Trees Not Tombstones: Remembering Loved Ones Outside

Update: Solace is now Tulip Cremation, the nation’s largest online direct cremation services provider, delivering world-class and compassionate care 24/7.


While fewer people are choosing traditional burial in cemeteries, families often still want a place to visit — or the feeling of pride that comes with stewardship — as a reminder of their loved one. For many, nature provides the perfect setting.

Public green spaces are a great place to honor memories with a plaque, bench, tree or donation that honors a loved one.

For those who want their ashes buried under a particular memorial tree, a Better Place Forests might be the right choice. The company, based in California, lets you choose a tree and includes a marker and ceremony. Their memorial forests are located around the country including California, Minnesota, Illinois, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York and Arizona.

The U.S. Forest Service is supported by tax dollars, but you can bolster their tree planting efforts through several organizations including the Arbor Day Foundation  with their Trees in Memory program. Many charities will acknowledge the donation with a card in your loved one’s memory.

In Portland, you can donate in memory of someone to the Hoyt Arboretum. Spokesperson Ajah Maloney tells Solace Cremation, “The Silver Leaf Stewards program at Hoyt Arboretum is a wonderful way to continue to connect with a loved one who has passed on based on a mutual love for the outdoors. For generations to come, their engraved leaf signifies their dedication to the outdoors, trees, and the Portland community.”

Maloney says the Silver Leaf Stewards program supports conservation, education, research, and recreation.

The City of Portland’s Parks and Recreation Legacy Giving Program lets you adopt a bench (new or refurbished) starting at $5,000 or for $1,200, placing a small placard in the city’s International Rose Test Garden for three years. Donations support the ongoing care and maintenance of the rose garden in Washington Park. Donations to the Legacy Bench Program support the installation, refurbishment, and ongoing maintenance of benches in Portland parks. Spokesperson Megan Dirks gently reminds Portlanders that scattering of ashes is not allowed in these areas.

Oregon’s nonprofit group Friends of Trees program also has programs for gift trees. You can purchase one tree for $35 or six for $100. Oregon Parks Forever (formerly Oregon State Parks Foundation) also offers tribute gifts as does Portland Audubon. Oregon Parks Forever is also working to plant trees to replace those burned in the summer of 2020 fires.

At the Oregon Coast, several cities have bench programs including Seaside, Newport and Lincoln City.

Want to know more about the laws, regulations and cost of planting memorial trees? Our colleagues at Cake have a helpful “how-to” on the subject.

Even a tree, bench or rock in your own backyard can serve as a memorial.

Whatever you choose, we hope it helps create a peaceful place to remember your loved one in the healing environment of nature.

Photo by Veronica Gomez

This post was updated in March, 2023.

Solace is now Tulip Cremation, the nation’s largest online direct cremation services provider, delivering world-class and compassionate care 24/7.

Proudly providing:
Denver cremation services
Los Angeles cremation services
Portland cremation services
San Francisco cremation services
Seattle cremation services

Share This