The Scattering Garden: Providing a Place of Beauty and Resonance

The article “The Scattering Garden: Providing a Place of Beauty and Resonance” first appeared in the Cremationist Magazine (copyright CANA 2020). It was written by Heidi Redman and Richard Cook.

More North Americans than ever are scattering their loved ones’ ashes. Every year, thousands of cremated remains are scattered across the landscapes of North America. It is estimated that at least two tons of cremated remains are scattered on Vancouver’s North Shore Mountains every year. This trend reflects both the rising rates of cremation, and a desire to find ritual and connection when dealing with grief.

As the role of cremation has increased, so has the demand for scattering gardens in cemeteries. Reasons for growing interest in scattering within the cemetery landscape vary. Having scattered their loved one’s ashes at sea, on a mountain top, or surreptitiously at a favorite park or holiday destination, some families later regret not having a specific marker or a place to easily return to visit. Others may be drawn by the desire to find a sacred space for commemoration, or a decision to be interred next to loved ones. By re-creating the experience of interment and memorialization in a more natural landscape, scattering gardens can draw people to the cemetery for the scattering experience.

Providing a place of beauty and resonance for this type of interment can address a family’s desire for a natural setting; one that evokes the idea of regeneration, and connection to a meaningful landscape.

As the industry responds to the needs of families in the 21st century, cemeteries are developing a range of approaches to scattering gardens, unique to their landscapes and climates, and the cultural and spiritual needs of the families they serve.

Integrating a scattering garden into an existing cemetery necessitates several important considerations.

As a starting point, consider the existing landscape including opportunities on the site to incorporate an existing “natural” area, or restore a naturalized area that will be visually evocative of a characteristic landscape.

A scattering garden is an opportunity to make use of an underutilized part of the cemetery, such as an area with steeper slopes, a woodland, or an area with ground conditions otherwise unsuitable for traditional in-ground burial.

Scattering gardens can be designed for small areas as well as extensive areas of a cemetery. Almost all cemeteries can accommodate some form of scattering opportunity for families. The type of scattering garden and area selected will vary greatly depending on the space available, the climate, the nature of the land, and the management, administration, operation, and associated maintenance. Whether a grassland, forest, or savanna setting, scattering areas can be adapted to reflect the natural landscape of the area.

Scattering should ideally be offered as part of a range of cremation options, such as cremation walks, nature trails, family vessels, ossuaries, in-ground cremation plots, and family and community columbaria. This provides a range of price points, as well as an opportunity for family members to access individual interment preferences within the cemetery…click here to read the rest of the article