When you die, you CAN take your garden with you

While in the German city of Augsberg, we passed by this graveyard (no, we weren’t whistling). At first it looked like there were flowers and plants around the graves – but it turned out to be full-scale landscaping, with foundation plants, perennials and annuals! Every plot in the cemetery had these great little landscaped “plots.” Each one was different.
I can only assume that surviving family members keep up with the plantings – because they have clipped hedges, thriving annuals, clean beds, most were weeded. I don’t want to think about what fertalizes them.

Not sure if the departed got a chance to design their mini-garden, if their wishes are carried out by family members, don’t know if the grounds-people at the cemetery help with the maintaining. Gardening ghosts?
I did a post a couple years ago about Claude Monet’s garden cemetery plot, just down the street from his Giverny home & gardens in France, you can see that here: Monets Gravesite.
I think this is a great way to go! I have to get busy designing my plot now! Though I don’t have a plot yet. My mom offered to buy me one after my father died — in the same cemetery. But that’s three-and-a-half hours from where I’ve been living for nearly thirty years — and where I have my family. So I’m undecided. I could stay in my neighborhood — Forest Lawn Cemetery is just up the street. And there I’d be in good company — Millard Filmore is buried there, and so is Superfreak Rick James. But I don’t know what I want. I only know death is certain, cremation is in order, and some nice plantings would be cool. If I can’t be buried in my garden, this would be the next best thing.

What do you want planted on your grave?

A little unkempt, and creepy, in an Addams family kinda’ way. Altogether ookey.
Karl liked his pansies.
Four foundation evergreens. Hope they don’t grow much bigger.
Here you can only read the plaque. Ivy is an adventurous decision.
Great use of groundcover, Franz & Maria have a tidy plot.
Rows and rows of small-scale gardening.

Sculpture of a tree is a nice touch, great groundcover.
Green & white theme plot, with room for new-comers.
A family into symmetry.
It’s like going on a miniature garden tour.
Gertrud was a minimalist.
Simple, but nice.
I think this was my favorite.
Detail of the arrangement above.
No, this was my favorite. I think.
Altogether it was probably the nicest cemetery I’ve ever visited.

I have a long-time garden blog, a popular garden on America's largest garden tour, and have co-written a book on garden design titled, "Buffalo-Style Gardens: Create a Quirky, One-of-a-Kind Private Garden with Eye-Catching Designs" When I'm not doing all that, I am an advertising designer always out looking to design things to promote your business. Look me up at #jcharlier.

0 comments on “When you die, you CAN take your garden with you

  1. But see, I want a 100 acre plot. My gravesite must be vast, like Aldo Leopold. Cool, though!


  2. Wow you win the “most unusual post of the week” award! I've never seen anything quite like this!


  3. Thanks for posting this. Awesome!


  4. Love the Cemetary gardens! Were the little lantern-like things on the graves lighting? I'm curious about those. Typically, I've learned that you want to plant natives in Cemetarys as they usually aren't irrigated.I especially loved how there were stone paths encircling the garden graves. Very nice!


  5. That is awesome!I'd have a hard time narrowing down the choices.


  6. Benjamin,A 100-acre grave plot is to much for one person. It seems a tad wasteful. What say you open it up to be plots for writers that die before getting published? Can you imagine the well-written grave markers?danger garden,Wow, I won something!Ann,There were just too many to photograph. I was supposed to be out getting fruit & bread for breakfast, so I was pressed for time.Pam Kersting,Every grave had a lantern, so I suppose it was significant, not just low-level garden path lighting. Can't say for the plants, but I assume person “planted” here was probably a native. Sherlock Street,I think I'll want only perennials that bloom in late July. That way my grave will always look good for Garden Walk Buffalo.


  7. Jim – I'm German – born there – and when we go home to visit family, I go tend my grandparents' grave. Last time I had to buy a trowel and a small plant at the garden shop and go the the cemetary to prune and plant. It was so cathartic, so be one with the earth and seemed like the most natural thing in the world. No family live in that town any more, so the cemetary will maintain it for a fee a few times a year. But I think it's a beautiful tradition. Love your photos. I posted some from an Austria trip 2 years ago.


  8. Anonymous

    This was the most interesting post and a wonderful idea by the cemetery designers. It makes it so interactive with the family and that brings along all the good associated with tending the plots. I did like the Addam's Family plot. Creepy yes, but I thought it was their way of literally letting the memory livelong and grow stronger. No stopping the ivy.Love your pictorial tour through Germany.


  9. I passed a cemetary in Fairfield CA on Sunday that had flowers on just about every grave, but nothing like this. My favorite is the green and white themed garden. Very tasteful.


  10. We lived in Germany for six years. I agree; their cemeteries are beautiful because they're allowed to plant memory gardens. I like that.Nice images!


  11. I love this and we do actually have a plot in a beautiful old cemetery here in the center of town. The city maintains it and it is filled with legendary Wisconsinites like Fighting Bob La Follette and Frederick Jackson Turner. There is actually a two volume book about the famous graves. But nothing is as beautiful as these German ones. I'm ready to start designing!


  12. Great post. It's a shame most U.S. cemeteries would never allow this. I love to walk through old cemeteries, especially in spring when most of the old roses planted here and there are blooming.


  13. Diana,It is a nice tradition. I wonder what the gardening fees are like from the cemetery. A friend told me that plots are kept for 25 years, and if no one is up keeping or paying the fee, the plot is used for another family. Not sure if that's the case, but I DON'T want to know what happens with the previous resident.GEGT,It's genius for the cemetery. They get family members out and taking care of the lot, improving the entire cemetery. That is, until family members stop coming.Susan,The cemetery at the end of my street is actually a beautiful place. People picnic there (as they did in way back times when the cemetery was founded), my wife runs in there, it's an arboretum, and a book has been published of some of the significant statuary & monuments. There's even a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed mausoleum.Seedplanter,I had never heard the term “Memory Gardens,” that sounds nice.Ms. Wis,You've already pre-planned? How smart. Yours will be the first Asian-inspired cemetery plot with a water feature. Mark will build a nice pink pagoda for the plot. Assuming you go first, of course.Redneck Rosarian,Thank you. I didn't see too many roses there. Mostly evergreens & perennials. They probably need less tending.


  14. that's the most Awesome garden post i've ever read. thanks. for me, the trick would be about the long haul. it's “forever,” right? so i wouldn't want to plant anything that would be all ridiculous and overgrown in 150 years, when everyone i've ever known is long dead and not tending my plot. you can't count on government to do it forever either. this is a great challenge for landscapers, and akin to the series i've run across occasionally, “what will our gardens look like when we're gone?” i also love the 'creepy' nature of the ivy choice, it's a powerful statement about the intransitivity of life. i like the three dimensional look of the graves with shrubs, and i think a super-slow growning evergreen is a great choice, alone with some slow creeper and perhaps a long blooming perennial, like a lily or phlox. i do like Gertrude's minimalism. that will still be looking neat and clean 500 years from now.


  15. Chicago Dyke,Thank you that's quite the compliment! If thinking in terms of 100 or more years, I'd like to have a ginkgo tree planted on me. They have a long lifetime, are beautiful, grow easily in this climate. Did yo know that they also drop all their leaves at the same time? Well, within a few hours anyway. I also like the fact that eventually I'd become one with the roots and live on in the tree.


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