Monday, January 10, 2011

A Memory Garden - What a Beautiful Thought.

Can't sleep again tonight so I'm blogging. Came across this serene imagine earlier in the day while checking the spelling of helleborus on google. It's a memory garden for a woman who lost a still born baby and needed a place to keep the memory of the child alive. Based on the moss and the incredible helleborus, my bet on the location would be the Pacific Northwest. But we can build a garden of great texture with our mid-western plant palette.

I agree with the garden designer's direction of a white/creme palette. Of course, helleborus are an excellent choice for early spring flowers and beautiful foliage all season long. When it comes to a memorial garden, my first thought goes to peonies not only because of their beauty but also the timing of the flowers coming around Memorial Day. I visited a friend on the weekend and went with the family to give their respects to several generations of their kin. I'll never forget the image of a huge pink peony right on top of her cousin's site. I witnessed the same effect when I saw a very old red hybrid tea rose on top of a child's resting place back in the outback back home. Bury me under anything but a flat piece of sod, please. But back to peonies.

You would need at least three peonies for the best effect in a memory garden. But this would overwhelm most sites. Klehm's Song Sparrow Farm Nursery in Wisconsin got my attention with what they call rock garden peonies based on their size. Roy Klehm is a preeminent peony breeder and one of his achievements is a 16" gem appropriately named 'Squirt'. They are sending me trial plants this fall so I'll be sure to keep you updated on results in my garden.

Don't forget variagated plants as an option in a white garden. I find them more impactful over the whole season when compared with fleeting flowers. I picked up some variagated ajuga at the Powell Garden Plant Sale last spring. The pink flowers would only enhance a memory garden. i've never planted it but I hear rave reviews everywhere for variagated solomon's seal. And of course there are many highly variagated hostas to fit any sized garden space.

Another appropriate selection is lily of the valley. Now those four words send some experienced gardeners into night sweats since it is a notorious thug but it can easily be controlled. Recycle old gallon sized black plastic pots to constrain them. Just plant several pips (small plants) into each pot and bury the pot in the ground with only 2-3" of the pot showing above the surface. The effect will ultimately be perfectly rounded lily of valley bushes. Use this technique for other ruthless thugs such as mint. Any size pot will work but as always create at least three.

Of course any good gardener knows this kind of garden needs a focal point. From the image above, it's hard to discern. I created a family grotto in the front yard of my old house with the Virgin Mary as the focal and created a place of quite reflection. Mary sat beneath an arch of blue 'Rogoochi' bell-shaped clematis. The effect was very calming.

So if it's appropriate for you, create your own memory garden or create one for a dear friend harboring the angst of a major loss. For more information about creating a special place like the helleborus garden above and other ways to celebrate the lives of children that have been lost too soon, go to


Debbie said...

I created a memory garden for my favorite cat, Nicky, right outside the screened in porch where he loved to sleep. I tried to post photo here, but couldn't figure out how.

My Garden Diaries said...

Awesome idea about Lily of the Valley...I have been turning down my neighbors splittings due to my fear that they would just take over. I will be trying this! And as for a memory garden I liked the plants that you suggested and the color pallete. Our dear friend passed away at his mom's home and she made a memorial garden in her backyard for him. He was a lover of nature so she included some of the engraved stones that we gave to her when he passed in to the design. Great post...hope you are well. Nicole

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