Cemetries

Evidently, planting out a grave is not the same thing as planting out a garden. In a garden we give the plants the room they need to grow, but on a grave they must be planted much closer together to achieve the effect of a well-grown garden.

Plants give comfort, and grave gardens are like a personal message, a warm blanket to cover the deceased. Most likely, relatives will pay frequent visits to the grave, particularly in the period immediately after the funeral. The planting should be selected accordingly. Choosing the right plants for these conditions and careful maintenance of a plot in the early stages will ensure that the plants will look after themselves later, when the frequency of visits has dropped off. A grave in full sun or heavy shade will require appropriate planting. Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis) can grow even under tall trees, as can Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) and Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum x hybridum). These are all bulbs, a category that is frequently overlooked. Choose so-called naturalising bulbs, the type that can remain in the ground and emerge again each year. Among the tulips Tulipa tarda, Tulipaturkestanica and Tulipasylvestris are particularly suitable. These naturalising types, disappearing every year after flowering but returning again in spring, do need a sunny location.

Perhaps the most beautiful bulb for a grave is the snowdrop. Choose the easiest type, Galanthus nivalis, and combine it with ivy (Hedera), kept short, periwinkle (Vinca minor) or lilyturf (Ophiopogon planiscapus "Niger"). In Britain, you will often see graveyards white with snowdrops in February and blue with bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) in May.