Jennifer Johnston

For a multi-phase restoration project, LWLA designed a fine-textured groundlayer to complement the iconic monuments and wooded character of a historic path.

Mount Auburn Cemetery, founded in 1838 as America’s first garden cemetery, is renowned for its plant collection and landscape character.  LWLA has provided planting design services for multiple areas in the cemetery’s historic core.

For the herbaceous layer along the Ridge Path, LWLA designed a low, fine-textured, native sedge and wildflower mosaic.  Unlike the turf it replaced, this mosaic responds to variations in tree composition and other patterns along the ridge, creating shifts in tone and experience.  Installed from seed and container plants in the fall of 2022, the plantings are in their early stages but are already providing an enhanced visitor experience as well as important habitat.

The ground layer plantings on the ridge, which is a glacial formation known as an esker, mean this landform will once again feature the structure of natural habitats, from canopy trees to understory trees and shrubs to a rich herb layer. Although the species may not match exactly those present at Mount Auburn’s inception, this layered community is providing enhanced wildlife habitat, among other critical functions, and reducing maintenance associated with turf.

Yet this project is not about ecological services and maintenance considerations alone. It is designed to offer the kind of evocative experience envisioned by the cemetery’s founders. A new layer of meaning thus emerges from a project dedicated to restoring vegetative layers: the need the founders saw for memorial spaces with natural beauty is now complemented by our twenty-first century understanding of the need for habitat. And so continues the layering of this special landscape.

Jennifer Johnston
Project Details
Planting Design
Plant Layout Oversight
Management Consulting
Awards + Recognition
Sweet Auburn, Magazine of the Friends of Mount Auburn (2021)