lynn coulter

Lynn Coulter

memorial garden
Memorial Day is a time to remember a fallen loved one or hero. Think of ways to honor their memory in the garden.

Gardens are often filled with memories. When hummingbirds visit the bright red blooms on the cypress vine in my yard, I think of my mother, who gave me the seeds. My neighbor fondly remembers the grandmother who gave her a cutting from a beloved 'Joseph’s Coat' rosebush.

Some of our most special memories revolve around loved ones who are no longer with us. Memorial Day is a perfect time to plant in honor of our veterans. Creating a memory garden can be as simple as planting a single tree, or as elaborate as designing a new flower bed.

Before you start your memory garden, consider whether your spot gets sun or shade. While it might be tempting to plant underneath a tree, remember that it may be too shady there, and there may be too many roots in the ground, for plants to thrive. If you still want to plant there, try above-ground planters. Fill them with good organic matter and well-draining soil, and use plants that won’t need much sun after the leaves appear in spring.


Create a Remembrance With a Dramatic Focal Point Tree 12 photos

A memorial planting doesn’t require a lot of room. Use a corner of your yard; a container on your porch or deck; or a box on the balcony of your apartment or townhouse. A single specimen plant, like a rose or hydrangea, is fine if you’re short on space. 

Let one of these other ideas spark your imagination for honoring someone special:

  • If you have enough space, create an enclosed area. This could be a physical structure, like a small gazebo, or a garden “room” where tall plants, trees, shrubs and grasses form the “walls.” The idea is to give you a sense of privacy, so you can spend time in reflection or prayer.
  • Use plants from your loved one’s garden. Transplant favorite bulbs and tubers; save seeds for sowing; or root cuttings from shrubs and other plants. 
  • Plant in a heart shape or other meaningful design.
  • Incorporate plants with special meanings. Baby’s breath suggests innocence and gentleness, while Easter lilies symbolize faith and new life. Amaranth represents everlasting beauty. Rosemary stands for remembrance.
  • Use plants in your loved one’s favorite color or patriotic colors.
  • Plant a tree. Southern magnolias, blue spruce trees, gingkos, beeches, maples and oaks are long-lived and seldom bothered by diseases. Eastern redbuds and dogwoods burst into bloom each spring. A Japanese dwarf maple makes a striking focal point.
  • Plant a theme garden, such as a butterfly garden for someone who loved butterflies, or grow plants that attract birds for someone who enjoyed watching them.
  • Roses have their own “language of color.” Red represents romantic love, while pink roses indicate admiration and appreciation. Yellow stands for friendship, and white means honor and respect. Do a little research online to learn more.
  • If sun is scarce, try hostas and ferns for a shady memorial. The flowers or colorful foliage of Astilbe, impatiens, coleus, hydrangeas, fancy-leaved caladiums, creeping jenny, Browallia, and tuberous begonias will brighten the spot.
  • Add a stepping-stone or plaque inscribed with a quote, or purchase a kit that allows you to personalize a small cement stone.
  • Choose an appropriate statue for your garden, such as an angel for a child or an eagle for a veteran.
  • Place a bench or chair in your memorial area, so you can rest and meditate there.

2 Comments About this Article

  • gardengirl57
    I have been a gardener for many years and spend most days outside always finding something to do. I loved my grandparents dearly and was fortunate to have them in my life until my 30s. Both my grandmothers were gardeners and I have what I call my "legacy plants" which all came from my grandmothers' yards. I have a Daphne, a pink Gumpo Azalea, a few Boxwood that lined my grandmother's sidewalk, and Iris which were my great-grandmother's. In his later years, one of grandfathers did some gardening and I have a Peony bush and a Rose bush from his work. So when I am in my yard I feel surrounded by the people I loved most in this world. I can honor them and let these plants bring back wonderful memories. I have been a gardener for many years and spend most days outside always finding something to do. I loved my grandparents dearly and was fortunate to have them in my life until my 30s. Both my grandmothers were gardeners and I have what I call my "legacy plants" which all came from my grandmothers' yards. I have a Daphne, a pink Gumpo Azalea, a few Boxwood that lined my grandmother's sidewalk, and Iris which were my great-grandmother's. In his later years, one of grandfathers did some gardening and I have a Peony bush and a Rose bush from his work. So when I am in my yard I feel surrounded by the people I loved most in this world. I can honor them and let these plants bring back wonderful memories.

    Posted 2 years ago

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  • Lynn
    That is lovely, gardengirl57! So glad you have your plants to keep their memories in your heart. I had cypress vine seeds of my mother's to remind me of her, and some of my grandmother's irises that I dug up before her home was sold after she passed away. I hope to move them with me wherever I go, so they'll always feel close by.

    Posted 1 year ago

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