What’s a Cremation Garden? And How Do You Find One?

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Cremation has gained in popularity in the last several decades. In fact, CNN reported that more than half of Americans are now choosing cremation. You may struggle to know what to do with your loved one’s cremains. 

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Before you make those decisions, you must understand the scattering ashes laws in your area and state. (You could be charged with a misdemeanor if you scatter your loved one’s ashes in an inappropriate place like Disney World!) 

To avoid breaking the law while scattering ashes, you may consider placing your loved one’s remains in a cremation or scattering garden. Here are the pros and cons of using a public cremation garden or creating one of your own. 

What’s a Cremation or Scattering Garden?

There are two types of cremation or scattering gardens: public gardens that are usually located in cemeteries and private gardens that people create on their own property.

Scattering gardens within a cemetery

According to the State of Oregon, a scattering garden is a section of a cemetery set aside “for the spreading or broadcasting of cremated remains that are removed from their container and can be mixed with or placed on top of the soil or ground cover or buried in an underground receptacle on a commingled basis and that are nonrecoverable.” 

The Cremation Association of North America reports that most scattering gardens allow family members to purchase small plaques or memorial benches to honor the memory of the deceased. Such locations provide family members with a legal and appropriate place to disperse the ashes of a loved one. 

The association reminds family members that placing cremains on another relative’s plot in a cemetery “may result in unceremonious removal of the scattered remains and a fine.” So again, paying to scatter your loved one’s remains in a formal cremation garden will ensure that you are following the letter of the law.

There are many benefits for scattering your loved one’s remains in a cemetery’s scattering gardens.

  • The family can be assured that they are following the legal guidelines for scattering cremains. 
  • Scattering gardens are usually well-manicured, beautiful locations that loved ones can visit to reflect on the life of the deceased.
  • Scattering gardens within cemeteries will be maintained forever.
  • Private property often changes ownership. A cremation garden on private land may not be able to be visited by subsequent generations. 

Private gardens created on private land

You may consider creating a scattering garden on your own land or property. This is common practice for families living in rural areas or on farms. Choosing this form of dispersal is legal, even though you may want to check the laws for your local area just to be sure. 

You may consider scattering your loved one’s remains on private land for one of the following reasons:

  • The land or property was important to the deceased, and spreading the cremains there seems particularly fitting.
  • The land where the scattering took place will most likely remain in the family for several subsequent generations. 
  • The mourners may feel good knowing that their loved one’s remains are nearby.
  • A garden can be designed to the family’s specifications and preferences.
  • There is not enough money in the estate to pay to scatter the cremains in a cremation garden within a cemetery.
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How Do You Find a Cremation Garden Near You?

Since cremation gardens are relatively new to the death industry, you may struggle to find one near you. Here are some suggestions on how to find one in your area. 

  • To find a scattering garden in your area, first, begin your search by Googling “scattering garden” or “cremation garden” in your local area. You may also search for a “memorial garden.” 
  • Since some cemetery administrators may not be savvy in promoting their business online, you may want to call the office of the cemeteries in your area. Ask them if there is a charge to scatter ashes on their property and whether there is a specially designed place on the grounds for spreading cremains. 
  • Some public gardens have found that charging people to scatter the cremains of a loved one is an excellent way to raise funds to pay for the expenses of maintaining the garden. Check with the gardens in your area to see if they offer a scattering or memorial garden.
  • Talk with someone who works in the death industry in your area. Funeral directors are great resources for family members who have questions about burial options and cremation. You can ask them the easiest way to divide ashes among family members, where to buy urns, and if there are any cremation gardens in your area.

Cremation Garden Tips and Ideas

Whether you decide to scatter the ashes of your loved one in a specifically designed area of a local cemetery or on your own property, here are some tips on making the place unique.

1. Consider adding a plaque or stone with the name of your loved one

Most scattering gardens have tiered packages that offer a variety of options for the grieving family. While the basic package may simply allow you to scatter the ashes on the property, higher-priced packages may allow you to purchase a plaque or stone to display your loved one’s name.

Of course, you can also consider this option if you are scattering the ashes on your own property. Permanently placed headstones on your property may give buyers pause when the land is eventually sold, though. 

2. Add a bench

You and other members of your family may find solace by visiting the site of the cremains. You may consider adding a bench that will allow you to sit and reflect on the life of the deceased. 

Of course, some cremation gardens offer to install a bench in upgraded packages. You may even be able to pay extra to have the bench personalized with your loved one’s name.

If the cremains are scattered on private property, placing a bench near the cremains should be relatively inexpensive.

3. Consider the landscaping of the scattering garden 

Since you are considering scattering ashes in a cremation “garden,” one would assume that the space would be landscaped with care.

If you are paying to utilize a scattering garden within a cemetery, the money you spend will guarantee that the site would be professionally designed and maintained forever.

If you are creating a scattering garden on your property, you may want to choose to place the cremains around a specific tree that your loved one enjoyed. Or you may consider planting something special to your family. 

4. Think about the cost 

As you research scattering gardens in your area, you may be surprised to see how much money cemeteries charge to allow you to distribute your loved one’s remains on their property. This is the business owner’s prerogative, and you do receive a benefit from paying the fee since you and your family will be able to visit the beautiful place to reflect upon your family member for decades.

At the same time, most people have to live within a budget. As you consider the cost for your loved one’s memorial service, you may not be able to afford the additional expense of paying for a special place to scatter the ashes. 

If this describes your situation, and you don’t have any land of your own to scatter the cremains, learn about the laws in your area. Most local and state jurisdictions will allow you to scatter cremains in parks as long as you first ask permission. 

Other Things to Consider

Since cremation was not popular in some areas until the last couple of decades, some families may be new to the idea of scattering ashes. Since there is so much freedom that comes from this burial option, it may be harder to make decisions and know what to do. After all, while a family minister may have spoken over the grave of a loved one in a cemetery, it may be up to you to figure out what to say when scattering ashes. While a traditional burial almost always coincides with the purchase of a headstone, you may or may not choose this option when the body is cremated. 

Since there are so many more burial options today, you must share your desires with your family members. Let them know whether you would like to be buried or cremated and where you would like your cremains to be placed for eternity. 


Sources

  1. LaMotte, Sandee. “Cremation has replaced traditional burials in popularity in America, and people are getting creative with those ashes.” CNN. 23 January 2020. www.cnn.com/2020/01/22/health/cremation-trends-wellness/index.html
  2. “Permanent Memorialization: A Place to Visit and Remember.” Cremation Memorial Options. www.cremationassociation.org/page/CremationOptions
  3. “Scattering Garden.” Legal Glossary. Oregon Laws. www.oregonlaws.org/glossary/definition/scattering_garden
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