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Designing a personal memory garden

By Catalogs Editorial Staff

Designing a personal memory garden with these pointers will create a spot for pe

Designing a personal memory garden with these pointers will create a spot for pe

A memory garden can be a source of joy and beauty that offers interest and delight as it changes through the season. You can create a living landscape that reminds you of moments in your life, or of family and friends no longer with us.

You can plan out a place in your yard for contemplation and meditation. It should have a good amount of sun if possible, and a pleasant view if you have one. If you don’t, you might like a secluded spot circled by screening to close out traffic and noise. Start with a central seating area so you can relax and contemplate your design. Imagine the landscape as you’ll see it from this vantage point.

Think of the people that you wish to recall. Select flowers that each person loved. Place larger plants and shrubs in farthest out to frame the smaller ones. Roses bushes or trellises make good choices here. Everyone seems to love them, and their variety of colors and scents allow you to match a person with their favorite color.

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The outer row might call for hydrangea, lilac, rhododendron, rose of Sharon, and other flowering bushes. In the middle circle, grow appropriate medium-size plants. Some ideas are sunflowers, iris, day lilies, lilies, salvia, veronica, daisies, black-eyed Susan, echinacea, and coreopsis. These present vibrant colors, and some bloom throughout the season.

In the inner circle use delicate flowers and ground covers, for example columbine, bleeding heart, sweet alyssum, bright or bronze varieties of heuchera, hyssop, ajuga, and of course forget-me-nots. These give a sense of tenderness and emotion.

Plant appropriately for your area by finding your location on the USDA growing zone map. Take care of sun and shade conditions, and read the tags on every plant to learn its unique requirements for soil, water, and drainage.

Once you have the basic planting done, you’ll want to add items of interest. Water features such as fountains and koi ponds enhance quiet contemplation. Wind chimes can set a mood as they blend with songs of birds. Hanging prisms can cast rainbows over the whole scene.

Old-fashioned details, like sundials, sculpted bird baths, and Victorian-style wrought-iron benches and arbors may add a sense of timelessness. Mirror orbs have made a resurgence lately. Mosaics and sculptures may lend an air of classical antiquity. Stone or terra cotta planters create focal points. Pathways should wind a bit. This is not a formal, grid-patterned space. 

River stones engraved with names, thoughts, or sayings that remind you of a loved one can be placed around you. You can order ones with your own images as well. Such items let others know who you wish to bring to mind. Placing them lets you share your remembrances with others, and gives you the chance to speak of them fondly.

You may even wish to place things the person owned or loved around. Think about peoples’ hobbies and interests. Did they love birds? Set out a bird feeder. Did they love cars? Set some models in along the walk. Did you enjoy a glass of wine with them in the evenings? You might create a grape arbor to shade you in the hot weather.

The setting does not have to remain static. As the years change you can add and move plantings. Make sure to light the paths at night with solar lighting that’s not too bright or glaring. You are creating a wistful aura and a feeling of nostalgia throughout.

Now you can let your imagination take hold as you arrange and rearrange your memory garden with the years and seasons.


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