Walk down mem­ory lane

Plan a gar­den of re­mem­brance for a loved one, says Elspeth Thomp­son

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Gardening -

Gar­dens are rich in mem­o­ries and as­so­ci­a­tions. Par­tic­u­lar plants can call to mind peo­ple or places, while the chat­ter of birds can bring back cher­ished mo­ments. So why not cre­ate a cor­ner of the gar­den in which to re­mem­ber loved ones who have died? Re­mem­brance Sun­day is a fit­ting time to con­sider start­ing such a project – it could be a small stone or sculp­ture, or a space in which to hon­our peo­ple who are no longer with us. The fol­low­ing ideas can pro­vide in­spi­ra­tion:

Plant some­thing that comes into bloom or splen­did leaf at the time of year the per­son died or on their birth­day. Spring or sum­mer bulbs are a pos­si­bil­ity, or trees for blos­som or au­tumn colour. Novem­ber un­til March is the best time to plant trees in the gar­den – de­cid­u­ous trees are most eco­nom­i­cally bought bare-rooted, while ever­greens are best pur­chased pot­grown. Choose in per­son at your lo­cal gar­den cen­tre or nurs­ery, or use a mail or­der com­pany such as www. mailordertrees.co.uk (0800 066 5972) who can also track down rare va­ri­eties.

Take cut­tings from the gar­den of the per­son you want to re­mem­ber, raise in pots and plant in a spe­cial cor­ner. This can be es­pe­cially help­ful when the prop­erty where the loved one lived – a par­ent, per­haps – is be­ing sold af­ter death, or when there are many chil­dren or friends who all want a par­tic­u­lar plant. For in­for­ma­tion on tak­ing cut­tings, see John Cush­nie’s ex­cel­lent book, How to Prop­a­gate (RHS £11.99).

Plant some­thing with a name that brings the per­son to mind. The web­site www. rose­names.co.uk (01923 681 500) of­fers ad­vice on rose names and mean­ings, and does mail or­der. It of­fers a ser­vice where a spe­cially named rose can be sent to a be­reaved per­son for plant­ing out in their own gar­den. A dis­creet la­bel will make the rel­e­vance known but not overtly ob­vi­ous – Har­rod Hor­ti­cul­tural (www. har­rod­hor­ti­cul­tural.com, 0845 402 5300) has at­trac­tive sets in cop­per and ce­ramic. Or if you wish to be less lit­eral, choose a plant whose qual­i­ties bring the char­ac­ter or ap­pear­ance of your loved one to mind.

In­clude some­where to sit and con­tem­plate the beau­ties of na­ture as well as the per­son you wish to re­mem­ber. This could be a stan­dard bench from a gar­den cen­tre, painted a sig­nif­i­cant colour or en­graved with some words. Or why not com­mis­sion a one-off bench or seat from a lo­cal artist or tal­ented art stu­dent. The Crafts Coun­cil (020 7806 2500, www.craftscoun­cil.org. uk) has a di­rec­tory of crafts­men na­tion­wide, while www.craftand­de­sign.net and www.ukcraft­fairs.com will help you find crafts fairs where you can com­pare a va­ri­ety of peo­ple’s work.

Have the per­son’s first name – or a word or frag­ment of po­etry that brings them to mind – en­graved on a piece of stone, slate or wood. This can be hung or mounted on the wall or, to make it look a lit­tle less in­sti­tu­tional, set in a path or hang­ing from a branch. The New Art Cen­tre at Roche Court, an out­door sculp­ture gallery in Wilt­shire (www. sculp­ture.uk.com, 01980 862 244), is a good place to go for in­spi­ra­tion. It can also of­fer ad­vice on com­mis­sion­ing. Wolse­ley Fine Art in Here­ford­shire (www. wolse­leyfin­earts.com, 01873 860 525) rep­re­sents sev­eral of Bri­tain’s lead­ing let­ter­cut­ters.

Scent is a pow­er­ful re­minder of peo­ple and places. In­cor­po­rat­ing plants whose per­fume re­minds you of the per­son can have enor­mous im­pact. A friend of mine who died trag­i­cally young is com­mem­o­rated in my gar­den by a large pot­ted laven­der, her favourite flower (even if the plant it­self has had to be re­placed, as laven­ders do – the as­so­ci­a­tion con­tin­ues), while the pres­ence of my ma­ter­nal grand­mother, who was never without a sup­ply of pep­per­mints in her pocket, is con­jured up by my col­lec­tion of mint plants.

Why not theme the cor­ner of the gar­den around the favourite colour of the per­son? As well as coloured flow­ers and leaves, you could in­cor­po­rate some of their favourite pos­ses­sions such as a chair or plant pot, or even a cush­ion made from a much­worn dress or shirt fab­ric.

The sound of wa­ter, wind chimes and birds can also evoke mem­o­ries. Some peo­ple swear that loved ones come back as birds that ap­pear at their win­dow just when they are think­ing about them. Make this more likely with beau­ti­ful bird-feed­ers – CJ Wild Bird Foods has a wide se­lec­tion (www.bird­food. co.uk, 0800 7312820).

A fea­ture such as a sculp­ture or mir­ror can aid con­tem­pla­tion. Plantstuff (www.plantstuff.com, 0870 774 3366) has a Gothic mir­rored win­dow on spe­cial of­fer for £76.50 (63x28cm) in front of which a can­dle lantern or a small urn con­tain­ing some of the ashes could be placed.

Seat of con­tem­pla­tion: you could com­mis­sion a spe­cial bench

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