Tall stoneware pot with pink foxglove

Wyrtig

OE wyrtig, adj: Garden-like, full of plants;
On anum wyrtige hamme, Homl. Skt. ii. 30:312
.
   
  

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St. Elizabeth with her roses

St. Elizabeth
with her roses

Garden Saints

Gardeners have populated their gardens with sacred images for millennia. Bacchus, Diana, Dionysius, Hermes, Priapus, Venus, Lares and Penates –- all are found in the garden statues and frescos of the Romans. In post-classical times, people have continued to adorn their gardens with Roman, Hindu, Mayan, and other deities, as well as with the Buddha, Christian saints, gnomes, and the fairy folk.

Below are eleven saints who have special associations with gardens.

Adalard
Died 827, France

Feast: January 2

 

Adelard (pronounced Alard) was first cousin and minister to Charlemagne. He was later the abbot, as well as gardener, at the Abbey of Corbie in Picardy. In church art, he is portrayed digging in a garden, his abbot’s crown lying on the ground beside him.


Patron of gardeners
 

Ansovino
Born c 840, Italy

Feast: March 13

During a terrible famine, Bishop Ansovino persuaded the haves to share with the have-nots. He is portrayed standing beside a barn, holding fruit and garden produce, and is invoked for good harvests.


Patron of gardeners
 

Brighid, Brigit, Bridgit, Brid, Bride, Ffraid

Born c. 451, her feast day is February 1, which is Imbolc -- in Ireland, celebrated as the first day of spring

 


Brigit, excellent woman, bright flame -- may  your glow bring us to the lasting kingdom, save us from the devil's armies, break before us the bonds of mortality.  Do away with the cost that evil levies, Brigit, blossoming branch...

St. Broccan's
Hymn to Brigit

Legend says that Brigit was the daughter of Leinster chieftain Dubhtach and a Pictish slave woman, Brocca. Dubhtach sold Brocca, pregnant with his child, to a Druid, but retained ownership of the child she was carrying. That child was Brigit, and she grew up as a farm worker, at first laboring on the Druid's land, and then on her father's, before becoming the leader of an early Christian community of women.

Others theorize that she may originally have been a priestess of the goddess Brigit, who had powers over healing, poetry, creativity, inspiration, grain, cattle, and flowers. History documents the friendship of Saint Brigit and St. Patrick, and it is possible that Patrick converted this pagan priestess to Christianity.

Saint Brigit, described in the ancient hymn of St. Broccan as Brigit be bithmait, “Brigit, flowering  branch,” was a renowned brewer of ale, knew how to milk a cow and clean a hearth, and was a plain-spoken woman with great common sense. Her attributes include the wearing of white wool and a white veil; often she is portrayed standing beside an altar on which burns her perpetual fire, and accompanied by wild geese or an ox.

Betony is known in Welsh as cribau Sant Ffraid, Brigit's comb.
 

Cuthbert
Born 634, Scotland

Feast: March 20

 

St CuthbertBishop of Lindisfarne, at times Cuthbert lived alone on a small island nearby. Late one spring, well past time to plant a crop, he put barley into the ground. In spite of its the late planting, the barley flourished -- until the birds arrived to decimate his little field. Scolding, he asked them why they took what belonged to someone else. If God had given them permission, fine, but “…if not, get you gone, and do no further injury." The birds immediately flew away, and never bothered his crops again. He is often shown surrounded by animals, including otters, who waited upon him as he prayed, standing knee-deep in frigid waters.

 

Dorothy of Caesarea
Born c 311 in Caesarea

Feast: February 6


St Dorothea of CaesareaWhen Dorothy refused to marry, saying Jesus was her spouse, she was mocked on the way to her martyrdom by a lawyer who told her to send him apples or roses from her husband's garden. As she prepared to die, she saw a girl with a basket of roses and apples, and asked the child to take these to the lawyer. The girl, actually an angel, did so. In art, Dorothea is shown carrying the basket and wearing a flowery crown; or in an orchard where the infant Christ can be seen above her in an apple tree.

Patron of horticulture, florists,
gardeners, orchards
 

Elizabeth of Hungary Born 1207, Hungary

Feast: November 17

 

St Elizabeth of HungaryElizabeth was secretly taking bread to the poor when her parsimonious husband, the king, asked her what she was hiding beneath her apron. When she pulled it aside to show him, the bread had turned into roses. She is portrayed with a crown of roses, carrying bread.


Patron of rose gardens and rosarians

 

 

Fiacre
Born c600, Ireland

Feast: August 18

 

 

St FiacreFiacre, whose Gaelic name may mean "raven," was born in Ireland. He became a hermit in County Kilkenny, and gained renown there as a healer. Seeking solitude, Fiacre went to France, where the Bishop of Meaux gave him land in the province of Brie. Here Fiacre created a hospice and planted a garden, both of which were closed to women. Fiacre is shown with a spade and a basket of vegetables or a bible.


Patron of herb and vegetable gardens,
male gardeners
 

Francis of Assisi
Born 1181, Italy 

Feast: October 4

 

St Francis of AssisiGentle Francis, who preached to the birds and tamed a wolf, was patron to birds, animals, and ecology. In his Laudes Creaturarum ("Praise of Creatures"), he sang,

Laudato si,
mi Signore,

per sora nostra
matre terra,
la quale ne sustenta
et gouerna,
et produce diuersi fructi con coloriti fior et herba.

Praised be you,
my Lord,

through our sister,
Mother Earth,
who sustains
and governs us,
and produces varied

fruits with colored flowers,

and herbs.
 

 

Isadore the Laborer
born c 1070, Spain
Feast: May 10

 

 

Isadore's employer once found angels doing Isadore’s work behind the plow while Isadore himself knelt in prayer. Isadore the Worker, Ysadro el Labrador, is portrayed carrying a sickle and a sheaf of grain.


Patron of farmers, market gardens,
field workers, shepherds

 

 

 

Kessog

Born Ireland; died 520

Feast: March 10

Kessog, patron Gaelic saint of Scotland before the imposition of Roman St. Andrew (and symbolic of the submission of the native Celtic church to Rome), was born in Ireland and came as a missionary to Scotland. His center of operations was on Inchtavannoch (Monk's Island) in Loch Lomond. Killed by robbers at Bandry, just south of the loch, Kessog's body was returned and buried on the shores of Loch Lomond. There, the herbs in which the body had been packed took root and covered the grave. As a result that spot, and eventually the city, was called Lus, Gaelic for herb, and became a revered center for pilgrimages. It is now called Luss, and its church houses this statue of St. Kessog.

 

Nauchlan

Bishop 678

Feast: January 8


Born in Aberdeenshire, Nauchlan or Nathalan, the patron saint of Deeside, spent much time laboring in the fields, and was renowned for his agricultural skills. He was also known for his generosity. Once, having given away all his grain during a famine, he sowed sand for lack of seed, and was miraculously rewarded by a plentiful harvest.

Patron of farmers
 

Phocas the Gardener
born c 300, Turkey

Feast: September 22

St PhocasPhocas, an innkeeper and gardener, was revered for his hospitality as well as his generosity, sharing all he grew with those who were hungry.
 

Patron of flower and ornamental gardens,  farmers, field hands, market gardeners
 

Rita of Cascia
Born 1381, Italy

Feast: May 22

 

 

One January day, as Rita lay on her deathbed in her convent, her cousin asked if she wanted anything from her old home. She asked for only a rose and a fig. Although the cousin thought it would be a wasted trip, she walked to Rita's snowy garden, where she was amazed to find rose in bloom, and a single ripe fig. Rita is shown with roses and bees.


Patron of Impossible causes,
roses, bees
 

Swithin
c 800-862, England

Feast: July 15

 

St SwithinA “weather saint”:

St. Swithin's day, if it dost rain,
 
For forty days rain will remain;

St. Swithin's day, if it be fair

 For forty days it rains nae mare.

Patron of rain; invoked to end drought
 

Urban of Langres
Born
327, France

Feast: April 3

 

St UrbanIn the early days of Christianity, Urban fled his enemies and hid in a vineyard, where he converted the vine-dressers to his faith. He is another of the weather saints:

 Sunshine on St. Urban’s day --
 
wine thrives afterwards, they say.



Patron of
all who work in the wine industry; invoked
against blights, alcoholism
 

Valentine
Died c 270, Rome

Feast: February 14

St ValentineValentine is shown with birds, roses, a child at his feet, and a rooster nearby; or as a priest holding a sun.


 Patron of lovers, happy marriages,
beekeepers, and
horti conclusi,
enclosed gardens
 

Magnus of Füssen
Died c 665, Bavaria

Feast: September 6

St Magnus of FüssenMagnus once rescued a baby dragon and trained it to help local farmers by hunting rats and other vermin that destroyed their crops.


Invoked against vermin, hail,
lightening, caterpillars;
watches over plants
and the harvest
 

Werenfried van Elst
Died 780, Holland

Feast: August 14

St Werenfrid van ElstWerenfried, an Irish peregrinati, traveled to Friesland and erected his church on the site of an earlier Roman temple. He is often shown as a priest holding a ship with a coffin in it, or as a priest laid to rest in in a ship.


Patron of
vegetable gardens;
invoked against gout, stiff joints
 

 

Garden Folklore

Gnomes

The Origins of the Green Man

Medieval "labors of the months"

The "Nine Herbs Prayer" from the Lacnunga

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Botanists are among those who know that, in spite of the rude shocks of life,
it is well to have lived, and to have seen the everlasting beauty of the world.
F.D. Drewitt

 

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