Walk down memory lane
Plan a garden of remembrance for a loved one, says Elspeth Thompson
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