Advantages of Nurseries and Greenhouses in Cemeteries

Date Published: 
September, 1896
Original Author: 
John Reid
Superintendent, Mount Elliot Cemetery, Detroit, Michigan
Original Publication: 
AACS Proceedings of the 10th Annual Convention

It seems to me to be unnecessary to go into extended details as to the many advantages to be derived from nurseries and greenhouses in cemeter¬ies, and while I believe they are almost indispensable from an economical and financial point of view, still I may be wrong. If the discussion that will follow the reading of this paper will sustain the nursery and greenhouse as practical auxiliaries, superintendents should clearly explain to their directors the benefits, financially etc., to be derived from them and the advisability of taking immediate action to establish such things where they are not already in operation.

What prospects are there for a reasonable return from such a project will naturally be the first consideration, and justly so, as all undertakings should have careful consideration before investing. My experience with young nur¬sery stock, in well prepared soil and proper cultivation, is that it increases in value very rapidly, many things will more than double the first cost in three years, so from a pecuniary point of view, I think we are not carrying an ex¬pensive luxury when we establish a cemetery nursery. But aside from and far above the financial value, in my opinion, is the incentive it gives to collect and grow on our own grounds, a varied collection especially adapted to the climate in which we live.

And should we consider it from a scientific standpoint, or as used as experimental or test grounds, the advantages are truly invaluable when a skillful man is in charge.

We all love variety, and we should endeavor to have as choice a collection as the climate will permit; and through the advantage of having a nurs¬ery this can be accomplished successfully. For testing as to hardiness or capability of standing the dry patching wind, during the growing season, small lots are used, not over a dozen of each kind; so If we fail in acclimatiz¬ing them the loss will be only nominal.

With practical growers such trials are constantly going on and many valuable additions to their collections is the result.

Experienced growers are not discouraged if certain things fail on the first trial, for, by having those plants under their careful observation they discover their nature and requirements, and by giving them a more congenial soil and location, finally succeed.

So the cemetery nursery appears more valuable and important as the numerous advantages are considered.

New shrubs and plants are offered for sale and highly recommended, as to hardiness and beauty of flower or foliage, but being expensive, and if difficult to propagate, remain at a high price for several years. A few of such val¬uable things, say a dozen of each, should be purchased even at what may ap¬pear a high price, and propagation commenced according to methods best a¬dapted to the nature of the plant to be increased, and by the end of the sea¬son, instead of a dozen we shall have a. hundred or more of nice young plants rooted and ready to take care of themselves in the nursery, the coming spring. As an instance: I received by express last February one dozen of Spiraea Anthony Waterer and one dozen of Hyperi¬cum Moserianum; two comparatively new and highly recommended additions to our shrubbery list. Those little plants were out of two and a half inch pots, puny little things, and cost $2.50 per dozen. On the 27th of Au¬gust last I found we had 200 of each, nice young plants, well rooted from cut¬tings and all at a nominal cost.

Another great advantage of growing our own stock is that the vitality of young evergreens and plants of that nature are so slightly affected by trans¬planting from the nursery to permanent quarters, and this particularly so, when we can make our own choice of suitable days to plant, such as cloudy weather, before or after rain, according to the nature of the soil.

Planters are fully aware that these advantages are invaluable and with proper care in digging out and replanting the loss will be very light; yet I hardly believe it is possible or that the art can be so perfected, that we will not sustain a loss of some plants from the effects of transplanting.

The cemetery nursery and greenhouse afford great advantages for the beautifying of the grounds, and in my opinion every cemetery should have them, in proportion to the demands or extent of the grounds.

The conflicting opinions of superintendents on the use of a greenhouse leaves the matter somewhat unsettled, some wanting a summer display of beautiful flowers and foliage plants, while others discourage such things. Where the lawn plan is being carried out, floral decoration is not brought into use. In old cemeteries the portions that can be called lawns are so lim¬ited, that something must take their place; even in new cemeteries where the beautiful lawns are to be admired, there are locations where floral dis¬plays can be advantageously arranged and will add materially to the beauty of the place.

The small greenhouse in connection with the nursery for the special purpose of increasing our stock can be utilized for raising sufficient stock for summer display and will repay us for the expense incurred.

The question of raising more stock than we require will depend entirely on the tastes of our lot owners; if they are in the habit of spending consider¬able money annually for plants, there is no reason why the cemetery should not supply them with plants at reasonable profit.

The educational effects of the nursery and greenhouses on superinten¬dents should not be overlooked, for it seems to be the general opinion that the better posted we are in horticulture, the more efficient superintendents we make.

If I were called upon to suggest a means for our advancement m the knowledge of trees, shrubs and plants, I could suggest no better plan than that of establishing a cemetery nursery. It is my candid opinion that by no set rules or theory can as much practical knowledge be derived; and I am con¬fident that no branch of the study would have a more immediate effect in es¬tablishing habits of careful personal observation than the care which the cemetery nursery and greenhouse would require.

Regardless of where we are located, it should always be borne in mind when purchasing young nursery stock in quantities, that only such plants as will make a healthy growth in our locality should be selected.

Seedlings of trees and shrubs are offered for sale by nurserymen at low prices, and on that account offer a great inducement to beginners; but they cannot be recommended. No stock should be purchased until it has been transplanted at least once, the advance in cost will only be nominal, while the success with transplanted stock will more than repay us for the slight in¬crease in price over seedlings.

To insert here a long list of trees, shrubs, etc, would be of no benefit and might possibly prove misleading, as it is the climate and surroundings of our several locations that must decide the question of which trees and plants are best adapted for that particular locality. If we are not acquainted with the requirements and habits of the plants we endeavor to grow it is but reasonable to expect that some mistakes will be made. To acquire this particular know¬ledge, no system can be thought of or suggested that can take the place of the cemetery nursery.

The arduous duties of the superintendent may not allow him over much time to spend in the nursery, still there are occasions, and leisure hours when we can visit it and see to the wants of the stock, noting the rapid growth of some, and the lack of vitality in others. If he studies up the cause and endeavors to find a remedy by changing to a more congenial soil or location, if this is done by his own careful study, and if he perseveres in such experiments, there is not the least doubt that in a short time he will become quite profici¬ent.

To close this paper without referring to the question of utilizing the val¬uable native plants indigenous to the locality would be a great mistake. Be¬ginners can do no better than to collect the many beautiful perennials, shrubs and vines, cultivate them in the nursery, and when established and ready for planting out, formed in natural groups or margins, they can hardly be excel¬led. In my opinion it would be difficult to find a more charming combinat¬ion of color and form than the margins of our woods present at this season of the year; and this affords a wide field for study for one engaged in planting new grounds or remodeling old ones.

It is the natural harmony and gracefulness, and that apparently endless diversity of color and form, naturally blending with the whole surroundings, that gives them the power of producing such charming effects.

All cemeteries have localities where bits of natural scenery such as refer¬red to would prove very effective and could be produced at very slight ex¬pense.

As I have been recommending the establishing of nurseries, a few hints to beginners on the preparation of the soil may not be out of place here. Have the land thoroughly loosened up at least two feet deep; after that a good supply of well rotted manure worked in, evenly, all over the surface. Should the soil show signs of retaining moisture after rains, under drainage will be necessary. Four inch tile at intervals of forty feet, and four feet deep, if properly laid will very soon show beneficial results, as the soil will always be in condition to receive rain, which will not only refresh the tops by its moisture, but pass through the earth to the drains driving out the vitiated air from the roots, thus leaving the pores of the earth open to receive a fresh sup¬ply, which is as essential to the health and growth of plants as moisture.

With soil in this condition, either made so, or natural, the growth of young nursery stock will be truly surprising.

If space will permit, allow for cultivation by horse-power between the rows and ample room for two or three seasons growth, without crowding be¬tween the plants in rows.

This work only requires a commencement, and in a very short time the diligent beginner will have on hand a valuable and interesting collection of plants and shrubs, native and foreign, suited to his own special wants.

After the nursery is fairly started, I would recommend the purchase of a standard treatise on the general nature of plants and make a study of them; so that we may work from established principles, and fully comprehend the object of every operation performed and their cultivation.

From the publication:
AACS - Proceedings of the 10th Annual Convention
Held at St. Louis, MO
September 15, 16 and 17, 1896