The obvious answer is, yes, of course. Plant a living thing to honor a lost loved one — a family member, pet, or a good friend — and watch it thrive and flourish, possibly blossom. It’s a wonderful idea in theory. But what if it doesn’t thrive and flourish. Then what? Unfortunately, this thoughtful and heartfelt sentiment doesn’t always include as much thoughtfulness as it does heart.
If you or someone you know is thinking of planting a memorial tree, here are a few things to consider:
— This sounds obvious as I write it, but often simple logic can be difficult when emotions are driving a decision. Are you going to stay with this tree? If you’re not living where you plan on staying, at some point you’ll be leaving the tree and even though you aren’t really, it will feel like leaving a loved one. I have a hard time leaving trees that I’ve planted simply because it’s a tree, and I planted it.
— Avoid exotic or imported trees. Your best luck will be with a native species that has a proven history in the area. Natives are more resilient to environmental ailments. This will also aid in those times that you can’t be around to look after it.
— Before introducing the tree, prepare the surrounding environment. After all, you want the tree to thrive, probably for even longer than you’re around. Pay attention to the surroundings and to the light patterns in the area. Avoid placement under other tree limbs that may fail. This alone can often dictate location. Check your soil and amend it if necessary. Aeration and a compost addition will help to enrich the area where you plan on planting.
— If you don’t already have the know-how, learn how to properly plant a tree. There’s more to it than digging a hole and dropping in a tree. Doing this right will certainly affect longevity.
— Lastly, understand that a tree is a living thing completely reliant on the environment around it. You can’t control things like the weather and what harshness it can bring. Trees are kind of like people and sometimes get sick. An arborist can help with just about all of the details that are needed except how to handle it if it doesn’t work.
With all of the right planning and understanding, I think a memorial tree is a wonderful way to honor something or someone missed. One day and, hopefully, if all goes well, I’ll end up with a tree that someone will remember me by. But if not, one thing I’m fairly certain of is that I’ll be giving to the soil somewhere, and that’s fine, too.