Remembering Our Loved Ones: Cemetery Plantings

Early June I visited my in-law’s grave site in Honesdale, PA. My Aunt Flo, cousin Gale Gammerdinger, and I were all frustrated to find that the marigolds that Flo had planted there Memorial Day had been eaten down to 1/2“ stubs. Was it deer or rabbits, or both–in either case they didn’t leave a single leaf.  What to do? I put on my landscape designer hat and said, “Why don’t we plant some culinary herbs instead of annual flowers?” And they thought it was a great idea. We went to the nursery and I chose two oreganos, one a golden one and two variegated ones; a purple variegated sage; and an English thyme. Not only would they look beautiful, but there’s a good chance they might make it through the winter and not need to be replaced every year. Flo and a friend were able to plant them the next week and made sure they were kept watered.

photo by David Mill

For years I have planted culinary herbs in my clients gardens when they have critter problems. Deer, rabbits, chipmunks, and woodchucks seem to avoid these intensely fragrant plants. And while it’s a bit unusual to plant them in cemeteries, I knew that my mother-in-law wouldn’t mind this choice in front of their gravestone as she had helped me type my first manuscript for The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping. She was a fan of edible landscaping!

A month later I contacted Gale and asked for an update. She sent along this photo with a note that the oreganos on each end look slightly cut back. So now the question is: are the cuts nibbles by critters or sloppy weed whacker damage? We don’t know yet. We do know that the sage, golden oregano and thyme seem to be untouched. Tune in, we’re going to keep an eye on this planting and follow it until we know for sure. Culinary might be the answer for many families who lose their cemetery flower plantings on a regular basis. Who knows, harvesting a few herbs may give us another excuse to visit with loved ones.

August 3, 2011 - 5:20 pm

Geri Miller - Love this post! Thank you for the reminder that the edible plants we love can help us send love to those no longer with us!

August 21, 2011 - 8:43 pm

sheri - Something to keep in mind when growing anything edible is toxins in the soil. Cemeteries are FULL of chemicals and are generally some of the most polluted soil around. Please use judgement when deciding whether to eat anything grown in or near a cemetery. It would be wise to have the soil tested for contaminants in any edible garden, but cemeteries even more so.

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