Growing a garden grave: giving new life to a forgotten grave

Anyone who follows my blog knows the huge significance I place on cemeteries. They are the keeper of stories and an important part of our history.

My guest blogger here is Daryn Sibley, a Brisbane man who has been researching his family history for several years. If you know Wynnum, you’ll know Sibley Road. Yes, he’s part of that family. Daryn, like me, is a keen cemetery wanderer. He donates his time to clean graves at the South Brisbane cemetery.

Guest blogger Daryn Sibley has been researching his ancestors for several years.

Daryn has since found family at rest at Brisbane’s Toowong Cemetery and this is what he’s doing to give that unmarked grave some attention. These are Daryn’s words:

As a result of the Global Pandemic that started in 2020, most of the world was thrown into ‘Lockdown’ as Borders closed across the world, and across Australia. As we had many restrictions about where we could go, and who we could visit – I decided to visit my deceased Ancestors across Brisbane. We were lucky in Queensland, that we had a lot of freedom so I was able to combine my love of walking and visiting cemeteries – but with a purpose, to visit as many of my great grandparents – and their parents, and in turn learn their stories.

I carried my trusty ‘Grave Cleaning Kit’ with me, wherever I went. A bucket, a spray bottle of water, white vinegar, a soft brush and my trusty rake. As I visited everyone, I cleaned and tidied as I went. In some small way, it felt like I was connecting with them – it was a way of saying ‘thank you’ for the sacrifices they made in order for me to now be living in such an amazing place.

I was disappointed when I discovered some were in unmarked graves.  One particular plot at Toowong Cemetery is the final resting place for six of my family – across three generations. 

Daryn’s ancestors lie in an unmarked grave in Towong Cemetery, Brisbane.

Nearby was another plot with a 4th Generation that I was excited to see – had a headstone and was the grave of my great great grandparents from Denmark.

As restrictions lifted late last year, I was able to take my father and his sister to ‘meet’ the family and inspect the real estate!

My aunt was sad when she saw the plot at Toowong. It looked so barren and neglected.  I decided then, that my 2021 project would be to make it a more colourful place to visit.

I thought about placing a headstone on the plot, but decided against it.  The family could certainly have afforded one at the time of all six burials – so I figured they had a reason for not having one.

I found a photo of my great grandmother’s funeral in 1951 and noted the abundance of flowers, this gave me an idea!

So many flowers: Grandma’s Funeral – 1 Feb 1951

I’ve added some soil and potting mixture and have started a garden. I have planted a nice flowering ground cover which has a mix of white and purple flowers. Currently I have only planted one plant, and revived only a small part of the grave. I will monitor for a few weeks and then complete our garden once I know that the plants will grow with limited care and attention. 

It begins! The 2021 start of Daryn Sibley’s trial garden at Toowong Cemetery. Tips are welcome!

Once I have it all established – it should be fairly self sufficient and I can go back to my monthly visits to keep an eye on everyone. I would really appreciate any advice from anyone else who has started a cemetery garden! TIPS WELCOME!

(You can email your tips to Lisa@thebottomdrawerbook.com.au or comment on this blog. I’ll then add them to the blog. Thank you. Lisa x)

Lisa Herbert is a cemetery wanderer, journalist and author of The Bottom Drawer Book: an after death action plan, an informative and amusing workbook and funeral planning guide for those who want to prepare for the inevitable. It is available in Australia for $24.95, including postage (Additional postage of AU$8 is payable for overseas orders). She enjoys sharing the stories of the dead because they reveal so much of our history and way of life.

3 thoughts on “Growing a garden grave: giving new life to a forgotten grave

  1. Great read. Good on Daryn. Lovely to hear about his project. Native daisies and violets would grow well if initially watered in for a few weeks 👍

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  2. Carpet Roses are fabulous. Spread out evenly and only need a basic trim every three month, this can be done with a whipper snipper. Self seeding plants like Alyssum, Lobelia or portulacca buy them as seedlings. Ofcourse with any garden good potting mix, good fertiliser and a water saver crystal to start with then three monthly and water initially and always when we have dry spells. Your ancestors will be smiling through the flowers.

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