Idioms related to gardening

Let your English skills grow with some idioms related to gardening :

How does your garden grow?

Mary, Mary, quite contrary
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells,
And cockle shells,
And pretty maids all in a row.

This popular English nursery rhyme evokes images of a bright, colorful garden with pretty flowers. But did you know that there isn’t one mention of flowers in the poem? Originally published in 1744, the nursery rhyme has many interpretations, none of which have to do with gardening. Still, when springtime rolls around, many a native English speaker will be reciting this rhyme in the back of their minds while tending to their gardens!

Some say the rhyme is about Catholicism, while others suggest that it refers to Mary, Queen of Scots, or even Queen Mary I of England, more commonly known as Bloody Mary. Depending on the interpretation one subscribes to, the symbolism used in the rhyme changes, and the poem takes on a darker meaning. For instance, silver bells and cockle shells could symbolize sanctus bells and the badges of the pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela in the Catholic interpretation or instruments of torture in the Bloody Mary variant.

Regardless of the chosen interpretation, the most important part of the rhyme is the idea of the garden, fertility, and propagation. So, what will it take for your garden (lineage, religion, or even a skill like a language) to grow?

Maybe our tips using some idioms related to gardening will inspire an answer.

Can you fill in the missing word?

bloomers – garden path – grass – roses – sows – weed

  1. Don’t let the ____ grow under your feet! (= don’t delay taking action)
  2. Remember that one always reaps what one ____. (= to get what one deserves)
  3. Be mindful of being led down the ____. (= to be deceived or misled)
  4. Once you find the right approach, you’ll grow like a ____. (= to grow rapidly)
  5. Even late ____ can become fluent in a new language. (= people who reveal potential/talent at a later than usual age)
  6. Don’t worry! Your hard work will pay off, and everything will come up ____! (= to turn out well, be successful)

Answers: 1) grass, 2) sows, 3) garden path, 4) weed, 5) bloomers, 6) roses


cockle shell – Herzmuschel

maid – Magd

nursery rhyme – Kinderreim

to evoke – hervorrufen

to recite – rezitieren

to tend to – sich um etwas kümmern

to subscribe to – sich etwas anschließen

for instance – zum Beispiel

sanctus bells – Altarglöcken

badge – Abzeichen

to reap – etwas ernten

propagation – Verbreitung, Fortpflanzung