Mary Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?
With silver bells, and cockle shells, and pretty maids all in a row.
This well known nursery rhyme leaves the reader with an image of beautifully flourishing garden full of lilies, ivy, roses, and of course an abundant supply of spring butterflies, but sorry to say this image of loveliness is far from the truth behind the meaning of this gruesome poem.
It is said, the garden is the graveyards that were growing from martyred Protestants, under the reign of Queen Mary, daughter of King Henry VIII. The silver bells and cockle shells were devices of torture and the maids in a row, refer to the row of guillotines used to behead any one who dared to declare their protestant faith.
When I first thought of how do people manage to make such beautiful gardens, one of my first thoughts were I remember the nursery rhyme I sang as a child, so of course I wanted to do research on the poem to include it in my gardening introduction. I must say what I read about the poem was a little disappointing, but nevertheless, I choose to remember the martyred protestants by keeping an image of a beautiful garden growing.