Solutions: Trees are tops for honoring loved ones

Jeanine Matlow

In honor of Arbor Day today and beyond, it’s the perfect time to plant a tree, which can take on new meaning when done to celebrate a special person or event.

“Arbor Day provides many reasons to plant trees for today and future generations and dedicating trees gives additional purpose to planting them,” says Katie Kiyo, who owns Big Hug, a Bloomfield Hills-based online remembrance gift company.

To quote a Chinese proverb, Kiyo says: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

Her company offers gifts to honor the memory of a person or beloved pet, mark a milestone, or commemorate an event. Among them are a variety of personalized tree dedication markers.

“Giving people the means to mark trees in enduring and meaningful ways is a passion of mine,” she says.

In addition to her own line of custom-engraved in-ground tree markers, two of her most popular items are Tree Huggers and Tree Charms. Tree Huggers are personalized stainless steel tree plaques that mount to the tree with a tension spring that grows as the tree grows.

Tree Charms are custom-engraved plaques that go between the trunk and a limb with a locking cable, an advantage when placed in public areas. They come in circular and leaf shapes and brushed nickel or copper colors that blend with the environment.

In addition to individual requests, Kiyo says nonprofit groups, such as those specializing in animal rescue, have added tree dedications to their fundraising efforts as another option to the more traditional commemorative bricks and garden benches.

While memorials and pet remembrance are popular uses, weddings, births, anniversaries, birthdays and other special events are also represented, she says.

Kiyo gets a lot of requests for her custom in-ground garden/tree markers. Personalization with laser engraving means faster shipping within 1 to 3 business days.

Personalized wind chimes that can be custom engraved with an icon and text can hang from a tree. Their soothing sound serves as a reminder of a loved one.

The heartfelt messages found on plaques and other products say it all.

For a family tree, one plaque reads: “Family, like branches on a tree. We may grow in different directions. Yet our roots remain as one.”

Another says: “Daddy, you are someone to look up to, no matter how tall I grow. Happy First Father’s Day.”

A tribute to a grandmother reads: “Her roots gave us strength. Her branches helped us bloom. Her love is with us always.”

One of Kiyo’s favorite tree plaque orders came from a woman whose son started a Fun Club at the age of 4. One of their first activities was to plant a seedling that has since grown into an enormous tree. Though her son is now an adult, he still organizes family meetings and projects. The addition of a tree plaque to honor the club celebrates their fun times through the years.

For information, go to or call (248) 594-1560.

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at