On Thursday, July 14, we honor St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the patron saint of ecology and the environment, people in exile and Native Americans. Born 1656, she came to be known as the “Lily of the Mohawks” in recognition of her kindness, prayer, faith, and heroic suffering. She was canonized on October 21, 2012, the first North American Indian canonized as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church.
One way to honor this special saint is to plant a traditional “Mary Garden,” with plants that represent Mary, or some aspect of scripture. To make your Mary Garden environmentally friendly, be sure to use plants that are native to the United States and to your area of the country. Native plants provide food for pollinators and sequester carbon, as well as increase biodiversity.
The Saint Kateri Conservation Center has begun a project to identify native alternatives to traditional Mary Garden plants. Some of the native plants were chosen because they look similar to the traditional versions. However, some of these plants have the same genus as their European relatives!
This Mary Garden includes species native to the east coast of the USA, in a site with full to partial sun, that is slightly moist to dry most of the time. You will see the common name of the plant, the symbolic meaning, and the European plant it is replacing. You will also see three plants with no meaning. These are there to show that you can also add other important native alternatives to the garden along with the symbolic plants. Native plants are often not sold at your normal department stores! To purchase native plants, you must either visit a native plant nursery, or purchase plants online. The Center has created a Native Plant Nursery Map to help you find your closest nursery! This is the best option, because local ecotype plants are best.
To view maps of native-species Mary Gardens for moist, sunny locations and dry sunny locations, click here.