If you’re fascinated by other people’s gardens as I am, it probably hasn’t escaped your notice that many people incorporate items of religious symbolism into their landscapes. Gardens do have a natural serenity to them and are ideal places to pause and reflect, pray, and gain strength. Creating a saint garden takes this philosophy a bit further. So exactly what is a saint garden?
What is a Saint Garden?
A garden of saints is an area for reflection and prayer that has inspirational items in it that are related to one or more saints. Religious garden statues are often centerpieces of a saint garden. Often, this statuary is of the Virgin Mary or of a particular saint, or even an entire garden of saints. Each saint is a patron of something, and many of them are patrons of things related to nature, which make excellent choices for inclusion in the saint garden.
A saint garden might also incorporate inspirational bible quotes etched into stones or wood. A bench or natural seating area should also be included in the garden where the worshipper can sit and be one with their maker.
Flowers of the Saints
Saints are often associated with particular flowers. Flowers of the saints would then make a doubly worthy addition when creating a saint’s garden. The bloom time of certain flowers was often used by friars and monks as a natural calendar announcing the arrival of a particular time of worship. For example, the arrival of white snowdrops heralded Candelmass, the blooming of Madonna lily and Our Ladies smock announced the Annunciation, Greek anemone blossoms recalled the Passion, and virgin’s bower the Assumption.
The Virgin Mary is associated with the iris, a symbol of her sorrow. The blue color of iris also symbolizes truth, clarity, and heaven.
Lilies represent virginity and, as such, are associated with the Virgin Mary. St. Dominic, the patron saint of astronomers, is commonly seen in paintings holding a lily symbolizing chastity. All of the virgin saints, including St. Catherine of Siena, have a lily as their emblem. St. Anthony is associated with lilies because it is said that cut lilies placed near a shrine or statue of him will stay fresh for months or even years. St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American saint, is known as the Lily of the Mohawks.
Palms are common fixtures in ancient paintings of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Later Christians adopted the palm as representative of martyrdom. St. Agnes, St Thecla, and St. Sebastian are all martyred saints whose images are often represented holding a palm frond.
Roses are significant in Christian iconography. The Virgin Mary is known as the “mystic rose’ or the “rose without thorns.” St. Cecilia, the patron saint of musicians, is often shown alongside roses. Along with the aforementioned palm, the rose is a symbol of martyrdom. St. Elizabeth of Hungary is associated with a miracle of roses. St. Rose of Lima is aptly associated with roses, and, in fact, her skull is crowned with the blooms where it is on display in Lima.
Garden Statues of Saints
As mentioned, many saints are patrons of the natural world and statuary of them or related to their patronage is apropos to a saint garden. St. Dorthy is the patron of fruit tree growers and orchards, St. Isidore is the patron or farmers, and St. Francis of Assisi is the patron saint of garden birds and animals.
St. Bernardo Abad, patron saint of beekeeping, St. Urban the patron saint of vineyards and grape growers, St. Fiacre is the patron of herb and vegetable gardens, St. Elizabeth of Hungary is patron saint of roses, and St. Phocas is the patron of flower and ornamental gardening. If you wish to include an aquatic garden into the saint’s garden, you might include a visage of St. Andreas, the patron saint of fishing.
Other saints to consider in the garden are St. Valentine, St. Patrick, St. Adelard, St. Teresa, St. George, St. Ansovinus, St. Virgin de Zapopan, St. Werenfrid, and of course, the Virgin Mary, the patroness of all things.