A New Malden couple revived an ancient tradition by creating a 'Mary Garden' at St Joseph's Church in the town.

Green-fingered gardeners Malcolm and Felicity Surridge are avid horticulturalists.

Recently they decided to revive the medieval tradition of planting specific flowers around a statue of the Virgin Mary at St Joseph's Church in New Malden, and the results (pictured) have been welcomed by the community.

Ms Surridge described the centuries-old tradition and said that by reviving it, the pair had unearthed some fascinating history and theology along the way.

"It's an old English tradition: planting flowers all around a statue of Mary," she said.

Ms Surridge spent years researching the tradition of the Mary Garden and its associated Flora, highlighting its biblical references.

"I did not know there are so many of them. Some are well known: marigolds — 'Mary’s gold' — but others are less obvious, such as the story of the juniper bush, which, with its spiky leaves, is said to have successfully formed a barrier when Mary and Joseph, fleeing to Egypt with the Christ-child, had to hide from Herod’s soldiers," she said.

Her partner Malcolm meanwhile described the ongoing work on maintaining the garden once it had been completed and highlighted how popular it is already proving to be with residents.

Mr Surridge said: "Working on the garden is satisfying, and also demanding. The work never stops — you have to keep watering and wedding and so on — but it’s also very enjoyable.

"We get so much interest from people. They come in to look around, they bring their children, and they sometimes leave a little prayer at the statue, or even a small posy of their own flowers."

Alongside the garden itself, the couple also wrote an accompanying book — A Garden For Mary (Gracewing) — that delves into the history and religiosity of the tradition and features illustrations by Mr Surridge himself.

The book dedicates passages to each of the flowers used in the garden, and a basic "how-to" guide on creating one's own Mary Garden.

The couple said that their efforts at St Joseph's have helped encourage the fauna in the area too, with sparrows already nesting and feeding among the plants and flowers.

"They waddle out at night to feast on snails and slugs," Ms Surridge said.

For more information about A Garden For Mary and to read an excerpt, go to: www.gracewing.co.uk/page149.html