So many memories can be stirred by plants – the lavender, which grew in your grandmother’s garden, that special rose your husband gave you, the thyme your mother would pick for Sunday roast chicken.
Gardeners can also create happy memories of holidays and get-togethers by using plants and accessories to recreate a time and place, says top horticultural influencer and broadcaster Ellen Mary.
Here she tells us why she began to create memory pots using plants, how to try it yourself and why it is a mindful activity.
How did your idea for memory containers come about?
“I was at a recent houseplant festival and had a lot of houseplants to create a tabletop container.
“It just occurred to me that as I was planting it up it was bringing back memories for me. I asked the audience what the plants reminded them of.
“We ended up creating a crate of houseplants which reminded us of having cocktails in Las Vegas by the pool. We had a beautiful, bright orange orchid called ‘Las Vegas’, along with asparagus ferns, and we created this big botanical display of houseplants, including fittonia and little pilea, and when planted all together people were saying it reminded them of a cocktail.
“Then I started creating containers in my back garden for outside plants, picking plants which bring back lovely memories.”
How can I try this myself?
Ellen Mary suggests two approaches to try.
Seek out happy memory plants: “Find plants which remind you of a happy memory and plant a container.”
Or use mindfulness to create that positive recollection: “Just collect some plants and mindfully plant them up while considering what each plant might remind you of.”
And she offers these three memory pot suggestions:
1. Mini kitchen garden
“I often talk about how the humble marigold reminds me of my uncle who got me into gardening when I was young. He had an organic kitchen garden, where the front half was laid to lawn and he used to plant masses of marigolds.
“I used to think, why does he only plant these orange flowers? I didn’t realise then that it was companion planting. I basically recreate that garden in a pot, with marigolds all around the outside, as he would, and then plant lettuces on the inside, creating a mini kitchen garden.
“I even have one that has one runner bean plant growing up a cane! Every time I go into that garden it reminds me of my uncle.”
2. Wedding memories
“A lot of people have happy memories from their wedding bouquet. The bouquet might have contained peonies or roses or other bouquet flowers. You can create your wedding bouquet in a pot, because the majority of flowers that are in your wedding bouquet are available at that one time of year.
“You should be able to grow a peony or a container rose and add some foliage plants into it to make it look beautiful. Then every time you walk by it you will think of your wedding bouquet.
“The container doesn’t have to last a really long time. You could do it for an event or an anniversary and then plant the contents out in your border when you’ve really enjoyed them. It could just bring back a happy memory for a season.”
3. Holiday fun
“We can grow plants here which we have seen on holiday. For instance, thinking of the Mediterranean, you could grow bougainvillea here in a big container, along with lavender and sage – a holiday pot.
“Why not add the accessory of a cocktail stick or an empty bottle of tequila to remind you of that big night out on your holiday?”
Are memory pots a kind of mindful gardening?
“For me, a lot of this isn’t just about planting up a display, it’s about remembering those happy memories as you are planting up and having that mindful time to touch and smell the plants and reminisce. When I smell marigolds, I literally feel like I’m in my uncle’s garden as a child.
“When I work with people on mindful gardening, you can almost guarantee that their memories go back to when they were a child. My mum always says that my dad took her daffodils when I was born, so when she sees daffodils, she remembers the day I was born.”
Just make sure you place your memories pot close enough to your home to enjoy it, in a place where you’ll not only be able to admire the flowers but also be able to touch the leaves and smell those evocative scents, she advises.
What flowers would you add to a memory pot? Why not share your favourite garden memory in the comments section below?
– With PA
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