Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Cemeteries’ Category

Shortly after posting Monuments and Trees (June 5), I had a note from Art Presson, the Superintendent of Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery. He wrote:

“We too have noticed how rarely grave stones get wacked by falling trees. Mysterious intervention is a possible explanation. We had a 125 year old oak come down on top of a very important bronze angel sculpture here that went on both sides of her, but the monument wasn’t even scratched.”

Taking care of the trees in a large, old garden cemetery is a particularly demanding job. The Green-Wood Cemetery covers 478 acres (for comparison,Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge has 175 acres; Swan Point covers roughly 200 acres). In a way, it is an arboretum of mature and maturing trees that shares the space with headstones and monuments.

A staff of arborists works with the woody vegetation: assessing the health of thousands of trees, tending the cemetery ‘forest’, removing hazard limbs and whole trees when necessary — these responsibilities take focus, skill, and a refined knowledge of woody plants, as well as a sensitivity to the nature of the cemetery’s function. The Green-Wood arborists take pride in their skill. According to Art, “When we take trees down my arborists are really competitive. They call their shots like they are shooting pool. They are remarkably accurate, which is a good thing with as tight as it gets with monuments here.”

How to interpret the tendency of falling trees and limbs to miss grave markers? I’m not sure. And I can’t speak for the arborists responsible for these garden cemeteries, though clearly, their professional skills and pride mesh to make tangible their respect for the nature of these places.

Have you any stories about the management of cemetery woody plants? Send them along, and let’s see what common threads may emerge.

Read Full Post »

I once heard a talk by an arborist from Mount Auburn Cemetery, and remember most clearly his describing how, when a tree or part of a tree falls in the cemetery, for some reason there’s usually little to no damage to the headstones and monuments. Time after time he’d seen this phenomenon, and while he could describe it, he couldn’t explain it.

The other day I was in Providence’s beautiful Swan Point Cemetery with my friend Jane. Rounding a bend, we came upon the sight of a large and very recently fallen (the leaves were just barely beginning to wilt) oak limb lying on the ground. We stopped to investigate, and found that while the limb had fallen directly in line with some headstones, it had only nudged the corner of one out of skew, and the others were intact. The limb had probably a four-foot high wound at its attachment point; from there, it arched out in front of a couple of stones before its elbow (an old pruning point, perhaps) had hit the ground. Beyond and above the elbow was a huge mass of branches, twigs, and foliage. The elbow had made a deep crater, about twenty inches wide– that’s how it pushed the stone out of alignment. We were astounded that no stones or the nearby tree were broken or harmed.

The trunk, the break, the biomass

The trunk, the break, the biomass

Falling in the slot

Falling in the slot

Half the canopy, now on the ground

Half the canopy, now on the ground

Read Full Post »

Dressed granite wall, solidly built with care, skill, and a good level

Dressed granite wall, solidly built with care, skill, and a good level

My good friend and colleague Jane Shoplick pointed out that not all the stones are squared; some are angle-cut, which imparts even more character to the wall.

My good friend and colleague Jane Shoplick pointed out that not all the stones are squared; some are angle-cut, which imparts even more character to the wall.

Read Full Post »

p1010687One thread of this running conversation is the idea of setting plant close to each other, and then seeing how they elbow and jostle for space and light.

In this image the idea is taken to its extreme: a mature Chamaecyparis pisifera snuggles up to a mature Quercus alba in Providence’s Swan Point Cemetery. I imagine that the False Cypress was planted as a polite little evergreen statement behind the monument just visible behind it; it liked the spot and the care it received, and grew into this affectionate behemoth.

Read Full Post »