At Cemeteries, Live Plants can Outlast Stone Memorials

Jun 5, 2013

Living flowers at Kentucky gravesites often memorialize a loved one for generations.  The practice of family heritage gardening is discussed this weekend at a workshop in Frankfort.  Kentucky Historical Society Senior Librarian Cheri Daniels, who will lead a session, says the living plants found at some gravesides are real reminders of a family’s history.

Credit Folkways Notebook

“You’re experiencing that same tactile that your ancestors did when smell that blossom every year or you watch it come up.  It’s the exact same experience that they had, like listening to a piece of music that they liked or reading their letter again, only it’s fragrance and it’s visual and it’s color and it’s still living.  It’s a living tradition right there in your garden,” said Daniels.

Daniels such plants can outlast a stone grave marker.   She recalls making such a discovery for a mid 19th century relative who died at 16 of typhoid fever.

“When I saw the peonies coming up on my third great grandparents grave in this small little rural cemetery, I looked over and about so many yards away there was a same stand of peonies coming up, but there was no stone there.  So, actually, it was out in the country, so I got a tire iron and started banging the sod near the peonies and actually we dug up here stone, we found it,” added Daniels.

The Historical Society librarian says policies about family gardens vary from one cemetery to another.

“Some of them don’t care if you plant live things there and frankly sometimes planting the live things there will carry on longer than any kind of vase on the side of the gravestone, that type of thing.  It just depends,” explained Daniels.

Family heritage gardening is explored Saturday during an event hosted by the Kentucky Historical and Genealogical Societies. An afternoon session focuses on the Appalachian tradition of passing down heirloom seeds from generation to generation.  The Saturday program will be held at the Thomas D-Clark Center in Frankfort.  Reservations are required.