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Memories Through Gardening


Back in the spring of 2013 Herb and I moved and acquired a yard with trees, green bushes, one hosta variety, a bridge and a gazebo.

As we began planning how to turn this half-acre into beautiful gardens, I asked Herb, “What was your mother’s favorite flower?” He responded, “Lilies. She loved lilies.” That’s how it all started.

Today, there is nothing formal about these 10 gardens, just a copious amount of perennials, roses, multiple hydrangea varieties, other flowering bushes, vegetables, herbs, lots of art and music.

Each garden is dedicated in memory of loved ones and features their favorite flower. We started with a lily garden on the perimeter of the property that now contains over 50 beautiful lilies. Soon thereafter I was faced with two loved ones being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, which led me to plant a garden in the center of the front yard dedicated to Alzheimer’s patients. At that point, I named the gardens “Memory Gardens.” Each spring and summer, the area contains purple flowers mixed with wildflowers and of course forget- me-not’s.

Creating a Memory Garden can be very rewarding and requires little planning, just memories of what your loved ones cherished. Ask friends and family to assist with planning. It’s a great healing process for everyone. Incorporate a seating area in each garden to provide a place to rest and reflect.

Music and a water feature accent my patio area. The sound of the water is so relaxing and music brings back all those great memories. Most areas have a great amount of sunlight, so there was no need to limit what was planted. Feeling the warmth of sunshine radiates positivity into the area.

Along the south end of the house there is a very shady walkway. We all know how those shady places can be challenging. I incorporated five hydrangea varieties including the oakleaf ‘Ruby Slippers’, five hosta varieties including ‘Empress Wu’, bird feeders, a bird bath, plenty of solar lighting, art and a street sign with the name of the person being remembered.

In the sunny backyard, there are five gardens and a potting shed. Springtime brings several daffodil varieties, followed by patches of Siberian Irises, lilies, coneflowers and roses. Even the act of building and maintaining this garden helped to keep my mind focused on something beautiful while dealing with my grief in a constructive way. There’s always something to make you smile. As you develop your garden, try to keep these elements in mind. It’s a long lasting tribute to a loved one and offers a place for survivors to remember and heal.

When selecting plants, consider the favorite flowers of the individual you are honoring. What season did they prefer? If it’s spring, put in a bulb garden. Perennials make great summer and fall gardens.

Consider fragrances and color. Perhaps they loved the smell of roses or lavender. Include plants that have the same name as your friend or loved one. I planted herbs in the garden dedicated to Herb. If the garden is to remember your spouse, plant sweetheart roses.

Red, white and blue is a great combination for war heroes and veterans. Include varieties such as red poppies and daylilies, white phlox and peonies, or Siberian irises. For a bird lover, add a birdbath to attract backyard songbirds.

Add a bench and water feature. As you work in the garden or visitors drop by, it provides a quiet place to rest and reflect.

If you live in an apartment or don’t have a backyard, you can still create a memorial. Container gardens can be excellent, and once the weather turns cold, take them indoors to overwinter.

What makes it a memorial garden, though, is that it’s planted from the heart. If it’s meaningful to you, plant it.

My most recent garden is in memory of Herb.

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