12 Tips For Planting A Memorial Tree

Author: Alasdair Nicol   Date Posted:20 November 2018 

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So many people we talk to are instantly taken with the beauty and sense of the idea of creating a living memorial. But when the time comes to look at the details of where and how to bury your biodegradable urn, there can be a lot of uncertainty. We've put together the following ideas in order to assist making this time as smooth and easy as possible.

Where can I plant a living memorial?

Anywhere you have permission to. If it’s private property, you will need to have the permission of the landowner. And if it is public property, you will need to seek the permission of the council or government body that owns the land – not always an easy thing.

What locations are best for a memorial tree?

One of the benefits of memorial trees is having a living reminder of your loved one for years to come. Ideally it will be somewhere that you visit easily such as your garden, or somewhere that is close enough for you to water and tend the plant. Unlike some of our cemeteries, memorial forests and gardens are places that people want to visit, sit in and enjoy, so quiet places are good. Depending on the size of the tree you choose, you may consider converting some unused space into a beautiful reflective garden to be enjoyed into the future.

Are there any natural burial sites that allow trees to be planted?

As with traditional cemeteries, what you are allowed to do in natural burial sites is determined by the council or organisation who manages the site. Different sites have different definitions of a natural burial so you will need to check if planting a memorial tree is possible. Distance may also be a factor to consider here – with only 20 or so natural burial sites across Australia, your nearest one may be several hours drive.

What if I live in an apartment?

Many people in smaller houses and apartments choose to plant their living memorials in pots. Indoor plants will work just fine as well, with the urn biodegrading in time. This may limit the types of plants you can choose, but it's a 'go to' option for people living in the inner city. If you’re renting, planting in a pot is also a good option as you will be able to take the plant with you if you move.

What if I move house?

Whether it’s now or in 20 years, most of us will downsize, make a sea change, or just want a change of scene. And no one wants to lose the lovely memorial that you’ve grown. A great idea when choosing a plant is to choose one that generates seeds and cutting that are easy to collect and grow from. When the time comes to move, you can plant the seeds or cutting at your new home, and continue the direct connection to your loved one.

Our family is spread across the country, who gets to plant the tree?

People with larger families often use multiple urns to plant living memorials in various locations. This gives everyone a chance to connect with the memorial and also, more trees help the environment.

I’ve got a larger property in the country, what can I do there?

We’ve heard some lovely and creative stories  from people who have more space. One family splitt the ashes across multiple urnscreating a memorial rose garden with their Grandmother’s favourite roses. Similarly, another family planted a row of Jacarandas up the driveway that they drive along every day. Lastly, there are those keen cooks who have been memorialised with their family planting fruit trees over the ashes – a lovely way to celebrate a loved one not only in the garden, but in the kitchen with one of their favourite recipes.

What happens if my memorial tree dies?

Living memorials offer a chance to reflect on the cycles of life and nature. As with all living things, the death of a memorial tree is a natural occurrence that you may experience at some time. That said, we do have a few tips to give your memorial the best chance of survival:

  1. Chat with your local garden centre about what species is going to be well suited to the exact location you want to plant it, and to ensure it is hardened for local conditions. 
  2. Always buy a sapling or slightly more mature plant, as opposed to a seed, to give it a greater chance of survival in the first few months.
  3. Think about how much of a green thumb you are, and how much time you will have to look after it – some species are going to be easier to care for than others. 
  4. Choose a plant whose seeds or cuttings are easy to collect so you can replant it if necessary.

Didn’t you mention something about planting on public land, you haven’t come back to that yet?

Yes indeed! We’re regularly asked about planting in local parks, nature corridors and national parks. The same principal applies to planting on private land, with the permission of the landowner being required. We’re at the early stages of this very new (very old) way of approaching the end of life, and government will take some time to put policies in place that allow these kinds of memorials. The good news is we are having some positive conversations with councils that may, in time, allow memorial trees to be planted in local parks and nature corridors. This not only provides a solution to people living in the inner-city who don’t want to inter ashes in a traditional cemetery, it also adds to the green canopy of the city, and let’s the whole community enjoy the memorial tree. It’s early days for this, but we’re optimistic. Stay tuned!

As you can see, there are some really clever solutions people have found to the questions you may be asking yourself. The beauty of living memorials is they give an opportunity to be truly personal in the way you remember a loved one. Hopefully with the help of all these tips, you can select the best possible species and the ideal location to plant it so you can enjoy watching it grow over the years ahead.