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Day of Remembrance: Is This a Good Time to Plant a Memorial Garden?

With the anniversary of the COVID shutdown this month, some communities are considering planting a tree, shrub, or other planting to memorialize beloved neighbors lost to the pandemic. We are hearing about plans from many Greenest Block in Brooklyn participants as well as other caring neighbors around the city. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Right plant, right place, right time. All plantings, but especially memorial gardens, are best designed for durability, and March is about a month too soon to plant. Even if the ground is not frozen, or if you are considering planting in a container, anything newly planted outside in Brooklyn before the end of April is vulnerable to frost.
  • Plant choices will be limited. Garden centers will not yet have supply in March and mail-order suppliers will not ship that early, so sourcing plant material will be a challenge. However, supermarkets may have pansies or hot-house spring bulbs for sale. If you can go the wholesale route for these Easter-time favorites, be sure to order in as soon as possible.
  • Set a placeholder in March; plant later. Consider placing a temporary stone, sign, or supermarket bulb collection in the spot where you would like to plant something more permanent. Then, replace it in late April.
  • an engraved sign memorializing a small garden
    A tree bed garden can be memorialized with a label, like this lovely tribute to beloved neighbors on 10th Street, installed in 2019. Photo by Nina Browne.
  • When you plant, be willing to start small. Often, our impulse is to plant large specimens with a “wow factor,” yet remember that smaller plants and shrubs may be less vulnerable to transplant shock and will be more durable in the long run.
  • Consider including native plants. Using some plants native to our area is a wonderful way to celebrate Brooklyn’s neighbors and support local pollinators. Visit BBG’s gardening articles for more information.
  • Considering roses? Be cautious. Will Wallace, curator of BBG's Rose Garden suggests that “April is the month for planting bare root roses.” And potted roses in full leaf are typically not available until May or June. “Any cold snap will damage a newly-planted, leafed-out rose that came from a warm greenhouse or the sunny South.”

Nina Browne is the community program manager at Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

Mimi Jorling is a librarian at Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

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