Fall planting season is approaching and nurseries everywhere are putting out their autumn seeds. Perhaps you want to refresh your spring/early summer garden. Maybe you are hoping to get to that garden work you didn’t quite fit in earlier this year. Either way, there are plenty of late-blooming plants available.
Something to consider as you choose your fall plants is the meaning behind each plant. Many botanical legends have been handed down through the centuries. Some originate in pre-Christian mythos, later assimilated into Catholic lore with Catholic meanings. Some sprang up in Catholic thought. This happened particularly frequently in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, which were important times for the study of plants and for Catholic symbolism alike.
Here follows 5 plants to consider for a late-blooming garden—perhaps one dedicated to Mary, Jesus, and the Saints!
1. The Cornflower
The blue of the Cornflower immediately brings Mary’s blue mantle to mind. Interestingly, this plant often grows with wheat- a connection to the Eucharist and to Christ. This is similar to our Mother, whom you can’t find without also finding Jesus! “Mary’s Crown” is another name for this flower, because of its crown-shaped head. Some of the virtues this flower represents are endurance in faith and courage.
2. The Marigold
The two families of flowers referred to as marigolds are the Calendula family and the Tangetes family. While the flowers from the Tangetes family are also late-bloomers, and have an interesting history involving the Aztecs, Guadalupe, and el Día de Muertos, we will focus here on the Calendula.
The great St. Hildegard von Bingen gave the Calendula flower the name, “Mary’s Gold.” The Calendula was highly valued in earlier times for its medicinal and culinary uses. In fact, there is a legend that Mary carried them as a type of currency herself during the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt! The flower, often found on or near grave sites, symbolizes grief.
3. The Michaelmas Daisy
The Michaelmas Daisy is particularly fitting to have in a September garden! An old English rhyme states:
The Michaelmas Daisy, among dead weeds,
Bloom for St Michael’s valorous deeds.
And seems the last of flowers that stood,
Till the feast of St. Simon and St. Jude.1
This flower is connected to St. Michael, the archangel known for fighting against darkness. This is because the flower seems to fight against the shortening days of the year, and doesn’t bloom until around St. Michael’s feast (September 29). In more botanical terms, the Michaelmas Daisy- or Aster– is subject to photoperiodicity. Photoperiodicity means that it does not bloom until the daytime hours begin to decrease. It is not surprising, therefore, that the Aster symbolizes protection from darkness.
4. The Sunflower
We know the beautiful sunflower best as an example of heliotropism. Heliotropism is the movement of a plant so that it always faces the sun. The symbolism here is clear. The sunflower follows and faces the sun; so too did Mary and the saints follow and face Jesus- the Son- throughout their lives. The sunflower symbolizes adoration and devotion.
5. The Rose
No heavenly garden could be complete without a rose! We associate roses with both Mary and many other saints, most notably, St. Therese of Lisieux. Mary has several titles associated with roses, such as “Rosa Mystica,” “Madonna of the Roses,” and of course, “Our Lady of the Rosary.” The word “rosary” comes from the Latin word “rosarium,” which means a garden of roses! The rose symbolizes different things according to its color. Some examples include red for sorrow or passionate love; white for purity; pink for gentleness.
This is but a small bouquet of the many flowers holding beautiful Catholic symbolism. Enjoy planting these, and others, as you tend to a little heaven on earth!
Sources: “A Garden Catechism,” by Margaret Rose Realy, Obl OSB
Featured Image: Pixabay. Free for commercial use. No attribution required.