From Hobbiests To Professionals
Memorial gardens have become very popular across America since a group of women in Athens, Georgia started the country’s first Garden Club in 1891. That club, which is still one of the largest and most active in the nation, started a trend of building large, luxuriously landscaped public gardens for entire communities to enjoy. And throughout the 20th century, that trend evolved into “memorial gardens,” in which communities began dedicating their public gardens to the memories of particular people or events.
Today, Memorial Gardens are quite common in nearly every U.S. city, and even the women who started the Garden Club of Athens have a special garden dedicated to their memory. The Founders Memorial Garden is one of the club’s main projects today.
Memorial gardens have become increasingly more sophisticated and professional since the women of Athens began their first club. The women of Athens were mostly volunteers and gardening hobbyists who wanted to beautify their city. Today, however, memorial gardens are often built and maintained by professional landscapers who are hired or contracted by government agencies or non-profit groups devoted to botany or just beautifying a particular local spot. Today’s memorial gardens, of course, still offer plenty of opportunities for volunteers and hobbyists to get involved, but they are mostly maintained by professionals who often use them to showcase new design techniques and gardening technologies.
One of the more organized memorial garden projects in the United States is the Florida based Children’s Memorial Garden Inc. This non-profit organization encourages communities across the nation to build memorials to children who have died. The group recognizes that the death of a child results in an especially difficult type of grief for parents and other family members, and has encouraged a network, of sorts, of comforting children memorial gardens to bloom across the nation. The group’s website offers a virtual tour of the hundreds of children memorial gardens and offers tips and encouragement for local groups wanting to start their own garden. “Whether tiny or large; a quiet interlude or a grand expanse devoted to a cause, each garden, path, park or walkway pays tribute to a life that brought joy, talent and mischief into this world,” the group says of its memorial garden network.
Many churches across America have, likewise, established memorial gardens in memory of their deceased members, or in memory of special moments in the lives of their congregation members. Our Lady of the Chesapeake church in Pasadena Maryland, for example, maintains a memorial garden that, for a memorial contribution of $50, parishioners may contribute to. Church members may buy special memorial rocks or other pieces that are engraved with the names and details of loved ones or special moments from baptisms to weddings.
One new trend in memorial gardens that has begun since 2003 is the war memorial garden. In Asheville, North Carolina, for example, a group of residents has formed a committee that is building an ever-growing “Peace Garden,” devoted to memorializing soldiers who have died in the War in Iraq. Rather than traditional war memorials, which are built months or years after a war has ended, these memorials are built as the war is in progress. New rocks and other pieces are added as the casualty figures roll in. Aside from remembering the fallen soldiers with dignity, those who are building these new types of memorial gardens also want to help remind garden visitors of the seriousness and tragic consequences of war.
Finally, many individuals are creating their own versions of memorial gardens. These can be set up in either a public park or even one’s own back yard. There are many public parks that are converting a small portion of space into ‘community gardens’. It is not uncommon for a person who is hosting a garden to install a garden memorial (in either the form of a simple memorial plaque to a more decorative memorial rock) to honor the memory of a lost loved one. While it is important for those individuals to get the proper permissions to create a garden as a memorial garden, it is very rare that there would be an opposition to doing so. On the other hand, many place a small garden tribute in their own gardens to honor their beloved, especially when the lost individual loved gardening or spending time outdoors. This allows families to spend time in the harmony of nature while still having a feeling of being close to the memory of the loved one.