Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

St. Patrick and the Legend of Clover

Black lab mix dog wearing a St. Patricks day hat.

Hello, fellow lovers of all things green, The fascinating history of St. Patrick leads to the legend of shamrocks featured in the holiday. Plus, the folklore of the four-leaf clover.

Shamrock-Plants-for-Sale While shopping in a nearby grocery I came upon cute little shamrocks on display for St. Patrick’s Day. Of course, I love the green theme of the holiday and the association with clover, another name for shamrocks. Clover is a favorable lawn alternative. It’s a drought-tolerant nitrogen fixer requiring little or no mowing that pollinators love (story link below).

The odds of four-leaf-clover

Four-leaf clovers seem to pop out of the crowd, and I tuck them into books to dry them. It’s such fun to see them again when you open the pages. They say there’s one four-leaf clover for every ten thousand three-leaf clovers. So, finding one is indeed lucky – The luck of the Irish, as the legend goes. There are rare finds of five, six, or even more leaves. According to Guinness World Records, a clover stem with 56 leaves found in Japan holds the record on May 10th, 2009. Wowzah!

There’s a gal I’ve met many times on the Paulinskill Valley Rail Trail gathering four-leaf clovers. The first time, I had Ellie, who was timid of Susan because of her walking stick until she spoke. Then Ellie happily sat for pets.

“This is a special spot,” Susan said. “I’ve found many four-leaf clovers on the trail.” I shared the story of saving clovers in books. Susan reached into her pocket and handed me a four-leaf clover laminated on a heart-shaped card. Others who hike the trail know about the good lucky lady and her gestures of kindness.

There is a charming plant with permanent four-leaf clovers that you can enjoy in your garden. Oxalis tetraphylla, known as Pink Shamrock, Lucky Clover, or Iron Cross, looks like four-leaf clovers with pinkish-red flowers that rise about 10-12″ above the lime-green foliage. It’s an annual where I live but is hardy in  Zone 7 to 10.

St. Patrick and the Legend of Clover

As the legend goes, Saint Patrick used the heart-shaped leaves of clovers to symbolize the Holy Trinity— the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit. The shamrock remains the national flower of Ireland. But how Patrick became a saint is a noteworthy part of the story.

Patrick was born into a wealthy family in Roman Britain in the fourth century. His father was a deacon, and his grandfather was the priest of a Christian church there, but Patrick did not believe in God.

He was captured and enslaved as a shepherd in Gaelic Ireland at sixteen years old. During his six years of captivity, Patrick found God and became a believer. Perhaps the meditative time amongst the miracles in nature and tending to animals was a source of finding his spiritual self. However, I read in the Declaration, presumably written by Patrick, that God told him to escape and find the ship waiting for him on the coast to take him home.

History of St. Patrick’s Day 

Upon his return to his homeland, Patrick became a priest. Then, he returned to Ireland in about 432 and spent many years converting others to Christianity, creating monasteries, churches, and schools. Saint Patrick died on March 17th, 461. Saint Patrick’s Day, also March 17th, became a day of religious services and feasts in celebrations of his life.

Black lab mix dog wearing a St. Patricks day hat.

A new hat arrived for Murphy. He and his people (Alice & Neil) are certified with Creature Comfort Pet Therapy, spreading joy at nursing homes. :^)

Of course, it’s a nonspiritual holiday to most, with parades and toasts of green beer—even green bagels. Cities with high concentrations of folks of Irish descent have the most extravagant celebrations. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade in Boston was in 1737. In New York City, it was 1762. Chicago has painted its river green on St. Patty’s day since 1962.

There is something happy about the green theme, especially as winter comes to a gloomy close, which recalls the lyrics of When Irish Eyes Are Smiling –

“Sure, ’tis like the morn in Spring. In the lilt of Irish laughter, you can hear the angels sing.” Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

Garden Dilemmas? (and now on your favorite Podcast App.)

There’s more to the story in the Garden Dilemmas Podcast (@10 soothing minutes), sure to delight:


Link to a post on Clover Lawn Alternative also featured in Episode 2 of the Podcast

Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary
  1. Ken Reply

    Another really, really nice episode. Entertaining as always, and this week a history lesson to boot. Thank you Mary.

    • Mary Stone Reply

      You are so kind, Ken. Thank you for reading and tuning in. It means so much, Mary

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