Planting a Memorial

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As we navigate through another pandemic lockdown, many of us are thinking about spring already. Mild temperatures we have been experiencing so far this winter are fueling dreams of getting our hands in the dirt, sowing seeds and nurturing plants. 

One very tragic reality of COVID-19 restrictions has really hit home for me. Celebrating the life of lost family members and friends has changed so much. We are no longer able to offer support by gathering. The beginning of healing the hurt has traditionally been sharing wonderful memories, celebrating a life well lived.

A memory I have from many years ago was sitting at the kitchen table with my two sisters after mom had passed. We were going through some of her possessions and decided to sort through the collection of buttons she had stored in old cookie tins.

As kids, it was a treat to look through the buttons, sorting them into little baggies according to colour and style. My boys enjoyed that activity at grandma’s house and my granddaughters have had a chance to delve into those same tins, too.

In the last few months, I have lost a good friend here in town, an uncle in Southern Ontario and now a second of my closest friends, who doesn’t live here in the Sault, is losing a parent. We were not able to gather here or travel out of town to support those that could really use our help at this most difficult time.

What can we do to commemorate a person’s passing that shows our respect in a meaningful way? My go-to idea has often been to plant, or donate towards planting, a tree, shrub, or perennial in memory of that special person. Watching a leaf unfurl in spring, a flower bloom in summer or the glory of leaves change colour in fall can invoke happy memories of those people that we have lost.

If you are considering a memorial planting, there is some planning you can do now, while gardens lie dormant under the snow.

  1. Consider the location that will best suit the memorial. Should it be a private or public space? What is most relevant for you, your family, or your community.
  2. Do you have an area suitable for a permanent planting? Do you own your home or rent? Trees should be planted in a permanent location, whenever possible. Shrubs can be moved when reasonably young. Perennials are always easy to re-locate.
  3. Once you have chosen a location and the type of memorial you want, consider the spot carefully. What is the soil type there: sandy, rocky, an area with heavy clay or does it have good loam? How much sun does the location get? Are there buildings, overhead wires, or underground utilities in the area? Will nearby mature trees unfavourably affect the plants ability to thrive? Does that location receive strong winter winds or is it quite sheltered? Where do you pile snow in the winter?
  4. What was that person’s favourite plant? This may a good starting point for your choice. Just be sure if mom loved lilacs, dad was especially fond of maples trees, or your friend is best honoured by planting a pollinator garden, that the location you choose will allow the memorial plant to thrive.

When doing research, be sure to consider plants that will thrive in our area. We are in Canadian planting zone 5a. That relates to American zone 4. We can often get away with choosing perennials and shrubs from the zone 5 lists as they will be insulated by our normal deep layer of snow.  However, trees spend the entire winter above the snow line, so I always recommend you stick to zone 4 choices.

A good criteria for choosing plants is looking to see which varieties thrive in our area and are available from local garden centres.

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About Me

I began my journey in horticulture in 1982 after graduating from the Humber College Landscape Technician program. At that time, I lead a talented crew of landscapers, taught evening courses in horticulture and had my own landscape design and consulting business. Then I ventured into the garden centre world. I’m lucky enough to be leading the friendly and knowledgeable team at New North Greenhouses. 

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New North Greenhouses

719 Airport Road

Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario

P6A 5K6

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