AncestorNews: Memory Gardens

By Nancy Hendrickson Premium

When Frances Miers Muller wrote me a couple of months ago about the milk and wine lily that originally grew at the family’s Waco home, I started thinking about creating a “memory garden.” This is a garden of plants that have a special family meaning or association with a family member or event.

Coincidentally, I recently heard a short program on National Public Radio about a woman named Susan Sweeney who had planted a memory garden. One of the plants in her garden was a moonbeam coreopsis. When Sweeney was a little girl, each night her grandfather would climb a ladder to “hang out the moon.” The coreopsis was planted in memory of her grandfather. She also included iris and day lilies that came from her mother’s garden.

The flower I think I would plant first would be a hollyhock, because these are the flowers in the backyards of both my grandmother and great-grandmother. I didn’t think they would grow in San Diego, but I saw them on a recent trip to Albuquerque and they seemed to be doing well—so why not give them a try? A second plant I’d like is an Easter lily, the flower carried by my mother at her wedding. Another personal favorite is sweet William, because it brings back memories of my hometown.

Think of what you could do with a memory garden—and what a fun project it would be to involve the whole family. Not only could the best “memory flowers” be chosen, but once in bloom, flowers could be pressed as mementos for the family album or scrapbook.

If you’ve already planted a memory garden, I’d love to hear your suggestions.

Here are some great sites with tips on planting a memory garden and preserving and pressing flowers:

Methods of Preserving Flowers

Drying and Preserving Flowers

Pressing Flowers

Creating a Memorial Garden

Heirloom Gardening

Share Your Plants

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