and Mary Gardens
by Catherine Fournier
Planning a garden is, in many ways, like decorating the interior of your house. the main goal in each case is to end up with a practical, attractive living space that suits your family. Three major factors govern both the arrangement of inside and outside the home: the area, the intended use of the space, and your own personal taste. In other words, what you have, what you need and what you like. Additional foctors include the size of the area, style of the home, time available to maintain your design, and other available resources, like garden supplies and nurseries.
Unlike a house, garden design changes from one week to the next. Plants grow, bloom and die back, sunlight moves across the area, seasons come and go. For many, this element of change and surprise is the main appeal of gardening. Certan plants may be quite spectacular in one season yet unobtrusive in others. Colour schemes, views and density can change from season to season too.
Planning is essential to an attractive, manageable garden. If possible, plan on paper first to avoid wasted time and money. Minor adjustments can be made later, of course, but major features like walls or walks tend to be permanent, and many plants suffer from transplanting and take years to recover to their original glory. In addition, planning on paper first makes it easier to plan the garden as a whole rather than tackling it piece-meal. This helps to create a sense of continuity and harmony between one area of the garden and an other.
Take your time. If you can, watch the garden space for a year to decide just exactly what you would like to do. For this first year, plant annuals to give you an idea of what colours and heights look best in the garden. There are a number of questions you could ask yourself that will determine your eventual choice of trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals.
- What is the soil like? Clay, sand, loam? Is there a lot of debris, and rocks in it? Has it been worked before? Does it have much humus?
- What is the exposure? Does it face south to warm winds and sun? Does it face north making it cooler and less bright?
- What are the light-levels in the garden? Morning or afternoon sun? Is there a lot of shade?
- How will you use the space? Is this going to be a garden to sit in and admire, or is this a playspace for the children? Is it the front garden for the public to see, or the back? Will low branches impede traffic? Do you need walk-ways and paths?
- How much time to you plan to spend in the garden? Any garden will need some maintenance, but some plants and arrangements need more care than others.
- What colours do you like? Blue is harder to find than yellow or red. Do you want colour all year round, or is one season of colour and three seasons of foliage sufficient? Large groupings of flowers or colours look better than many small spots of colour.
Sketch your garden area on graph paper and draw and re-draw until you find an arrangement you like. Make a five year plan, if necessary and add elements when you can. Then begin!
The garden beds should be marked out, and prepared first. Dig at least two shovel depths deep and mix peat moss, compost, or fertilizers into the soil as you turn it, depending on the original condition of the soil. Rake the beds smooth, and add edging if you're going to use it.
Then begin planting. Taller shrubs and plants go in the middle or back of a bed, plants should be planted far enough apart to allow for spreading as they grow. Fill in the beds all at once, or allow your garden to develop over a number of years. Either way, you are making your home beautiful and welcoming.
A Mary Garden is one that is designed to honour Mary with both its arrangement and the choice of flowers. It can include a statue or small shrine to Mary, other Mary gardens are laid out in the form of a rosary. It is a simple, and beautiful devotion with a long history.
Many plants and flowers have names that relate to Mary, for example Mary's slippers and Mary's Tears. Mari-golds are well known. The best source for information can be found on a website about Mary Gardens. This is such an extensive and comprehensive site, with lists of plants, plans for gardens, stories about creating gardens and promoting this devotion, that it is pointless to repeat the information here.