Graveyard Plantings

Carolyn’s Shade Garden in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania

TheGardenLady recently wrote  a post answering a question about the the types of plants she would recommend planting near a graveside.  You can read it here.   She then received the following letter from Carolyn Walker of the famous  Carolyn’s Shade Gardens in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, which  was about the same topic.  Here’s Carolyn’s letter.

Hello Garden Lady

It is very coincidental that you should have this question about planting around graves. One of my customers referred an elderly woman to me who was interested in planting around her husband’s gravestone. The cemetery, which was in the woods, allowed live planting. She sought my advice on what would be elegant, simple, easy to maintain, and most importantly, deer proof.

My son and I went to the graveyard and transformed the site. First we removed the sod in a rough oval extending around the sides of the grave to soften its stark outline (see before photo). Then we planted ten shade perennials for maximum year round impact and deer resistance. We chose three Helleborus niger ‘Jacob’, one of the new Christmas roses that is not only evergreen but also blooms from November to April. We surrounded it with five Lamium maculatum ‘Shell Pink’, the only lamium that blooms from April to November. It is also evergreen. We now had flowers and foliage year round. Finally, we added two Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’, a perennial forget-me-not with huge, silver leaves and long-blooming blue flowers in spring. To me the heart-shaped leaves of this plant symbolize the husband and wife. The two after pictures show the completed job. The plants will fill in quickly so that no bare earth remains.

I have never done this type of planting before, but it was immensely satisfying.


Plants for a Grave

Grave Daffodils by evinrisca

TheGardenLady received this question from Lynn.

An older lady at my church needs appropriate plants to use at her husband’s grave. Can she call you? She does not use computers.

Cemeteries have different requirements on what is allowed to be planted on graves. More and more cemeteries do not allow permanent plantings because they do not have the manpower to care for plants. So first, your friend should discuss with the people at her cemetery to see what is allowed. If they allow plantings, perhaps they would give your friend some suggestions of what they want planted.  See here.

If, after discussing with the people at the cemetery, they give you permission to plant something but don’t recommend anything, TheGardenLady would recommend plants that are easy to raise and easy to maintain. After all, if your friend is elderly, she might not have the energy to care for plants after they are planted.

She might consider planting some bulbs like daffodils that will naturalize. TheGardenLady would not recommend tulips because tulips do not always return year after year so that many gardeners treat tulips like annuals. Daffodils will return for a long time.

Hostas by Dr. Farnsworth

TheGardenLady would recommend planting Hostas. They come in such variety and colors of green and leaf patterns and they would make the graveside look like a lovely meditation area. And though Hostas are usually not raised because of their flowers, they do have flowers. Hosta Plantaginea has some of the largest flowers with fragrance.  See here. TheGardenLady would recommend dwarf or shorter Hostas so that the plants don’t become overgrown.

Your friend might overplant the daffodil bulbs with the Hosta plants so that there is a long period with flowers and then the Hostas hide the dead leaves of the daffodils. Plant the daffodil bulbs much deeper than you plant the Hostas.

Another easy to raise plant that might look pretty in a cemetery would be the Hemerocallis or daylilly. These bloom all summer long and one has such a wide range of choices. Choose dwarf or short daylilies.  See here.  Again,daylillies can be planted over the area where the bulbs are.

One doesn’t want to hide the gravestone so TheGardenLady would not plant too many plants on the grave or plants that grow too tall. Therefore, the short or dwarf varieties are best.

Please let your elderly friend know what TheGardenLady recommends. Sorry, but I do not take telephone calls.