-mounted "wayside" wooden shelter at the Garden and in the church pamphlet rack.

Liturgically blest through a ritual of the Roman Rite, the Mary Garden focal statue, Mary of Nazareth, and its surrounding Flowers of Our Lady are holy objects which are vehicles, especially to those so disposed, of blessings from the merits of Christ and the Church, opening minds and elevating thoughts in religious reflection.

John S. Stokes Jr.

Copyright, Mary's Gardens 1992

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