Nine percent of Flanders consists of gardens. Three times as many as all nature reserves combined. In our garden, we can make a tangible difference to the planet. By the way, did you know that gardening is also good for your soul? Nature experience and religion have known many cross-pollinations for millennia.
The great devotion to Mary is reflected in dozens of flowers and plants that refer to her through:
- color: white and (sky) blue are the colors of Mary,
- Biblical references: e.g. the lily,
- symbolism: e.g. humility,
- name of the plant,
- yes, even the smell!
We chose the 8 most important Marian flowers and mention a few others in passing.
#1 Rose – Rosa
With dot on number 1 of the Marian flowers are of course the rose. Just think of the rosary, a wreath of roses, and the Marian prayer around the lives of Jesus and Mary.
In another well-known ecclesiastical prayer, the Litany of Loreto, Mary is called the mystical rose. Referring to the Immaculate Conception, born free of original sin, theologians sometimes call Mary the thornless rose.
Roses in your garden
There are hundreds of varieties of wild roses and cultivated varieties. It may even be the most glorified garden plant. If you would like roses in your garden, there are a few points of attention.
- Roses usually do not like wet feet, but also do not like dry ones. Always damp, but not soaking wet. Yes, roses are pretty picky. Clay soil and sandy soil are less suitable because they are too wet and too dry respectively. In the summer you will have to pour. Know what you’re getting into.
- For exuberant flowering, most roses need nutrition. Fertilizing is the message.
- Place roses in a spot in full sun (more than 6 hours of sunshine a day) with shelter from the wind.
- Roses are susceptible to pests and diseases, such as aphids, nematodes, the rose beetle, star soot dew, true and downy mildew, etc. That is also good to know before you start. Plants that are in the right place are less bothered by this than plants that are in the wrong place.
- Cultivated varieties are usually more precise than their wild predecessors.
- Roses come in all scents and colors. But not every type of rose smells equally strong. If you want to enjoy the rose scent in the moonshine, look for a fragrant rose.
- Roses are usually shrubs, but climbing roses can lead you along a wall or pergola.
- Oh yes, no roses without thorns. But you already knew that, didn’t you? Thornless roses are sold with few or very small spines.
- Planting is done between November and March, when it is not freezing, such as trees.
- Roses are easy to propagate by cuttings.
#2 Lily – Lilium
In second place of all Marian flowers, just after the rose, comes the lily. There are more than 100 species. One of them may call itself Madonna lily, the Lilium candidum. Just like Mary, this white lily symbolizes purity and virginity. In biblical references to the lily, Christians read a symbolic reference to Mary, as in the Song of Songs (2:2):
Like a lily between the thistles, so is my girlfriend among the girls.
White lilies are regularly seen at weddings and in Christian paintings. In Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of the announcement of the birth of Jesus to the Virgin Mary, the angel Gabriel wears a white lily. Saints are often depicted with a lily as a sign of virginity, such as Joseph, Clare of Assisi, and Anthony of Padua.
Lilies in your garden
- Lilies are bulbous plants, such as tulips and daffodils. So you buy and plant flower bulbs. Usually, you do that in the spring for flowering in the summer. The Madonna lily is preferably planted in the autumn. When purchasing, make sure that they are fresh, firm bulbs and not wilted or moldy onions.
- Plant them in partial shade, not in full sun.
- They grow to a height of more than a meter, the Madonna lily even up to 180 cm. Giving some support may be needed.
- You can also use lilies from your own garden as a cut flowers. Leave half of the stem so as not to deplete the plant and do not cut from the same plant every year.
- Lilies use a lot of food. After 4 or 5 years it is best to transplant them to another spot. You do that when the foliage has died off, around September-October. Dig up the bulbs, take them apart and plant them elsewhere. That is also the easiest way to propagate lilies. Plant them deep enough, at least 10 soil on top of the bulb. You can plant whoppers yourself 15 cm deep. The Madonna lily does not want that deep, 8 cm is enough.
#3 Blue lis – Iris germanica
The sword-shaped leaves of the blue lis, bearded iris, or sword lily, recall the sword of sorrow and pain that symbolically pierced the Heart of Mary. At Jesus’ consecration in the temple (Luke 2:22-32), Simeon spoke these prophetic words to Mary:
He will be a sign that will be contradicted, and you yourself will be pierced like a sword.
The blue of the flowers also refers to Mary as the queen of heaven. Benedict XVI writes about this: She is queen in Her service to God for the benefit of mankind, She is the queen of the love with which She experiences Her self-giving to God to join the plan of salvation of man.
The three-part flowers, for Christians a reference to the Trinity, are a popular symbol in iconography. Until today. For example, the logo of the Brussels-Capital Region is an iris.
Finally, the scent of the blue lis is part of many well-known perfumes.
Blue lis in your garden
- Plant the thick rhizomes of the blue lis in a sunny place or in partial shade. The soil must be well permeable to water because if the blue lis is too wet, it will rot. It can withstand drought well.
- The blue lis can fall prey to the iris caterpillar or fungal diseases.
- 6 weeks after flowering in June, you can dig up the rhizomes, divide them and plant them out again to propagate the plant. By the way, it’s best to do that every few years. Cut the leaves halfway, plant the rhizomes straight and let them protrude a bit above the ground.
ALSO READ: Important Qualities Of A Godly Mother
#4 Lily-of-the-valley – Convallaria majalis
The lily-of-the-valley or mayfly has everything in it to be able to call itself Mary flower: it is white (purity, virginity), it blooms in May (Marian month), it smells (beauty, holiness) and the name refers to the lily. You don’t need much imagination to recognize the rampant plant in this Bible passage:
And what are you worried about your clothes? Learn from the lilies in the field how they grow. They don’t work, they don’t spin. But I tell you: even Solomon with all his splendor was not dressed as one of them. (Matthew 6:28-29)
According to a legend, the hanging bells originated from the tears that Mary wept at the tomb of Jesus. For the same reason, the broken heart (Dicentra spectabilis) is sometimes called Maria tears.
Lily-of-the-valley in your garden
- The lily-of-the-valley grows via rhizomes that you can plant out in the autumn in a shady place (shade to partial shade). Place the sticks horizontally and cover with 2 cm of soil.
- Be warned that it can quickly take over a large part of your garden. You can undoubtedly get rhizomes from someone who has too many.
- All parts of the May bell are poisonous.
- Furthermore, you do not have to worry about it. Like the biblical lilies on the field, they can really teach you to worry less. 😉
#5 Daisy – Bellis perennis
After the absolute top 4 of the Marian flowers, there is a long list of flowers that refer to Mary more laterally. The daisy is reminiscent of Mary because it blooms in May and because it is white and humble. But equally white and humble are the similar flowers of the daisy, the feverfew, the chamomile, and some asters.
Daisy in your garden
- Daisies often grow spontaneously in the grass. Want more? Then do not fertilize and do not mow too often is the message. They love a sunny spot.
- The daisy (Leucanthemum) is the big sister of the daisy. He also likes full sun, but pouring in the summer will be necessary to enjoy it for a long time.
- Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) has smaller flowers and is better able to withstand drought than daisies. It also has an attractive light green, feathered leaf.
- Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) can also have dryness. It is an annual field weed that spreads easily. The flowers of the real chamomile can be drunk as tea.
- The white forest aster or autumn aster (Aster divaricatus) can have a lot of droughts and also shade. It blooms in late summer and autumn when many other flowers have already thought it for granted.
#6 Forget-me-not – Myosotis sylvatica
It sometimes seems that all blue flowers can symbolically refer to the heavenly kingship of Mary. Examples are the cornflower, the March violet, and the periwinkle.
The forget-me-not stands out a bit in that category. Because it is such a humble flower and because the color is just that sky blue with which the cloak of Mary is so often depicted.
Forget-me-not in your garden
- Forget-me-not is a native forest plant for a spot in the shade or partial shade.
- It’s a two-year-old. In the first year, it forms only leaf. In the second year, the characteristic blue flowers appear. Forget-me-nots sow themselves smoothly.
- There is also a pink version (Myosotis alpestris) and a so-called Chinese forget-me-not (Cynoglossum amabile, not related to the myosotis). The latter is not native, but sky blue and also annual, so that you can already enjoy flowers in the year that you sow.
#7 Spotted lungwort – Pulmonaria officinalis
Spotted lungwort is one of the earliest bloomers in the garden in February-March. It also has a decorative fluffy, white-spotted leaf.
Not only the blue flowers refer to Mary. According to legend, the white spots on the leaf originated when Mary spilled drops of breast milk when feeding her child Jesus. The same legend is also told about the milk thistle (Silybum marianum).
Spotted lungwort in your garden
- Spotted lungwort does well in a damp (but not wet) spot in the shade or partial shade.
- Leaves and flowers of spotted lungwort are edible. Also that of the milk thistle by the way. You don’t taste any of that breast milk. 😉
- There are cultivated varieties with white and pink flowers.
#8 Lady bed straw – Galium odoratum
As the last of the list, there is the group of plants whose name or popular name refers to Mary. We already mentioned the milk thistle (Silybum marianum) and the maria tears (Dicentra spectabilis). Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) is also called our lady’s glove and the dreaded weed hedgeweed (Calystega sepium) has the beautiful regional names ourlievevrouwhemdeke and onzelievevrouwglazeke.
Lievevrouwebedstro is not a regional name, but the official Dutch name for Galium odoratum. It occurs naturally in Flemish beech forests but is fairly rare there. The best chance of finding it is at forest chapels and Mariaoorden where it could maintain itself after planting.
In addition to the name and the white color, the smell (odoratum) also refers to Mary. That sweet smell spreads the leaf only after wilting. Bags of dried lady bed straw used to be placed with linen against moths.
According to a legend, Mary gave the fragrance to the herb out of gratitude because Joseph had made a bed for her. According to another legend, Anna, Mary’s mother, collected a fragrant pillow full of lady bedstraw to help Mary sleep. As a thank you, the plant got its name. With legends, you can go in many directions.
Lady bedstraw in your garden
- Lievevrouwebedstro is a low-growing ground cover for a shady spot, for example under a tree. The plant prefers to be a bit moist, but it also goes dry. Sunny and dry are not possible.
- In the moist shade, it will spontaneously expand through underground foothills. You can’t call it a real usurer.
- The aromatic leaves and flowers are (in moderation) edible and can be used in salads, drinks (e.g. with white wine and a slice of orange in the so-called Maitrank), and as for tea.
- Lady bedstraw can easily be propagated by dividing in spring or early autumn.