What Constitutes Judicious Planting

Date Published: 
August, 1893
Original Author: 
Mr. Chaffee
Original Publication: 
AACS Proceedings of the 7th Annual Convention

To attempt to write an article on planting, to be read before the American Cemetery Superintendents, places me in about the position a man would be in who goes to Minneapolis to sell flour, or to Syracuse to sell salt; he would probably get some good pointers on his business, however, and that is what we are all here today for points.

I have at various times and places, but mostly at previous conventions, met a goodly number of my brother superintendents, and among them all have failed to find an injudicious planter. They are all enthusiasts on the subject; all have had experience, and any of them can tell me all about it; yet when I go to their grounds somehow I am disappointed; disappointed by finding them so much better than I expected; disappointed by finding them worse than I expected and the keenest disappointment of all is the stamp of artificiality which marks the whole business. A specimen tree here, a specimen shrub there, all for show, display.

I like to go to the old part of the grounds where the planting, particularly if original forest, has conformed to the law of "survival of the fittest;" the tender things have been frozen out, the uncongenial died out, and the superintendent has had the "bouncing fever" and bounced out, until what are left are worth a little study.

There you will always find something to arrest your attention. A shrub of which you have just propagated or bought a supply, you find does not look as well at ten or twenty years of age as your young ones, but on the other hand, you find something which is entirely new to you, but on examination it is very common, only you never before noticed its beauties when grown in such a location or soil. Above all, the newness is worn off---the artificial look is gone. In large grounds opportunities are great, and seldom used; we look too much for novelties. A change is always desirable and appreciated.

A wise man would plant wisely, a prudent man prudently, a rational man rationally. A man wise, prudent and rational would possess good judgment; such a man would plant judiciously. Mr. Wm. Robinson, author of the "English Flower Garden," remarks that "if men would give up mere imitation, we should be charmed with the contrast between grounds." Is not that the secret of the whole matter?

Do we not get into a rut by following someone before us? Is not each superintendent a judicious planter if he boldly plants what is within his reach and gives his plans his best care and thought? Suppose the critics do criticize, why that is just what we want; but do it kindly, brother. You did some planting last spring yourself, and someone may be looking you over while you are away and writing you up.

I think sometimes that in our zeal to do ornamental work we forget the main purpose of the cemetery. My ideal cemetery would be one in which there were no interments, no dead to bury, with unlimited means for improvements. Probably it would not be above criticism, but certainly there would not be the individual likes and dislikes of a multitude of lot, owners to contend with, and he would be a hard man to please who could not, under those conditions, please himself.

But this is park planting-surely it is far easier to plant a park than a cemetery. When the park is planted simply maintenance follows.

Keep it neat and clean; somebody will appreciate the effort if all do not, and where is the man who is foolish enough to expect to please all. The cemetery section is graded and while the work is being done the planting plans were given constant thought, and as the plotting of lots was completed, the planting was done. Finished, was it? Theoretically--yes; practically--no. And practically it won't be finished for generations to come. Lots are selected there and sold, interments made, individual tastes have to be appeased. You all know how it is.

Now allowing that it was originally planted judiciously, is it judicious to change it? Probably not, but it will be changed just the same. Why? Because the superintendent is a good natured, bighearted sympathetic man (if he is not he is no man for the place), and the pressure brought to bear will be so great that he will change, add to and replant until the original idea is entirely lost sight of. Now which is the judicious planting? Let each one of you settle it for yourself.

I am going to keep right on in the good old way, doing the best I know how and if some landscape crank comes along and tells me that my plan is execrable, totally bad, horrid-it don't hurt me a bit.

I just say to him that these grounds are devoted to burial purposes, that there is a public park over the other side of the city, and throw out the idea that he is welcome to go over there and jump on them to his heart's content; feeling perfectly safe as to where I stand in the hearts and estimation of my lot owners.

Every superintendent is a judicious planter who is in love with his work.  Doesn’t he use his best judgment? Don't his lot owners when honestly appealed to give up their whims and fancies and concede that his ideas are more likely to be correct than theirs? Some do and some don't. Does not he have his rules and regulations to fall back upon; his board will certainly take care of him. The judicious part thus becomes the easy part, for he is applying himself all the time to learn more of various plants, shrubs and trees. His little nursery, started a few years ago in an out of the way corner, has grown into almost startling proportions, and he himself is surprised when he runs over the nursery catalogue, to make out his orders, how little he really needs, and how much really first class acclimated material he has on hand.

If I have encouraged any brother to go on and plant his grounds according to his best judgment and tastes, without fear of criticism from those of more aesthetic tastes, I have accomplished all attempted in this article.

He who plants carefully, honestly and conscientiously plants judiciously.

From the publication:
AACS - Proceedings of the 7th Annual Convention
Minneapolis, MN
August 22, 23 and 24, 1893