Late spring frosts may still be on the ground most mornings but flower bulbs are pushing to the surface to unfurl in a show-stopping display of color.

Hope springs eternal. That is a message that Southern Maine Garden Club members want to convey to gardening enthusiasts, who may be emerging from winter dormancy as warmer temperatures arrive.

For club president Nancy Rogers, a garden is always alive with new possibilities and a place that affords fond memories through sight and scent.

Rogers’ journey down the garden path began 33 years ago with her late husband, Dean Rogers. Shortly after building a log cabin in an old farm pasture in Lebanon, they planted a vegetable garden. Then, Nancy began experimenting with flowers while Dean tended to landscaping projects.

“It soon became a joint effort,” said Nancy, of the gardening work. “He liked the heavy duty work, like building stone walls and cleaning up my messes. I’d pick the spot for a tree and he’d plant it. I’d prune and he’d haul away (the trimmings). We were always out there together.”

As the couple’s garden evolved, Nancy documented each new project by photographing the location and new planting. On a recent chilly winter night, she gave a slide presentation featuring those images. The talk was intended to offer garden club members hope and inspiration that a new growing season was on the way. The session also served as an opportunity for Nancy to reflect.

Dean passed away unexpectedly in 2006, as the pair planned for retirement. Gone was his quiet presence on the land and the couple’s dovetailed movements in the garden.

Nancy, who always found solace and joy in a garden, traded funeral bouquets for lasting blooms. She loaded her CD player with Patsy Cline music, cranked up the volume and started digging a near 30-foot memorial garden honoring her husband of 36 years.

Nancy selected the blooms by name rather than variety to reflect things that reminded her of Dean’s character and things he liked.

“I cared more about what (the garden) would say rather than what it would look like,” said Nancy.

The flower bed includes day lilies named Peanut Butter Frenzy (“because he loved peanut butter”) and Gracious Living (“because he was a gracious man”), as well as varieties named Ruffled Valentine, Golden Angel, Trustworthy, Broken Heart and Fairest Love.

Anchoring the garden is a clump of ornamental grass Dean planted and a memorial stone bearing his name. Too, some of Dean’s cremated remains were scattered about the property that also features plants and shrubs that pay tribute to the memories of loved ones who have died.

Southern Maine Garden Club Publicity Chair Donna Claveau said Nancy’s heartfelt slide presentation detailing the project was inspiring and the type of talk the club aspires to offer each month.

“It was an amazing story,” said Claveau of Rochester, N.H. “All of us were spellbound by it. I love the idea that she used Dean’s boots to plant flowers in at the center of his garden and that she purposely chose the names of flowers that reminded her of (him).”

Claveau, 62, said the notion of living on in someone’s garden after death is a lovely concept that she chose to capitalize on last year while preparing for two major surgeries.

At that time, she set her affairs in order, creating a will and stipulating that her ashes be divided among seven friends to be scattered at memorable places or planted among the perennials in their gardens.

“I have no children and no one to visit my grave (site) when I’m gone,” said Claveau. “The thought of being planted in someone’s garden (after I die) is my idea of a wonderful place to end up. There is serenity and beauty in a garden.”

Both Rogers and Claveau say that memory gardening needn’t be an expensive venture. Existing plants and items, like Dean’s boots, can be re-purposed and plants or cuttings swapped among gardeners. Too, memorial gardens can serve to commemorate milestones among the living, including for weddings, anniversaries, births and defining moments.

Gardening enthusiasts who wish to learn more about such projects are invited to attend a few SMGC meetings. Members participate in yearly events such as a June plant sale and summer beautification projects benefiting the towns of Sanford, Springvale and Lebanon.

Claveau, a former Boston resident, said the gatherings offer “city dwellers” like herself an opportunity to learn about gardening techniques from the 50 or so club members who range from novice to expert in gardening proficiency — all of them eager to share and learn.

“There is a lot to be gleaned from being a member of a garden club — from cultivating plants to friendships,” said Claveau.

 

Staff Writer Deborah Sayer can be contacted at 791-6308 or at: [email protected]