Memorial Day is a time of honor

Through time, the holiday became a time when people went to the cemeteries to honor all those that have passed on through simple plantings, cut flowers and even personal notes.

Geraniums are a common choice of flowers used in planting at gravesites due to their strong nature and continuous bloom period. John Zvirovski / The Sun

Memorial Day comes along every year on the last Monday during the month of May. It used to be named Decoration Day when it was first observed after the Civil War in 1868. Its name change did not come until a few years later in 1882. The holiday was created to remember all those who had passed away who served our country in the military services. During the holiday, people were remembered by a simple bouquet of flowers and a small American flag which continues today.

Through time, the holiday became a time when people went to the cemeteries to honor all those who have passed on through simple plantings, cut flowers and even personal notes. If you drive by a cemetery during this holiday it is like a huge colorful garden of real and artificial flowers. Quite stunning, to be perfectly honest.

People always have different ways of remembering their loved ones. Many people go out to the cemeteries to plant flowers so the graves look nice for the summer. Of course, this is very dependent upon the cemetery in which you are visiting. Many have rules about plantings and how far from the grave you can do that. Some places say no to any plantings and only allow push-in vases during the holiday itself. Others allow you to plant annuals within the first 12 inches of the front of the headstone. Others will allow you to plant a perennial or two but they are all independently regulated.

In cases where you can only place flowers out for the holiday, your choices are fresh-cut flowers or artificial bouquets. Both are colorful but some find that the fresh flowers feel like they have a little more personal sentiment to them. Local florists do a wonderful job with these types of arrangements but some people choose to make their own creations.


In cases where cemeteries allow you to plant annuals, they typically allow planting along the front of the headstone about 1 foot out. There are a variety of choices one can choose from for plant materials but most like something hardy so they do not have to tend to them constantly. The most common plant used are geraniums, as they can usually take care of themselves after the first couple of weeks in the ground. They have some intense colors that are seen from quite a distance and bloom all summer. A few other favorites are petunias and marigolds with their nonstop blooming and their ability to handle dry conditions after they are established. Great choices and a vast array to select from in the nursery market.

In places where they actually allow permanent plantings, perennials and even sometimes small shrubs can be planted within a certain distance of the grave. Oftentimes I find peonies to be a huge hit as they are usually blooming during the Memorial Day holiday. Bleeding hearts are another favorite for these remembrances. If looking for something more permanent and you are allowed to plant shrubs, potentilla and dwarf spireas are nice options as they are short and round and bloom all season. The areas that allow these kinds of plantings are far and few between due to maintenance issues with mowing but some still allow these sorts of plantings.

Check with the cemetery you are visiting first and find out what its rules are and you will better know what your choices are to remember a loved one. This is a special time of year where we go through our memory bank and pull out all the things that were good about those who have passed on and reflect on our own lives.

This Memorial Day weekend, let’s make it a celebration of all those great memories and get together with those who we love that surround us today. After all, it is all about our connection with family and those that are closer to us that make the largest impacts in life. After this past year, we all deserve a little more closeness to those who make the difference.

To read more columns written by John Zvirovski, click here.

I hope you all have a very safe and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend. From this point forward, we will be spending a great deal of time in the gardens enjoying the sanctuaries we have created!

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