The Mary Garden at Fisher House

Mary Garden

The Mary Garden was a popular form of garden in the Middle Ages, particularly in monasteries. The healing and aromatic properties of many plants, particularly herbs, naturally suggested a connection with Our Lady, as in this 15th-century poem:

Heil be thou, Marie, that aff flour of all

As roose in eerbir so reed.

The Venerable Bede wrote of the white lily as the emblem of the Blessed Virgin; the white petals symbolised the purity of her body and the golden anthers the beauty of her soul. Later, St Bernard praised the Virgin Mary as ‘the violet of humility, the lily of chastity, the rose of charity, the Balm of Gilead, and the golden gillyflower of heaven.’ The first reference to a garden dedicated to Mary is from the life of St Fiacre, Irish patron saint of gardening, who planted and tended a garden around the oratory to Our Lady he built in France in the 7th century. The first record of a flower actually named for Mary is that of ‘seint mary gouldes’ (St. Mary’s Gold or Marygold) for the Pot Marigold or Calendula, in a 1373 English recipe for a potion to ward off the plague. There was a Mary Garden at Norwich priory, and Gloucester Cathedral has revived its Mary Garden.

The Mary Garden at Fisher House features the following flowers and herbs:

Modern NameMedieval Name
CamomileMaiden Weed
ChicoryHeavenly Way
ChivesMary's Garlic
DillDevil Away
FennelMary's Fennel
FeverfewMary's Flower
FuschiaOur Lady's Eardrop
HoneysuckleMary's Fingers
LavenderMary's Drying Plant (1)
Lily of the ValleyOur Lady's Tears (2)
LovageOur Lady's Duster
MarigoldMary's Gold (3)
MarjoramOur Lady's Bedstraw
MeadowsweetOur Lady's Belt
MintOur Lady's Leaf
ParsleyOur Lady's Vine
PetuniaMary's Praise
Pinks Mary's Blossom (4)
RoseRosa Mystica
RosemaryMary's Nosegay
SageMary's Shawl
SorrelMary's Sorrow
ThymeVirgin's Humility
VioletOur Lady's Modesty

[1] It is said that Mary dried our Lord’s swaddling clothes on this plant, from which it received its perfume.

[2] These are said to have blossomed where Mary’s tears fell at the foot of the Cross.

[3] On the flight into Egypt, robbers who stole our Lady’s purse found these flowers instead of gold coins.

[4] These are said to have grown where Mary’s tears fell on the flight into Egypt.