Memorial Garden: Make a Permanent Tribute in Your Garden

Honor a soldier or someone special with a garden tribute.

Plant a Memorial Garden

Plant a Memorial Garden

Photo by: Image courtesy of Lynn Coulter

Image courtesy of Lynn Coulter

Memorial Day is a time to remember a fallen loved one or hero. Think of ways to honor their memory in the garden.

Gardens are often filled with memories. When hummingbirds visit the bright red blooms on the cypress vine in my yard, I think of my mother, who gave me the seeds. My neighbor fondly remembers the grandmother who gave her a cutting from a beloved 'Joseph’s Coat' rosebush.

Some of our most special memories revolve around loved ones who are no longer with us. Memorial Day is a perfect time to plant in honor of our veterans. Creating a memory garden can be as simple as planting a single tree, or as elaborate as designing a new flower bed.

Before you start your memory garden, consider whether your spot gets sun or shade. While it might be tempting to plant underneath a tree, remember that it may be too shady there, and there may be too many roots in the ground, for plants to thrive. If you still want to plant there, try above-ground planters. Fill them with good organic matter and well-draining soil, and use plants that won’t need much sun after the leaves appear in spring.

A memorial planting doesn’t require a lot of room. Use a corner of your yard; a container on your porch or deck; or a box on the balcony of your apartment or townhouse. A single specimen plant, like a rose or hydrangea, is fine if you’re short on space.  

Let one of these other ideas spark your imagination for honoring someone special: 

  • If you have enough space, create an enclosed area. This could be a physical structure, like a small gazebo, or a garden “room” where tall plants, trees, shrubs and grasses form the “walls.” The idea is to give you a sense of privacy, so you can spend time in reflection or prayer.
  • Use plants from your loved one’s garden. Transplant favorite bulbs and tubers; save seeds for sowing; or root cuttings from shrubs and other plants. 
  • Plant in a heart shape or other meaningful design.
  • Incorporate plants with special meanings. Baby’s breath suggests innocence and gentleness, while Easter lilies symbolize faith and new life. Amaranth represents everlasting beauty. Rosemary stands for remembrance.
  • Use plants in your loved one’s favorite color or patriotic colors.
  • Plant a tree. Southern magnolias, blue spruce trees, gingkos, beeches, maples and oaks are long-lived and seldom bothered by diseases. Eastern redbuds and dogwoods burst into bloom each spring. A Japanese dwarf maple makes a striking focal point.
  • Plant a theme garden, such as a butterfly garden for someone who loved butterflies, or grow plants that attract birds for someone who enjoyed watching them.
  • Roses have their own “language of color.” Red represents romantic love, while pink roses indicate admiration and appreciation. Yellow stands for friendship, and white means honor and respect. Do a little research online to learn more.
  • If sun is scarce, try hostas and ferns for a shady memorial. The flowers or colorful foliage of Astilbe, impatiens, coleus, hydrangeas, fancy-leaved caladiums, creeping jenny, Browallia, and tuberous begonias will brighten the spot.
  • Add a stepping-stone or plaque inscribed with a quote, or purchase a kit that allows you to personalize a small cement stone.
  • Choose an appropriate statue for your garden, such as an angel for a child or an eagle for a veteran.
  • Place a bench or chair in your memorial area, so you can rest and meditate there.

Make a Bouquet For Memorial Day

Giving a veteran, or a veteran’s widow or widower, a bouquet of cut flowers is a lovely gesture on Memorial Day. Mix red, white and blue blooms, and surround them with a collar of greenery. Blue flowers include irises, delphiniums and salvia. For red, try poppies, roses, dahlias and Gerbera daises. Oriental lilies, daisies, baby’s breath, calla lilies and snapdragons are available in white.

If you can’t find the colors you want, snip stems of white carnations, daisies or roses. Add food coloring to a jar filled with water, and leave the stems in it overnight. The petals will absorb the color.

For a subtler version of the bouquet, use all white flowers and add a small flag or decorative picks for touches of red and blue. Tie the bouquet with a striped ribbon in red, white and blue.

Present your cut bouquet in a white basket or a red or blue glass vase.

Make a Memorial Day Dish Garden

For a long-lasting memorial, arrange easy-to-maintain houseplants in a decorative dish. First, provide drainage by putting a layer of pebbles to the bottom of a 3 to 4-inch deep container. Top them with a layer of horticultural charcoal, available from garden centers or pet supply stores, to keep things smelling fresh. Fill the container about 2/3 full with well-draining potting soil. Add plants, tuck soil around them to secure them, and water gently. Tuck in a miniature flag, if desired.

Plants for a dish garden include African violets, ivies, pothos, maidenhair ferns, polka dot plants, prayer plants, pepperomia, zebra plants, mosses, button ferns and many others. Be sure to use plants that have the same light and watering requirements.

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