May 16 10 2:08 PM

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Losing a loved one is never easy. For those of us left behind, creating a living tribute in the form of a memorial garden offers us a place to grieve, reflect, and pay homage to our loved one's memory. Enlisting the help of friends and family in the creation and maintenance of the memorial garden will offer all involved a chance to heal. Whether you have lost a human or animal companion, here are some thoughts on creating a memorial garden to honor their memory.

Determining Size and Location

A memorial garden can take the form of a single rose bush placed in a container on your patio or deck, or take the shape of complex landscaping in a corner of your backyard.
The size and shape of your memorial garden is not important and depends largely on what resources are available to you, and how big of a garden you want to maintain.
Like the size of your memorial garden, its location depends on the space you have available. If you are creating a memorial garden within existing garden space, you may think about selecting a site that offers visitors a sense of privacy, or a site that has a favorite view or held a significant meaning to your loved one.
Those lacking in garden space can still create lovely tabletop or terrace memorials with special containers and perennial flowers, herbs or houseplants. Dress up pots and planters with small tokens, figurines, and other embellishments that have significant meaning. Ultimately, what matters most is that the process of creating the memorial garden is meaningful to you and that it comes from your heart.

Personalizing the Space

Was your loved one fond of a particular type of flower, tree, or shrub? Did they have a favorite season, a love for dogs, a fondness for sailing, or a quirky sense of humor? Let their personality shine through by incorporating statuary, art or other garden features into the memorial garden that best represents their unique personality. While your memorial garden is in the planning stages, you may find it helpful to sit down and create a list of some of the things your loved one enjoyed, such as their favorite colors, hobbies, foods, fragrances, animals, authors, etc. Involving friends and family in this process is a wonderful way to share memories of the deceased and offer each other comfort and support.

Selecting Plants

A successful memorial garden starts by selecting plants that are suitable to the soil and light conditions present at the site. Here is a list of other criteria to think about when selecting plants for your garden:

Inspirational Names

Choose names that represent your loved one's personality, your relationship with them, or names that represent your feelings. Examples: Sweetheart Rose, Baby's Breath, Forget-Me-Not, Bleeding Heart, Stars and Stripes' Amaryllis and Bachelor Buttons.

Important Dates

Perhaps there is a significant birthday, anniversary, or other date that reminds you of your loved one. Like birthstones, a flower or plant represents each month.
  • January: carnation
  • February: violet, primrose
  • March: daffodil, violet
  • April: daisy
  • May: lily of the valley
  • June: rose
  • July: larkspur, water lily, sweet pea
  • August: gladiolus
  • September: aster
  • October: calendula, dahlia
  • November: chrysanthemum
  • December: holly, poinsettia


Traditionally, the colors of flowers also represent specific feelings and emotions.
Color Meaning
White: purity, perfection.
Yellow: well-being, thoughtfulness, consideration, self-control, wisdom and intelligence.
Green: healing, hope, victory, rest, balance, health, peace, and serenity.
Orange: Friendliness, courtesy, sociability, out-going, pride, and abundant energy.
Peach: love and wisdom.
Red: love, passion, energy, and vigor.
Scarlet: courage and loyalty.
Burgundy: success, wealth, and prosperity.
Pink/Rose: love, joy, grace, happiness, affection, kindness, and being in love.
Blue: truth seeking, wisdom, heaven, eternity, devotion, and loyalty ("true blue").
Brown: earthly, worldly, practical.
Purple: royalty, oneness with God, devotion, loving-kindness, compassion, spirituality.
Violet: devotion, affection, love, gentleness, and peacefulness.

Traditional Meanings

Plant Meaning
Acacia: eternal, immortal love.
Alyssum: grace, gentleness, artistry, delicacy.
Amaranth: immortality, everlasting.
Anemone: resurrection, transformation.
Aster: God's grace, love, blessings.
Baby's Breath: sweet, gentle, innocent, harmless.
Chrysanthemums: abundance, prosperity, gratitude, humility. Pun on mum'.
Columbine: gentleness, enlightenment.
Cosmos: joy, happiness, overflowing love.
Crocus: growth, new beginnings, hope.
Daffodil: joy, resurrection.
Daisy: freshness, newness, simplicity, cheerfulness, innocence.
Delphinium: inspiration, adoration, devotion, blessings.
Ferns: peace, acceptance, grace, serenity, gentility, quietude.
Fuchsia: harmony, healing for those who grieve, angels.
Geranium: positive attitude, strength of purpose, steadfastness and cheer.
Gladiolas: can be pun on "Gladness of heart".
Impatiens: patience, steadfastness, loving-kindness.
Iris: power
Jasmine: peace, goodwill, and healing.
Lily: faith, new life, grace, and spiritual healing.
Marigold: protection, friendliness, cheer, courage, joyful service.
Nasturtium: fairies, cheerful servitude, protection.
Pansies: gentle thoughts, friendly faces.
Peonies: thoughts of the past, memories.
Petunia: peace, harmony, serenity, uplifting of the body and soul.
Rose: love, beauty.
Snapdragon: communication, telepathy.
Sunflower: abundance, sunny disposition.
Tulips: faith, hope, and charity.
Verbena: peace
Violets: shyness, humility, quiet joy, tender thoughts, gentle love.
Zinnia: friendship, joy, and laughter.
Rosemary: remembrance and friendship.
Sage: wisdom, prudence.
Thyme: peace or pun on "time".

Planting Tips

When planting your memorial garden, it helps to keep a few design elements in mind. You will achieve greater visual interest by selecting a variety of plants with a broad range of colors and textures and by placing taller plants in back. Plan a mix of both perennials and annuals to ensure season-long color. Trees or shrubs with interesting bark or colorful foliage will anchor your garden, provide habitat for birds and animals and create winter interest. Remember to finish your garden by providing visitors with a comfortable place to sit and enjoy.

Alternatives to Memorial Gardens

A wonderful alternative to creating a private memorial garden is creating a memorial to share with the public. Did your loved one a frequent a special park, hike a specific trail, or visit a particular local garden? Consider planting a tree, dedicating a bench, or donating a special rosebush in your loved one's honor.