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A Tale of Two Church Gardens

Landscape Architecture by Marta Garland, president of Greenland Landscape & Masonry

In 2012 Saint Mary and Martha Episcopal Church sold this campus and bought a larger property 5 miles away in Buford, Ga. Greenland Landscape & Masonry designed and built a new memorial garden.

Garden 1
In 2008, as a member of St. Mary and Martha Episcopal Church in Buford, Ga., landscape architect Marta Garland volunteered her services to design a memorial garden for burial of cremated remains. Funding had been in place for the garden for several years; however, there had been no consensus on the design or location.

She took on the project because she was inspired by the commitment of our new priest to move the project forward. As a landscape architect and design-build contractor, Garland guided the project through design, masonry construction, landscaping, and the volunteer garden maintenance that followed.

At this time, no special government permit was required to construct a cremation garden, as the remains are incinerated to such a temperature that creates no environmental hazard. The design was quickly approved and construction began.

The garden was located in a low lying wooded area. It offered both seclusion and a short, pleasant walk from the church building. The masonry construction was done by Greenland Landscape & Masonry. Volunteers from the congregation completed the landscaping.

At the center of the garden lies an 8-foot square box filled with soil. Cremated remains are buried by the mixing ashes into the soil. The garden is orientated on an east-west axis with name plaques for the interred located on the east facing headwall. The garden is constructed of granite to match the stone entrances of the neighboring subdivisions. Elberton granite was chosen, which has a blue cast, and is quarried locally.

The garden became much more than a place of remembrance. People frequently visited the garden for prayer, meditation, and solitude. A group of dedicated volunteers maintained the plantings. This created a special community within the church of gardeners. Also, the garden is "green".

Cremation is considered to be more earth friendly than a cemetary burial, and the paving and garden itself are 100 percent permeable. Colored gravel paving was recently installed around the garden. The church youth group constructed a trail through the woods for stations of the cross, with the garden as the final destination. Before construction of the garden, parishioners walked only from the parking lot to the church building; we had never utilized the 16-acre property.


The central design of this new memorial garden is a Celtic cross. A 3-D design program was used to make renderings for display for fund raising. Construction began in 2012 with building the masonry cross structure. Volunteers moved the soil containing interments from the old garden to the new.

Garden 2
In 2012 the church outgrew its location, and bought a much larger campus 5 miles away. Many wanted to disassemble the existing garden and move it to the new location, but this proved impractical due to the permanence of the masonry work, and the new site being completely different in character from the old site.

The new memorial garden site is an open field with a 450-foot long walk from the church parking lot. This long access has proved to be a deterrent for people visiting and using the garden.

Continuing work is phased in stages as funds permit, with the surrounding permeable colored gravel paving and a large arch for the names of the deceased to be next, followed by landscaping and an asphalt road from the parking lot.

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August 21, 2019, 1:38 am PDT

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