Thousands of trimmed trees fill this cemetery, carving verdant stripes and shapes into a landscape otherwise dominated by gray graves. They look like topiary tombstones, planted to live alongside the traditional stone memorials to the dead.
The cemetery in Varaždin, Croatia, doubles as a beautiful, peaceful horticultural garden. Meticulously groomed trees crowd around the graves. Different sections of the graveyard display their own styles, creating a patchwork tapestry of manicured natural monoliths. Some resemble tall pillars or rounded rocks, while others seem to blend together in a continuous, bushy wall.
Though the cemetery was established in the 18th century, it didn’t receive its signature look until over a century later. In 1905, Herman Haller, its keeper, planted about 7,000 trees to accompany the graves. Thanks to him, thousands of birch, cypress, maple, ash, beech, and magnolia trees add a touch of leafy life to a place otherwise strongly associated with death.
In addition to the plants, the Varaždin Cemetery is also noteworthy because it has its very own smartphone app. The technology lets distant family members make requests to have someone light a candle or maintain a lost loved one’s grave and even shows funeral schedules and maps that let people find a specific person’s final resting place.