Memorial gardens: Living tributes to loved ones

By Heather Kirk-Ballard

LSU AgCenter Horticulturist

Memorial gardens offer a beautiful and meaningful way to honor family members, friends and even pets who have passed away. Unlike traditional monuments, these gardens use living plants to create spaces of reflection and remembrance, allowing the legacy of loved ones to continue in a tangible and serene environment. Planting in memory of someone is a timeless way to honor their place in your heart.

Setting up a memorial garden can be a deeply personal and therapeutic process. Start by choosing a location that holds significance, whether it's a spot in your backyard or an area within a cemetery or public park. Be sure to seek permission if you want to establish a garden in a public setting.

Include features that promote peace and reflection such as benches, water fountains and pathways. Personal touches like engraved stones or dedicated plaques can add a special meaning to the garden.

When selecting plants, consider choosing those that are both beautiful and symbolic. Perennial plants, flowering shrubs and trees can provide year-round beauty and continuity. Specific plants may be chosen for their symbolic meanings. Perhaps your loved one had a favorite plant.

When selecting plants, consider the amount of sunlight needed, heat and cold tolerance and soil needs. Water usage is particularly important, especially for container plants, which dry out faster than those in the ground. If you can't visit at least weekly, drought-tolerant varieties are the safest option. Be sure to verify if there is a publicly accessible tap on the grounds or if you will need to bring water from home.

Think about the long-term maintenance of the garden. Opt for low-maintenance plants if regular upkeep might be challenging.

Some suggested low-maintenance plants are succulents, ornamental grasses and native wildflowers that require minimal watering and upkeep. Some native perennials that are relatively drought tolerant are blanket flower, bergamot, black-eyed Susan, coneflower, globe thistle, gaura, penstemon, sage, salvia and yarrow. Groundcovers like creeping thyme, moss phlox, prostrate rosemary and sedum can also be excellent options, offering beauty without the need for constant maintenance.

Drought-tolerant annuals that readily reseed themselves are another good choice. Some suggestions are alyssum, bachelor’s button, calendula, cosmos, cleome, flowering tobacco, globe amaranth, marigold and zinnia.

A recent reader email highlighted the challenge of maintaining grass in cemetery plots, particularly in areas affected by weather changes and drought. Drought-tolerant and low-maintenance alternatives to grass should be considered.

One option is to use groundcovers such as clover, which requires less water and mowing than traditional grass. Another possibility is to plant native grasses that are adapted to local conditions and require minimal care. For a more decorative approach, consider using mulch or gravel, which can reduce maintenance needs and create a tidy, well-kept appearance.

Whether through a personal memorial garden or enhancements to a cemetery, plants can provide a way to keep memories alive and offer a place of peace and solace for those who visit. These living tributes can be found in various settings, including public parks, cemeteries, hospital grounds and private properties. They may be associated with specific events, such as war memorials, or dedicated to broader themes, like cancer survivors or victims of tragedies.

Many memorial gardens play host to community events such as memorial services, remembrance walks and educational programs. These events help bring people together to honor the memories of loved ones and provide support to those grieving.

Memorial garden with a statue.

Setting up a memorial garden can be a deeply personal and therapeutic process. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter

Green groundcover plant.

Drought-tolerant groundcovers can be used to replace traditional turfgrass that suffers in drought conditions. LSU AgCenter file photo

Field of colorful wildflowers.

Choose annuals that readily reseed themselves for reliable color. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter

5/16/2024 5:43:05 PM
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