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Arbor’s Nature Walks: Where Canadians Feel at Home
By Emma Givens, Guest Blogger
Article Posted on
Nature Walks are above-ground cremation gardens crafted from the landscape, and a signature of Arbor Memorial’s innovative landscape design. Unlike traditional cemetery lawns which are inherited from the orderly structures of English and French gardens, Nature Walks are created with Canadian values in mind.
With every generation, Canadians increasingly value cremation, Celebrations of Life, and less overtly religious memorials. Spiritual comfort is often derived from spending time in nature on our properties.
Canadian families inspired our first Nature Walks. In Western Canada, many Arbor properties are home to beautiful, mature woodlots. At Glenwood Funeral Home & Cemetery in Sherwood Park, AB, and Valley View Funeral Home & Cemetery in Surrey, BC, the forests lent themselves to a tranquil escape for families already visiting the cemetery. Local staff realized that what these families wanted most was for the forests to be a new resting place, surrounded by nature.
Arbor’s landscapers started with the question: what is the land giving us? They realized that both forests naturally suggested where a trail should begin and end. Our designers’ role was simple: protect the landscape, and help people connect with it.
First, we took the lightest of hands to the forest floor. It was important to mildly clear away shrubs along the path and put down gravel instead of the interlocked pavers common to traditional gardens. The result was very organic, but also safe and steady for walkers.
Other minor changes included planting ferns and shade trees along the path for comfort. Families could now select from a variety of above-ground cremation products, and dedication monuments like benches and engraved rocks. These vary in placement along the path, fitting in naturally with the forest.
We continue to embrace the forests at Arbor properties across Canada, and call this style a True Forest Walk.
Nature Walks Grow
A second style of Nature Walk is called a Perennial Garden Walk. These are a lovely option for cemeteries with trees and a hilly topography. However, Perennial Garden Walks require a little more crafting to create a tranquil atmosphere.
First, Arbor’s designers consider the layout of existing trees in the cemetery. Next, they carefully add planting beds in an organic pattern, and fill them with perennial flowers. These plants are either native or grow well in the area. The diverse selection means that the flowers pop with colour and create visual interest during every season. Many families who choose this type of Nature Walk value colour and the wide-open sky.
A Pond Nature Walk is the third style at Arbor, showcasing the soothing power of water. Our country touches three oceans and is home to 20% of the world’s freshwater. Naturally, Canadians have lifelong relationships with ponds, lakes and seas. Many of us feel a heightened emotional reaction and a moment of calm by the water’s edge.
Some Arbor properties are home to ponds and lakes, but, for safety reasons, we keep traditional burial gardens far from water. The result? Pond Nature Walks that empower us to be good stewards of the land and offer a place of peace and contemplation for families.
The Garden of Reflection at Ottawa’s Capital Funeral Home & Cemetery is a stunning example of a Pond Nature Walk. It is located right off the funeral home and has accessible walkways lined with planted trees.
Each type of Nature Walk is sometimes styled for Arbor’s Chinese communities. This approach reflects the diversity of Chinese-Canadians, featuring shared cultural symbols of Chinese culture but no religious overtones. Chinese-centric Nature Walks follow Feng Shui principles in addition to cultural imagery. For example, they include curved rather than straight walkways. Arbor’s garden designers find that many of these principles complement the organic aesthetic of Nature Walks.
You can learn more about Arbor’s traditional Chinese Gardens by reading our blog post on these gardens.
Caring for the Environment
Arbor is proud that our Nature Walks help preserve the natural environment. In fact, conservation authorities recognize Arbor’s cemeteries as stewards of environmentally sensitive areas. We are invested in keeping these lands alive for all Canadians, who are just as passionate about nature as we are.
As well, many municipalities allow us to transform their protected lands into Nature Walks. This is because land use for this purpose is respectful of nature, and the gardens remain accessible to people who live in the community. For example, Pleasantview Funeral Home & Cemetery in Fonthill, ON, has transformed a protected woodlot between the funeral home and cemetery into a low-density Nature Walk. It is a beautiful place of rest and prayer, and is important to families in the area.
Canadians want to make environmentally responsible decisions. Now more than ever, we see families choose Nature Walks for their final place of rest.