At this time of year, many of us are spending time in our gardens preparing the ground for planting or perhaps simply having a little tidy ready to enjoy summer days to come. As you consider what to plant and how to use your outdoor space this year, you may want to dedicate a space to remembering a loved one.
Creating a remembrance garden can give you a private and safe space to grieve your loss. It can also help you to create a tribute to their memory and form a special place where you can go to think of them.
The beauty of a remembrance garden is that there are no rules to creating it. Whether you have acres of land or a small courtyard or balcony, it simply needs to be a space that you can make special to remember your loved one.
Finding your space
Where you create your remembrance garden will of course depend on the space you have available. You may have a large garden or own some land where you can dedicate a large amount of space, or you may have a small courtyard or balcony where you may need to use walls and small planters to make the most of the space.
As your remembrance garden should be a peaceful place for you to visit, it is best if it is private and not overlooked. If this is difficult to do with your space, you may want to think about creating a canopy or screen to give you this privacy. It is also likely that you will want to spend some time here, so considering a space that has seating or where you can add a bench, chair or even just space for a picnic blanket is important.
Growing in memory
When you have found your space, the next thing to think about is how to fill it. You may want to plant flowers or shrubs that your loved one was particularly fond of. Some plants are symbolic of grief and loss, for example rosemary is traditionally the herb of remembrance and forget-me-nots are often planted in memory of loved ones due to their symbolic name. There are also many varieties of roses with symbolic messages, such as Loving Memory, At Peace and Never Forgotten and some even bear people’s names, such as Charlie’s Rose.
Many people choose to plant a tree as a lasting memorial and many funeral directors are now able to provide Bios and Geos urns. These biodegradable urns combine cremation ashes with growing matter and a seed or seedling of your choice.
Items that belonged to your loved one or evoke special memories of times that you shared can become part of your remembrance garden. Their favourite tea pot or an old pair of their boots could become a unique garden planter or a refuge for wildlife. Something relating to their favourite hobby, for example a football or fishing rod, could form the centrepiece for your memory garden.
Making space for wildlife
An important part of creating your remembrance garden is to remember life; the life of your loved one and the life you had together. It is important to consider the life in your garden as a part of this. The space that you create to remember this life can also encourage all kinds of wildlife – birds, butterflies, bees and perhaps even hedgehogs. Attracting and nurturing wildlife with your remembrance garden can give your space special significance.
You may want to attract wildlife that your loved one admired, or perhaps choose wildlife that you would like to see when you visit the space. Adding a bird table or bird feeder could attract a variety of birds and there are many wildflowers and shrubs that you can plant to encourage butterflies and bees to visit. For butterflies, consider planting buddleia, lavender and perennial wallflower and for bees, wildflowers such as foxgloves, comfrey and honeysuckle are sure to get them buzzing. Follow the links for more planting ideas for butterflies and bees.
As well as thinking about the appearance of your memory garden, you could consider the impact it will have on your other senses. When choosing your plants, you may want to think about their scents. If you will be visiting your garden in the evening, plants such as jasmine are night-blooming and therefore will be most fragrant at the time of your visit. If your loved one had a favourite perfume or scent, you could consider plants that will evoke that memory.
You may want to evoke a calming sound to clear your thoughts and this can be done by hanging wind chimes or planting tall grasses or bamboo to capture the sound of the wind. The sound of flowing water is also naturally relaxing and water will attract a variety of birds and butterflies.
Finally, you may wish to consider growing things that you can eat while you visit, such as berries, or plant herbs and vegetables so that you can take a little of your remembrance garden home with you after each visit.
Light a candle
Lighting a candle for a loved one can be a meaningful comfort. It is important to consider how to do this safely outside, with outdoor candle holders or solar or battery-powered alternatives.
Adding light to your garden can be adapted to any space, from solar lights along a path to strings of lights to weave through tree branches, trellis or along balcony railings.
Create a name space
If you would like to personalise your space further, you could add an engraving or plaque to a bench or chair, or paint your loved one’s name on a stone or centre piece. There might be a quotation, song lyric or phrase that evokes good memories and this could form part of your remembrance space.
If family and friends may be visiting the space, you could create a special raised bed or bowl for them to bring natural items, like shells, pebbles or stones to lay in memory.