Gardens of Remembrance

My Estelle bench

Gardens of Remembrance

In this time of unprecedented loss, very few have not been touched by the death of someone they love, admired or respected.  The grief has even extended to people we did not know personally but who affected our communal lives through their leadership. It all feels so personal.

Throughout the ages, people and communities have created gardens of memory, to honour those they lost and to keep their memories alive. It appears to be an instinctive need, to set apart a sacred space of memory that is also a living space, part of the eternal cycle of nature. 

Creating such a garden can be part of the healing process. There is the well-known saying by Ralph Waldo Emerson, ‘All my hurts my garden spade can heal’. 

There is no recipe or set design for such a garden except that it should be personally meaningful, ultimately a peaceful space to which one can retreat and remember.

Perhaps the word garden is misleading. For those who don’t have space, it can be a single rose bush, a tree, a corner for the birds, even a small ‘shrine’ on a balcony. 

Here are some tips for those contemplating a space for remembrance.

Find a quiet place.

Where possible, identify a space where one can be undisturbed, even private. This could be in a secluded corner of the garden, a bench under a rose-covered arbour, or the where the person being remembered loved to sit. At Chartwell, the country home of the late Sir Winston Churchill, his favourite chair still has pride of place in the gardens. 

To make a rose archway or arbour over a bench, plant a climbing rose on either side of the arch. As new canes grow they need to be lightly tied onto the upright of the arbour and eventually over the actual arch. Once there, the new growth will arch downwards and can be trimmed if necessary.

Suitable varieties for arbours are ‘Wedding Garland’, ‘Cherry Garland’, ‘Blossom Time’, ‘Don Juan’, ‘Fairest Cape’, ‘Langenhoven’, ‘White Nights’ and ‘Royal Gold’. 

Miniature climbers (Midinette) are also ideal. The miniaturization is in the blooms and leaf size but not necessarily the height, which may be between 1.5 to 3m high.  In addition to the various Midinette colours, other suitable roses are “Starry Eyed’, ‘Rosy Cheeks’ and ‘Sunshine Sally’.

Feature favourite plants.

A good place to start is with your loved one’s favourite flowers or plants. Even vegetables? Making a small herb or vegetable garden could be a fitting tribute to them.

Because roses symbolise love they often feature in gardens of remembrance. You could consider planting roses like ‘Remember me’, ‘Beauty from Within’, ‘Compassion’, ‘Memoire’ or ‘My Darling’ or maybe fragrant roses like ‘Perfumery’, ‘Perfume Passion’ or ‘Perfume Breeze’. 

For our full range of fragrant roses click here.

Fragrance is always so evocative. Besides roses, consider fragrant herbs like lavender or rosemary, or sweet smelling shrubs (Murraya exotica or Yesterday-today-and-tomorrow), honey scented alyssum, sweet peas and irises in spring and lilies in summer. 

Colour is another theme to consider, or other themes such as a bird-lover’s garden, or planting for bees and butterflies using single roses or semi-double roses like ‘Butterfly kisses’, ‘Lyndall Dawn’, ‘Single White’, ‘Purple Glow’ and ‘Joburg Garden Club’.

Good to know: When choosing the plants be aware of their sun or shade requirements. For a plant-lover’s memorial garden, selecting a sunny site would allow for a greater variety of plants. 

Garden seating 

The main purpose of a memorial garden is to spend quiet time there, which means that there should be somewhere to sit. It could be a log or sun-warmed rock, but the more practical option is a bench. Why not make a plaque for the bench; maybe with a favourite saying. Make the bench a focal point, surrounding it with roses or aromatic plants that release their fragrance when rubbed.

• To make a feature of a bench, surround it with Colourscape roses like the ‘Grannies’, ‘Deloitte and Touche’ and the Sunsation roses that provide masses flowers on low-growing bushy plants. 

Personalise the space.  

The more you personalise the space, the closer you will feel to the person being remembered. Incorporating mementoes of their hobbies or interests may test your creativity, and even your sense of humour. Perhaps a water feature filled with gold balls, a sculpture of a dog, an arrangement of their favourite garden tools, or flowers planted in their designer wellies.

Garden seating 

The main purpose of a memorial garden is to spend quiet time there, which means that there should be somewhere to sit. It could be a log or sun-warmed rock, but the more practical option is a bench. Why not make a plaque for the bench; maybe with a favourite saying. Make the bench a focal point, surrounding it with roses or aromatic plants that release their fragrance when rubbed.

• To make a feature of a bench, surround it with Colourscape roses like the ‘Grannies’, ‘Deloitte and Touche’ and the Sunsation roses that provide masses flowers on low-growing bushy plants. 

Personalise the space.  

The more you personalise the space, the closer you will feel to the person being remembered. Incorporating mementoes of their hobbies or interests may test your creativity, and even your sense of humour. Perhaps a water feature filled with gold balls, a sculpture of a dog, an arrangement of their favourite garden tools, or flowers planted in their designer wellies.

Add symbolic details. 

Symbols can be powerful because of what they represent. This too is personal. In many cultures the circle represents the cycle of life, death and rebirth, as well as the four seasons and the four elements of earth, wind, water and fire. It can also mean wholeness, infinity, and eternity. For this reason, circles or a circular garden layout can be highly symbolic, and a touchstone for meditation and reflection. In some Native American traditions, stones are placed in the circle to represent and celebrate people who have passed on. Other symbols that may be meaningful are angels (representing spiritual beings), and doves (peace).

• Follow this link for some inspirational circular rose gardens:

https://za.pinterest.com/sharonshiraga/circular-rose-garden/

 

 

Tranquillity 

Perhaps the most important element is that of tranquillity. The sound of water is especially effective, like the soft bubble of water over a millstone. Extend that to all the sounds of nature, captured by windchimes, a birdbath to attract birds and pollen and nectar rich flowers for the bees.

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