A memorial garden provides a place for reflection

Wednesday, May 16, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:19 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Would you like to remember special people and pets in a unique way? Consider planting a memorial garden.

For many of us, the way to deal with grief is in our own backyards. The act of pulling weeds is like pulling out sorrow and the signs of new growth are a rebirth of hope.

When my little cat died, I planted a Bleeding Heart flower in memory of her and I think of her whenever I walk past it. I’ve also put her ashes there, along with the ashes of my other pets, as an act of remembrance. The plants live on and we somehow feel that as we tend them we are in some way showing our loved ones that we are caring for them.

A memorial garden is meant to inspire remembrance, and adding a place to sit, be it a bench or a boulder, can give us a place to call upon our memories. The garden should be serene and peaceful and evoke feelings of privacy.

Thought needs also to be given to the colors used. Think in terms of misty colors that soothe — silvers, lavenders, tender pinks, ivory, white and serene blues. The garden is more of a background than it is a display. Also, plants that don’t demand a lot of attention would be the best choice, so plants that have more foliage than flowers might also be considered.

A good memorial garden needs a focal point to give people something to focus on as one sits and thinks. It could be something as simple as a sculpture or even a tree. If you don’t have room for an actual garden, the tree or a long-lived perennial can serve as the focal point. Whatever is chosen, keep in mind why and for whom it is being planted. Even if the garden is small, everything placed there will have a special meaning. Planning and looking at options becomes a creative and positive act that will help the healing begin.

Even if you have a very small space you can still have a memorial garden. Choose your plant or plants wisely and think of the meanings they have for you.

Something to keep in mind is that whatever you pick needs to be something that is hardy and will survive in this area of the country and doesn’t take a lot of attention. (The garden is for peace, and if there are flowers that need deadheading, that will get in the way of your reflective times.)

Select a plant that had a specific meaning for the person or the pet that you want to remember. Another way of looking at it is choosing a plant that has a specific meaning — a tree for strength; or rosemary for remembrance; an olive tree for peace and security. Make choices that evoke the ambience that you want while making allowances for your available space.

The main thing to remember is that this is your place to mourn or to recall the happy times and should be a space that has personal meaning for you and for the people or pets for whom you have planted it.

If you have no garden or no space for a fitting memorial, consider planting a tree in Celebration Forest. Check out its Web site at

Whatever you choose to plant, the act of creating and planting this space will be healing in and of itself. Enjoy your garden.

Barbara Michael has been a master gardener since 1993, and she serves as the Master Garden liaison to the Community Garden Coalition as well as serving on its board. She enjoys container gardening and houseplants. She can be reached at

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