A Memory Garden - Good for Body & Brain

senior-gardeningLiving longer and better requires a lot of attention to exercise and brain fitness.

We all need exercise, fresh air and sunshine to maintain good health. Our brains also need to be exercised and experts on aging agree that reminiscing can elevate our moods and flex our brains in many positive ways. One way to accomplish both exercise and reminiscing is to plant a memory garden.

I love to remember the tiger lilies that grew in my granny's Oklahoma red dirt. They seemed magical with their bright orange color speckled with black dots. Every time I see one, I'm reminded of the Oklahoma summers I spent playing with cousins and eating my granny's wonderful cooking. The ones I grow aren't as prolific as my granny's but they transport me to my childhood and remind me of my sweet granny.

Our ability to smell is the strongest facilitator of remembering so planting flowers and even vegetables that are aromatic can bring us so much pleasure and help us recall memories of other gardens and people we shared experiences with. It's especially gratifying to grow plants given to us by loved ones. Roses are so very fragrant and beautiful. They are also pretty easy to share if you take cuttings in January, dip your cuttings in rooting hormone and then plant them in potting soil.

Succulants are a snap to share - just snap a peice off and stick it in some loose soil. Who doesn't have a planting of Hens and Chicks that someone gave them? My garden is filled with plants my mother has given me, most of which she dug up from her own yard. My children know my passion for flowers and I just love looking at their gifts throughout my yard.

My Granddaddy loved crepe myrtles. They grew all over the 160 acres where my father grew up. Their ruffled blooms gave him so much pleasure as mine do for me. They also remind me of my grandparent's old farmhouse and how excited I got as a child when we were close enough to see the windmill turning in the field. I can just see my granddaddy go past the woods to find Goldie, my father's buckskin mare. Crepe myrtles are planted at the head of my granddaddy's grave. I took my own children back to the homestead while they were still young. The farmhouse is gone, the windmill is broke down and laying in the field, but crepe myrtles still grow next to where the front porch once stood.

My daughter hated gardening when she was a child. She would promise to clean the whole house if I just wouldn't ask her to lend a hand in the dirt. Regardless of her complaining, I made her learn all the names of the flowers we grew. She was a quick learner and managed to only spend a short time in the flower beds. But one year, I found a way to lure her into the garden. I planted a sunflower house with six different varieties of sunflowers planted in a rectangle. Morning glories vined up the giant stalks and I left an opening for the door. Every day she would go out to see the house's progress. When it grew big enough, she would go inside and sit a while dreaming. She's now a mother herself and now actually enjoys planting flowers and vegetables with her two sons. I try to grow sunflowers every year, mostly to remember the summer Tara first began to enjoy the garden.

Gardening can be so beneficial for getting you in shape, exposing you to fresh air and it can be a social connection also. Whether you love to garden or just love someone who does, it gives you the oppotunity to connect. Just ask that gardening friend or family member to show you their garden. Take them a small plant and you'll be remembered for years to come. Chances are that you'll come home with a memory plant of your own.

If you or a family member is going through a crisis, I want you to know that you're not alone. The support and education you need is available at your finger tips from expert care professionals at Lutheran Homes of Michigan. You may talk to a real person who does have the answers, without any obligation by calling 989-652-3470 or by emailing  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.