Living Memorials Project


This toolbox is created to be a first stop on the web for information related to living memorials. It combines the expertise of the Forest Service and consultants in the fields of landscape design, placemaking, ethnobotany, and social science, with the examples and lessons learned from our Living Memorial partner projects. It is organized around the principles of People, Plants, Plan and Place, in the belief that all of these elements are vital to the creation and continued thriving of a living memorial. In addition, the Power section offers a resource list for further research.



A memorial is brought to life not only by the trees that are planted, but by the people that work to create the space. Urban parks and community gardens can be centers of community involvement and interaction, while the process of caring for the land helps to bring people together. In this section, research team Erika Svendsen and Lindsay Campbell discuss the significance of such networks of stewards in Living Memorials: Acts of Social Meaning Creates Places of Resilience.

Anne Wiesen discusses the physical, emotional, and spirtitual connections between people and trees, describing why we marvel at trees, in her piece People's relationship with trees.

The Living Memorials project Lessons from the Field offers examples from our project partners of stewards of different site types who, in caring for the land, also work to support community.

If you are interested in receiving a copy of the full LMP Social and Site Assessment year one report, email Erika Svendsen.



This section of the toolbox provides information on all aspects of planting. Anne Wiesen's Healing Trees Project explores the myriad connections between plants and people. Highlighting structural, sensorial, healing, and ethnobotanical uses of five different species of trees, the Healing Project encourages thought on symbolism, history, and meaning when creating and maintaining a living memorial. Each section presents recommended species of the family, as well as other preferred trees from the native plant community. It offers a conceptual starting point and a way to revisit an already exisiting plan or site.

The practical complement to the Healing Trees Project is provided as Forest Service technical materials on How to Plant Successfully. This covers species selection, planting techniques, and site maintenance. Dave Bloniarz developed a series of Frequently Asked Questions as well as periodic technical notes for our living memorial partners.

For related information on site selection, appraisal, design, and more on maintenance, see the Plan section of the toolbox.


By David Kamp and Anne Wiesen

The following considerations are guidelines for the planning and design of Living Memorials. Each Living Memorial site will be unique and each visitor will bring an individual perception, ability and need. These recommendations are intended to help understand the unique qualities of each site and participant. Our goal is to insure that the design of each Living Memorial express a sensitivity and respect for both site and participant, acknowledging the constraints and opportunities in each to create a more fully enriching experience.

The process requires you to think broadly along the following four lines:

  • The site: Where will the Living Memorial be located?
  • The participants: Who will be using it?
  • The goals and program: What do you want to accomplish there and how will that be done?
  • The budget: What funds do you have to work with?

Essentially we are creating opportunities - opportunities for each individual to interact with the Living Memorial and with Nature in their own way, on their own terms and at their own pace. We are creating opportunities for remembering and honoring those who have been lost; minimizing feelings of isolation and loneliness; for release and closure; and creating opportunities for enhancing a sense of self and community.

To accomplish this we will focus on the individual. We will emphasize maintaining an attention to detail in the individual experience and perspective. And we will stress a design approach that encompasses all the senses; or giving those impaired by illness, age or disability, the richness and delight of experiencing a precious few. It will include creating a place to think about the ordinary and extraordinary moments in life. It will include the perspective from a wheelchair and the perspective of an individual needing the assistance of a walker or cane, or the sense of routine – or exhilaration – in those walking unassisted. It will include the perspectives of children, teenagers, the middle aged and the elderly. And it involves understanding that those needs change over time. It also means understanding the site, as well as the physical and fiscal parameters of the Living Memorial’s development, use and long-term maintenance.


Urban Interface worked with the LMP team to create an interactive map of all of the memorials in the National Registry. Visit the map and view memorials that were created across the United States from 2001-2004.




Knowledge is power. While this toolbox offers information on a broad range of subjects, there are a wealth of resources in the fields of horticulture, landscape architecture, forestry, and community development that are related to living memorials. Listed below are reference materials that were either consulted in the creation of this toolbox, or are recommended by the authors of the toolbox as useful materials. If your local library does not carry these books, you may suggest they purchase them in support of community and the living landscape. The list is just a beginning. We encourage you to visit the links section as well for more web-based references.

Have a reference to suggest? Send us feedback here.


NRS at a Glance