Remembering Loved Ones and Celebrating Special Events with Plants!

Remembering loved ones

When you’ve lost someone you love, it’s natural to want to arrange a fitting memorial and to plan a meaningful tribute in their memory.  Memorials of any kind are such a personal choice, but I want to help you by sharing some information and ideas of ways that you could leave a lasting legacy, one that will beautifully celebrate the life of someone close to your heart, whilst being kind to the environment.  Many of the ideas that I share with you in this article fund vital and important work in plant research, including studying plants which may be used as medicines or food sources in the future, while other suggestions provide funds to look after and care for trees, forests, meadows, the countryside, and gardens.

First of all I will share with you the tributes that I actively avoid, with explanations as to why, and then I move onto the more positive and meaningful ideas.  If you’re experiencing a sad time, I am so sorry.  I hope that things will feel easier for you soon.

Things to avoid

Balloon releases

Balloon releases are very popular, it can feel very poignant indeed to release a shiny balloon with a special, personal message of love addressed to your loved one and then to stand and watch as the balloon soars up towards the sun and the stars.  However, I would urge you to think of an alternative and more environmentally friendly way of demonstrating your love.  As you watch the balloon slip out of view and out of sight it may feel very symbolic, but in reality the balloon could be on its way to injure or kill an animal.  At best your balloon will litter the countryside, a town or city, a pond, river, or the ocean.  Countless animals have been killed by balloons, both on land and at sea.  The very least damage that your balloon will do is to litter our planet.  Surely this is no way to mark your loved one’s passing?  For me is not a way that I would wish to commemorate, celebrate, or mark any occasion.

Environmentally friendly balloons?

Helium is not an infinite resource, knowing this I actively avoid purchasing helium.  Some balloons are described as being made of environmentally friendly latex, I would never recommend releasing any kind of balloon, even if it was described as environmentally friendly, whether it was filled with helium or not.  If you want to enjoy balloons, but don’t want to harm the environment, keep any balloons indoors, where they won’t harm other animals and won’t form one of the many pieces of litter that are strewn across the planet.

Chinese lanterns or sky lanterns

Sky lanterns or Chinese lanterns are dangerous to wildlife, animals and creatures of every kind, plants, nature, and humans.

Sky lanterns or Chinese lanterns can also feel very symbolic.  Releasing these lanterns en masse as part of a group can feel very emotive.  I probably sound heartless – I don’t mean to be – I want us all to feel connected and supported, and share in each others’ joys and losses, but I am absolutely totally against releasing both balloons and sky lanterns.  To me these are acts of dangerous littering, that are harmful to animals and other creatures, ourselves, and our environment.  Naturally, sending something on fire into the sky is going to risk killing birds and animals.  Sky lanterns have caused numerous fires, which have frightened, injured, and killed many creatures, and damaged fields, plants, and properties.

I am strongly opposed to the idea of releasing balloons or sky lanterns for any reason, even balloons or sky lanterns that are listed as environmentally friendly, whether as an act of memory of a loved one, or to celebrate a special event.  Instead I would rather plant a tree, create a meadow, plant a shrub, plant bulbs, or simply sow seeds in memory of someone I love.  I get far more pleasure from these acts, which will leave a lasting and positive legacy and will bring about genuine joy and release, even during the saddest time of your life.

Memorial Meadows

A meadow is one of my favourite places to be!  The natural beauty and charm a meadow bestows, not just to us, but to insects and wildlife can fill your heart with joy!  A meadow is a perfect place to remember your loved ones and to celebrate their life, the moments you shared together, and your love for each other.

Creating your own Memorial Meadow

Creating a meadow is a wonderful thing to do!  What could be lovelier than your very own meadow?  If you have an area in your garden, at your allotment site, or in your neighbourhood, why not create a meadow in memory of a loved one?  I think creating a meadow would be a wonderful way to celebrate a birthday, an anniversary, or marriage?  This is something you could do by yourself, if you were looking for a personal tribute or challenge, or you could join forces and create a meadow as part of a group, together with your family and friends.

If you’re interested in sowing your own meadow, or if you would like to grow some of the UK’s native flowers, you may be interested to see the range of UK wild flower seeds that are available from British conservation charity Plant Life.  You can view Plant Life’s range of UK native wild flower seeds here.

For many people poppies signify remembrance. As well as being a way to remember our loved ones, poppy fields provide great environments for insects.
A sunny buttercup meadow!
Wildflowers are beneficial to us and to all manner of insects, including this male Meadow Brown Butterfly, also known by its scientific name of Maniola jurtina, which is pictured feeding from a Scabious flower.
A snow white snowdrop meadow provides food for early flying bees and butterflies, and uplifts our spirits during winter and early springtime.

Don’t feel limited to creating just a wild flower meadow, you may prefer to create a different kind of meadow, how about a snowdrop meadow?  Here’s a link to reputable suppliers of snowdrops.  Or maybe you’d prefer to plant a daffodil meadow?  If you’re interested in planting a daffodil meadow, or planting daffodils in containers, or in your beds and borders, you may be interested in the results of my 2017 Scented Daffodil Trial where I searched for the most floriferous and scented daffodils – here’s a link to my 2017 Scented Daffodil Trial Report.

Narcissus ‘Golden Dawn’ was purchased from Jacques Amand International, and grown for my 2017 Scented Daffodil Trial. Narcissus ‘Golden Dawn’ started flowering on the 22nd March 2017.

Memorial plaques at existing meadows

British conservation charity Plant Life have created the opportunity for memorial plaques to be installed at what they describe to be an iconic poppy meadow, at Ranscombe Farm Nature Reserve in Kent.  The monies received from these plaques help to fund the conservation of this area.  Ranscombe Farm is set in a peaceful environment that’s teaming with wildflowers and wildlife.  Here’s a link to more information about memorial plaques at Ranscombe Farm Nature Reserve.

Ranscombe Farm Nature Reserve stretches for ten miles, it features a beautiful ancient woodland, with rare plants, surrounded by lovely views.  If you would prefer to have a memorial plaque for your loved one installed in the nearby woodland, you can – here is a link to all the details.

Protecting special environments and nature reserves

If you’d like to help to protect an beautiful place, a nature reserve, or a special environment, and you’d like to contribute to the long-term sustainable conservation of an area, then you might be interested to learn more about adopting one of British conservation charity Plant Life’s nature reserves.  Here is a link with details of all of the beautiful reserves that Plant Life look after, from limestone grasslands, or perhaps you’d prefer to care for the special flora that only inhabit peatlands, or maybe you’d prefer orchid meadows, or cornfield poppy meadows – you’ll find all the details here.

Memorial Trees

Tree planting

What could be lovelier than joining together with others to plant a forest?  If you would like to plant a tree in a forest in memory of a loved one, to celebrate a special occasion, for an anniversary, or as an ideal gift for the person who has everything, there are many ways you can do this.

Against Breast Cancer are creating a ‘Living Legacy Woodland’ in the heart of England, here is a link to more information.

Oxtreegen work to assist companies and individuals to discover how planting trees in the UK can help to slow climate change, here’s a link to more information.

If you’d rather plant a container, so you can take a special memory plant with you, wherever you live or move to in the future, here are some tips on planting containers.

A tree leaves a lasting legacy that is beneficial to all.

The one thing I would like to highlight, is that planting a tree does not guarantee that your tree will live, far from it.  It’s possible to plant a whole forest and within a number of years all of the trees will have died if they weren’t planted correctly.  Trees will also die if they do not receive the water they need.  If trees are pruned badly or damaged, they can also die.  So planting a tree does not guarantee a new tree’s life, it’s the tree you choose, the method of your planting, the condition of the tree you plant, the soil and the location where you have planted your tree, and the care that the tree receives after planting, that will either help or hinder your tree’s future.

It’s absolutely vital to plant a tree at the correct depth.  If you plant a tree too deeply and effectively bury it, your tree will not amount to much, it won’t be able to thrive and may die.  If you don’t plant a tree deeply enough then the tree will most likely die.  Your tree may struggle on for a number of years first, but you will not be providing your tree with the ideal start in life.  Please don’t wast the wonderful opportunity of planting a tree!

Caring for older trees

A tree is a gift to the world, planting a tree is a delightful way of celebrating the life of someone you love, it’s also a special way to mark the birth of a child, or celebrate a special anniversary.

Looking after our existing trees is just as important as planting new trees.  If you don’t want to plant a tree, why not protect a veteran tree?  British conservation charity Plant Life offer the chance to adopt and protect one (or more) of their veteran trees, at their nature reserve Ranscombe Farm, in Kent, here’s a link to all the details.

The Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh, Benmore Botanic Garden in Argyll, Dawyck Botanic Garden near Peebles in the Scottish Borders, and Logan Botanic Garden in Dumfries and Galloway, all have a tree adoption programme for trees across the four gardens.  Adopted trees will be equipped with an information and interpretation panel, which will help to provide information about the tree, which will inform, and hopefully inspire visitors.  Adopted trees all feature a personal dedication panel, while tree guardians will be sent a certificate showing their support, with a map of the tree’s location in the garden.  Here’s a link to all the details.

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, offer the chance to sponsor an area of woodland in their gardens.  You could choose to sponsor a Woodland Glade or a Redwood Glade.  Here’s a link to all the details.

The Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew is home to many beautiful trees.

Wakehurst Place in West Sussex offer the opportunity to sponsor an area of woodland in their gardens, you can choose to sponsor an area of woodland at Coats Wood, Horsebridge Wood, Bethlehem Wood, or the Pinetum.  Here’s a link to all the details.

Wakehurst Place in West Sussex also offer the chance of adopting an individual tree in their gardens.  Here’s a link to all the details.

You can also sponsor an orchard tree in Green Acres Avenue of Remembrance in Epping Forest, in their woodland in Chiltern, or in Green Acres orchard or woodland at Rainford.  These options are open to everyone, you don’t have to have a loved one who has been laid to rest in the park, for all the details, please click here.

Trees provide us with many life enhancing benefits, including oxygen to breathe. We rely heavily on trees, so its important to look after them.

The Harlow Carr Woodland Fund helps to preserve the planting within their woodland garden, which features oaks that are almost one hundred years old.  This fund also takes care of the stream side garden that sits alongside the woodland.   If you would like to find out more information on how to donate to the Harlow Carr Woodland Fund, at RHS Garden Harlow Carr in Yorkshire, please click here.

Memorial Plants

Cut flowers

If you’re looking for flowers for a funeral, to celebrate a loved one’s life, or as a way of remembering your loved one, why buy forced, imported flowers that are out of season and were picked some time before purchase?  I love to buy British grown, freshly harvested, seasonal cut flowers.  You can purchase UK grown cut flowers all year round, you’ll find scented flowers and plants that celebrate the season.  Why not choose flowers that hold a special memory, or use the Victorian Language of Flowers, to imbue a special, personal message in your tribute.  Here’s my guide to the best UK cut flower growers and florists.

A beautiful jug of scented daffodils from Fentongollan.

Naming a rose after your loved one

Philip Harkness presents rose breeder Colin Dickson, of Dickson Roses, with the Rose of the Year trophy for Rosa ‘Lovestruck’, which was the winner of The Rose of the Year 2018 Competition.

Award winning rose breeder Colin Dickson, of Dickson Roses in Newtownards, Northern Ireland, is the sixth generation of his family to work as a rose breeder, making the Dickson family the world’s oldest rose breeding family.  Colin Dickson is a celebrated rose breeder, he is the breeder of the winner of the Rose of the Year 2018 Competition, Rosa ‘Lovestruck’.  Dickson Roses offer a number of different opportunities to name roses, all of which have been bred by Dickson Roses.  For all the details, please click here.

Rosa ‘Lovestruck’.

More rose ideas

Choosing a rose is such a personal choice, as we each prefer different colours or fragrances.  If you’re looking for a rose that has a fitting name to celebrate your loved one, then you may wish to look for a rose that shares a similar name.  You may also be interested in Rosa ‘Scent From Heaven’, an award winning, fragrant, climbing rose.

Rosa ‘Scent from Heaven’ has double orange flowers, which open to real the roses’ stamens. Bees and other pollinating insects are able to access the pollen and nectar from this rose, meaning Rosa ‘Scent from Heaven’ is a great choice if you’re looking to plant roses that are good for pollinating insects.

Another lovely, fragrant climbing rose is Rosa ‘The Pilgrim’.

Rosa ‘The Pilgrim’ is a beautifully fragrant climbing rose, ideal for arches, obelisks, for framing windows or doorways.

A delightful, small and very fragrant rose, which is a great choice for containers is Rosa ‘Lady Emma Hamilton’.

Rosa ‘Lady Emma Hamilton’.
The judges presented David Austin Roses’ stand with a Gold Medal, and the prestigious title of Best Rose Exhibit, inside The Festival of Roses Marquee, at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2017.

If you’re interested to find out about the Rose of the Year Competition 2018, and wish to discover more about the winning rose, and other, older, favourite scented roses, here’s a link.

Peter Beales Roses exhibit inside The Festival of Roses Marquee, was chosen by the RHS judges as the Best Rose Exhibit, at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.

If you’re interested to read about the Rose of the Year Competition 2017 and wish to view the winning rose and other roses at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, here’s a link.

If you’re interested in learning about the new rose introductions from David Austin Roses for 2017, here’s a link.

For more articles about roses, please click here.

Growing plants in memory of a loved one

Why not grow your loved one’s favourite flowers in their memory?  Many flowers and scents are so evocative, they can bring back happy memories in an instant!  Whether it’s the aroma of tomatoes, the scent of sweet peas, the roses’s beautiful perfume, or the honey scent produced by snowdrops, growing plants that deliver such an affectionate connection for you can be a wonderful way to remind yourself of precious, happy memories and bring comfort.

If you’re thinking of growing sweet peas, you maybe interested to read my tips for sweet pea growing.  Or you may prefer to grow forget-me-nots, lavender, Heliotrope, or sunflowers, which are also known by their botanical name of Helianthus annuus, in memory of your loved on, if so here are some tips and ideas for you.

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Queen of Hearts’ pictured during my 2017 Sweet Pea Trial.

Compost

I am an advocate of using peat free compost.  I run Compost Trials, to actively find the best composts to recommend to my readers each year.  Whether you’re planting a memorial container, creating a new border dedicated to your loved one, or growing a prize winning pumpkin, you may be interested to read the results of my Compost Trials.

To read the results of my 2017 Compost Trial Report: Growing Carrots, please click here.

To read the results of my 2017 Compost Trial Report: Growing Broad Beans, please click here.

To read the results of my 2017 Compost Trial Report: Growing Calendula, please click here.

To read the results of my 2016 Compost Trial Report: Growing French Beans , please click here.

I trialled these Peat Free Composts during my 2017 Peat Free Compost Trial, Growing Calendula.

Recycling

I love recycling things, what could be lovelier than a patchwork quilt made from remnants of a loved one’s clothing?  You could also use fabric, or a mix of fabrics from a loved one’s clothing to make a cuddly bear or a soft toy as a special keepsake.

Memorial Benches

The Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew have benches throughout their gardens. Sponsorship of a bench at Kew is a lovely way to commemorate a special occasion, mark the birth of a child, or celebrate the life of someone you love.

You may wish to buy or make a bench in memory of a loved one and place it in your own garden at home, or alternatively you may wish to place a memorial bench at your allotment site or another location.

If you’re interested in paying to install a memorial bench with dedicated plaque, in a garden that’s close to your heart, I hope these links will help you:

Commemorative Books

The Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, have a Celebrate Life Commemorative book, where for a donation, which helps to fund running of the gardens, you can create a special page, written in memory, or in celebration.  You can include photographs and you can share the page with your family and friends, who can also add their own memories.  Here’s a link to all the details.

The Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, have a Memory Garden, where visitors can purchase Memory Tablets dedicated to their loved ones.  The inscribed tablets are displayed on the stone walls, amongst the climbing plants, which surround the garden.  Here’s a link to all the details.

The Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, have a Hope Tree, which was named after John Hope, who was the Regius Keeper at the gardens from 1761 to 1786.  Gold, Silver, and Bronze leaves can be purchased and engraved with your personal message, after which your leaf will be added to the Hope Tree in the gardens.  If you’d like to find out more about the Hope Tree, here’s a link to all the details.

The Royal Botanic Garden, Kew, have a list of books that are available for sponsorship.  All the sponsored books are added to Kew’s library, where they will form part of one of the most important reference libraries in the world.  A book plate will be added with your dedication at the front of the book, and you’ll be invited to a tour, where you’ll see your book in the library.  Here’s a link to more information.

Much Loved offer a free tribute service, for all the details, please click here.

Alternative tributes

Bird boxes, bat boxes, bee boxes, ladybird boxes, butterfly boxes

Why not put up a bird box in memory of your loved one?  You may choose to put a bird box up in your garden, at your allotment, or you may wish to pay to have a bird box installed at a nature reserve, or in a memorial woodland, or meadow.

Green Acres have bird boxes, bat boxes, bees, ladybird, butterfly boxes, which can all be sponsored in someone’s memory.  For all the details, please click here.

The RSPB have a range of nest boxes, each designed for a particular bird species, here’s a link to the RSPB range of bird boxes.

Why not make your own bee or insect box?  You could create a bee or insect box as an activity that you could do together as a family.  You could make a box, or repurpose another box you already have, and fill it with different sizes of bamboo cane, rolled up paper or cardboard tubes.  If you don’t fancy making your own bee box, why not buy your own bee brick – here’s a link to my review of Green and Blue’s Bee Brick and Bee Block.  These bricks and blocks can be simply placed in your garden, or they can form part of a building or extension, used in the same way you would a usual brick, but these ones come complete with spaces for bees!

The Green & Blue Small Bee Block and the Green & Blue Bee Brick provide a home and nest site for solitary bees.

Donations

Choosing a charity to give donations to in memory of a loved one is a way of turning sadness and loss into a positive.  Financial donations and the benefits they achieve will outlive that of cut flowers.  This is a very personal choice, you may wish to give donations to a hospice or a charity who have helped you through tough times, or to request donations into medical research.  I thought that you would have thought of these ideas already, so here are some other options:

I am a huge fan of the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, and Wakehurst Place, in West Sussex, who work together, as part of the same team.  Kew’s work in understanding and protecting plant species across the world is quite simply amazing!  Kew work on all kinds of projects, from investigating the healing properties of different Aloe species to determine which species are the most beneficial, to searching for and breeding varieties of rice which will be better equipped at surviving climate change, to research into plant compounds and developing plant based medicines.

The Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst Place, in West Sussex.

At Wakehurst Place, the Millennium Seed Bank provides a global resource for conservation and the sustainable use of plants.  If you would like to make a donation to Kew in memory of a loved one, or just because you want to support the fantastic work that is undertaken by Kew, here’s a link with more information.  Kew work in areas across the world, here’s a link to donate to Kew Foundation America.

The Palm House at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

I am also a huge fan of the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, in Scotland.  Here’s a link to donate to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

I am also a great fan of the British conservation charity, Plant Life, who offer opportunities to contribute to protect the Cairngorms, and the intrinsically beautiful wildflowers and plants that inhabit this truly beautiful area: here is a link to all the details.

The RHS have a number of funds, including the Mobility Fund to purchase mobility scooters for visitors to use when they visit RHS Gardens.  The RHS also have set up the Wisley Plant Fund, the Rosemoor Jewel Fund, the Hyde Hall Fund, and the Harlow Carr Woodland Fund.  For information on the different methods that you can donate funds to the Royal Horticultural Society, please click here.

If you wish to channel your energy and sadness into a positive, why not set yourself a challenge that you can work towards and achieve to raise sponsorship, and much needed publicity for a charity close to your heart?  You could take part in a sponsored walk or run.  If you’re a beginner you could start by taking part in Couch to 5K, a running programme devised by the NHS to enable beginning runners of every ability to enjoy running and increase their fitness.  You can start Couch to 5K whenever you want; you can run by yourself or in a group.

If you’re an experienced runner, you may choose to take part in another event.  It might be fun, celebratory run such as The Colour Run, or a women only event designed to raise funds for Cancer Research – like Race for Life, or another organised event.

American and Canadian marathon runners may find may find Marathon Guide, a website listing the marathons organised across the United States of America and Canada to be useful.  Marathon Guide also have a list of worldwide marathons, here’s a link.

If you need professional advice and information about nutrition and exercise, James and Kim Chandler from Eat Well and Work Out offer packages on Nutritional Therapy and Personal Training.  Wherever you are in the world, Eat Well and Work Out, offer a free daily email, which is full of inspiration and valuable information about actions and decisions you can make to be the healthiest and best person you can.  It’s free to sign up, and you can unsubscribe at any time: here’s a link.

There are many other fundraising events to choose from, you don’t have to walk or run, you could bake or knit, or get your haircut, or your head shaved.  Here are some other ideas:

Or you could create your own event, why not have a sponsored sing, a sponsored silence, or create your own music festival!  You could ask your supporters to send their sponsorship money directly to your chosen charity, or you may wish to create an event with Just Giving, where you can also set up a donations in tribute page, without any associated event if you wish – the choice is yours.

Donations of time and energy

Or why not arrange for a group of mourners to come together in a positive way to share your emotions and memories, maybe share a lunch or an afternoon tea together, or take part in a joint litter pick, or a beach clean – collecting rubbish from a beach and recycling it.

What could be a more wonderful memorial than an avenue of trees?

Legacies

After we die we can still achieve a power of good with any money we leave behind.  What could be better than leaving a legacy to the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, to support their incredible work in plant science and conservation?  This is a way in which you can bestow a lasting gift to the world.  There are many other gardens that can benefit from legacies, so if you have a favourite garden it’s worth making some enquiries.

If you’re going through a difficult time hang in there, I hope that things will soon become easier for you.

Other articles that may interest you………..

To read about how I am trying to reduce my use of plastic and to live more sustainably, please click here.

For tips on sustainable gardening, please click here.

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