Show us your garden: Places of remembrance

Posted Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Because gardens, by their very nature, are places of life and death as well as beauty, creating a memory garden to honor a loved one who has died can channel grief, provide healing and pay tribute.

Two gardens in Arlington were born of loss but flourish with love and new life.

St. Francis Garden

Six stalwart red oaks on the south side of St. Maria Goretti Catholic Church created a sense of meditation and quiet that inspired Father Jim Gigliotti to contemplate a more complete use of the space. Fourteen years ago, he brought in Designs in Nature of Fort Worth to develop a garden around the trees — “a place of prayer, quiet and inviting green.”

Father Jim secured permission to add a cremains garden, where ashes of the deceased go directly into the earth. Some 200 souls rest here, their names inscribed on a brass plaque inside the church.

The shady sanctuary has become a lush oasis, cooled by breezes. The thinned oaks allow sunlight in and have been under-planted with redbuds, Japanese maples, windmill palms and a dogwood. Planted with orderly precision, cast-iron plants, hollies, nandinas, pittosporum and abundant ferns provide greenery and texture year-round.

Father Jim wanted some color in the garden, offered seasonally by caladiums, salvias and sages, rose of Sharon, oxalis, oakleaf hydrangea, and bridal wreath spirea. Thought was given to aromatic plants as well, and visitors enjoy infusions of gardenia, society garlic and rosemary.

Stone walkways meander through the well-tended beds, while concrete benches tucked into the foliage invite visitors to linger. Statues of St. Francis dot the landscape; soft peals from chimes carry on the breeze.

“People come here to eat lunch. I’ve seen university students studying. For Christmas, Easter, anniversaries, birthdays, families gather,” Father Jim says of the peaceful surroundings.

Ultimately, a garden reminds people of St. Francis’ message, adds Father Jim. “Life is passing. Remember we are going to die and pay attention to how we’re living.”

Mommy’s Butterfly Garden

When Zoey and Violet Jackson were 5 years old and 18 months old, respectively, their grandmother Cheryl Jackson-Aaron suggested they needed a quiet place to think about their mother, Tamara Jackson, whose new grave was not nearby. Friends and family came together and in one day created “Mommy’s Butterfly Garden.”

“Since we cannot visit her gravesite often, I thought a garden with her favorite flowers and herbs would be a great place for [the girls] to sit and talk to their momma, telling her about their day or just quietly remembering her,” Jackson-Aaron said.

Friends tilled the dirt, added a paver border to frame the garden and installed plants they brought from their own gardens or that had significance to Tamara. Included were Tamara’s favorite, lantana, and edible plants like onions, chives, bell peppers and strawberries. The girls are especially fond of crushing the lemon thyme to release the scent their mother enjoyed.

One friend supplied an oleander “to remind us of a beach trip we took with Tamara. They have them all over Padre [Island],” Jackson-Aaron said. Another friend donated a child-size bench.

The compact garden hosts a variety of decorative butterflies and dragonflies, also favorites of their mother’s. A passion vine, lavender, pentas and zinnias invite real butterflies to enjoy the garden.

Two ceramic stones, bearing Zoey’s and Violet’s handprints, keep company with a large rock that sports a peace sign carved by their mother when she was a girl.

“We like it here,” concludes Zoey, now 8.

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