Allowing planting in the cemetery

Published by at June 12, 2017 2:27 pm

Marianne Linka asks:

Our rules and regulations do not allow families to do any plantings in our cemeteries for a multitude of reasons including non-maintenance, overgrowth of bushes, etc. Even so, we find many instances where families come in and place garden borders, mulch, plantings, etc. and are quite irate when they are advised that this is against our rules.

Realizing that nurturing a garden is a great healing action and helps some families in the healing process, my field supervisors and I discussed allowing a limited planting program in some of our cemeteries. I will say that the headstones that have annuals planted in front of them look beautiful and only add to the beauty of our cemetery. We thought we would try a grave garden permit program that would allow families to have their garden while enforcing our restrictions that sometimes interfere with our maintenance. Families could apply for a permit and if the conditions and location of the grave allow for it and the family agrees to our restrictions we would allow for annuals (or even bulbs) to be planted. The permit would have to be renewed annually so that we knew that there was someone taking responsibility for maintaining the garden. Our program would be outlined as follows:

Upon application, review, and approval, our staff would install a plastic garden edging that would outline the area in which the family could plant. No other edging, border material will be allowed. This edging would be installed to restrict the garden to extend 8″ in front of the headstone.

Our lawn maintenance crew would be able to maintain the grass outside of the edging but would not touch anything inside the edging. That maintenance would be the family’s responsibility.

We would leave the edging and the contents of the garden until our early spring clean up when it would be removed (unless the permit had been renewed).

The family would have to agree that they understand that the garden may still be disturbed/destroyed if we have a burial in the immediate area. We would not be responsible for recreating the garden but we would contact the applicant prior to the disturbance to alert them.

Permits would be small decals that would be placed on the stone (with the family’s permission) and would either have the year printed on it or would be a different color for the year of the permit.

Unfortunately, gardens that have been left in place have not been well maintained and gardens that have been pulled out by our staff have caused multiple calls to my office.

Does anyone have any kind of program in place like this? Any advice or warnings about rolling out such a program?

Marianne Linka
Diocese of Camden
mlinka@camdendiocese.org