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Create a Backyard Memory Garden

Create a Backyard Memory Garden
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A memory garden is a beautiful way to honor and remember a lost loved one. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or require a lot of maintenance and can be as simple and as personal as you like.

Photo/Art by Family Features

To start your memory garden, pick a place in the yard that can be easily seen from a favorite window or an outdoor seating area. Be sure and keep the light requirements of your plants in mind. Sun loving plants need at least six hours of direct sun to thrive, and shade plants will wither in direct sun.

There are several kinds of elements you can have in your garden.

Trees. Keep the size of your yard in mind. For smaller yards, choose a tree that’s compact in height and width. Japanese maples, weeping mulberries and dogwoods are good smaller sized trees.

Think about the seasonal look of the tree, as well. Spring flowering trees include Eastern redbuds, Bradford pears and saucer magnolias. For fall color, consider sugar maples or ginkgo. Evergreens give color and structure all year long.

Flowers. If your loved one had favorite flowers, incorporating them into your garden is a good way to honor their memory. If possible, bring some plants from their own garden into yours.

You can also choose plants that remind you of them with their scents or color. If she loved chocolate, for example, you can find plants with chocolate in the name, such as chocolate columbine, chocolate daisy or even edible chocolate mint. Was he the life of the party? Then bright zinnias or wildflowers would be appropriate.

Seating. A chair or bench can be a soothing place to sit and enjoy your memory garden. Choose seating that reflects the personality of your loved one — classic stone, modern metals or rustic wood are some options available.

Water features. A fountain or bird bath can be a soothing feature in your garden. A small pond with some goldfish or Koi fish adds light, motion and a reflective element, as well.

Art. A meaningful statue, some original art, or a garden stone with a heartfelt verse can provide a focal point for your garden. Garden stones are available through your local florist, garden center or gift shop. Many retailers keep a variety of verses in stock and can also offer custom ordering.

There are no set rules to creating a memory garden. Quiet and reflective, neat and contemporary, or full of color and whimsy — the garden should reflect your loved ones and your relationship with them. Above all, it should be a place to remember them with love.

For information on garden stones, visit

More gardening projects:
Build a Rock Garden in a Day
How to Make Hanging Moss Ball Planters
Make a Holiday Container Garden

Updated Friday, March 13th, 2009

7 Responses to Create a Backyard Memory Garden

  1. Eva Arnim April 13, 2009 at 8:03 am #

    my mother in-law just passed and I think I will make her a garden on our property. We will be scattering her on top of Tarmegan Pass this summer where she loved the mountains and flowers.
    This gives me a wonderful feeling thank you.

  2. Beverlee C. Beers May 4, 2010 at 2:28 pm #

    My husband of over 50 years passed away a year ago May 5th, tomorrow. We received money from people which we used for shrubs, plants and flowers that we planted in his memory. Just this past weekend I added a few more. A garden is a wonderful way to remember a loved one. We will be scattering some of his ashes at his three favorite fishing spots the end of this month. The rest will be mixed with mine someday and sprinkled over the ocean.

  3. Karen Irwin May 4, 2010 at 3:11 pm #

    I didn’t want to wait until someone has passed to remember them. A year ago I asked that each grandchild create a stepping stone for my garden. We had a hilly area in our yard and had a landscaper create stairs built into the hill. On each “stair” I have placed the stepping stone with each grandchild’s handprint, their name and date surrounded by vinca. It make a wonderful addition to our yard and brings them to mind every time I look at it. I also get to watch as their hands grow through the years.

  4. Jon Kowal May 4, 2010 at 8:41 pm #

    We put a garden in our backyard for my mother-in-law and an uncle. We used a weeping cherry which is beautiful in the spring, and a sugar maple for longevity and beauty. In between the trees we have a bench with a memorial plaque. In a few weeks the summer annuals will be planted.

    This past winter our pet border collie passed away unexpectedly so we buried her among the family memories.

    It’s hard to pass by on the way to the vegetable garden without thinking of these special people and pets as well loved ones that have been gone for a while. And that is the best thing about it.

  5. Rosalie Cooksey May 4, 2010 at 9:24 pm #

    Dear Yankee Readers – I enjoy all of your comments and would like to share the garden I have nearly finished around my small pond. A dark purple lilac and an orange/red poppy bush for my mother (deceased) a small japanese maple for my husband with an American flag nearby (deceased and military) 6 irises – 3 yellows and 3 light purple represent my 6 grands, a duck holding a fishpole for my deceased brother. The 2 I have not been able to wrap my arms around are my 2 sons – one a NYC sophisticate studying opera and a college student, the other retired military and a good ole Harley rider, working for the feds. Any ideas out there?

    I am also painting an old wooden bench with this scene as a family heirloom. Representing my sons on the bench I have included the front of a Harley and a book lying on a bench open to Arias.

    Comments/ideas hugely appreciated!

    • Tony D May 24, 2013 at 10:58 pm #


      So nice to find your description of the memory garden here. I hope all is going well – I think of David quite often, and do miss him so. He was such a good influence on me and my career. I’ve sent a facebook friend request along, and would like to speak with you sometime to catch up.

      Take care!
      Tony D.
      Boston, MA

  6. Francine Nordt May 5, 2010 at 7:12 pm #

    On June 30th 2000 we lost our son Jeff in an auto accident. His high school gave us a beautiful angel hydranga, which made a beautiful centerpience for his memorial garden, we planted all types of perenials, so we had flowers from spring to fall. I found concrete stepping stones with memorable sayings and neighbors helped me build the garden in the shape of a heart.

    We moved in 2005, and returned to see that the garden still stands there. There is a small slate on the outside of the fence, for friends to stop and visit, or say a prayer. It never gives you your loved one back but a bit of comfort and a place to visit.

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