Floral Decoration of Cemeteries

Date Published: 
August, 1906
Original Author: 
T. W. Bolam
Original Publication: 
AACS Proceedings of the 20th Annual Convention

The cemeteries I have the honor to represent are situated on the northeast coast of England in close proximity to the North Sea, where the climate is very unfavorable to gardening, especially in a severe winter. We have in Sunderland three large cemeteries, 115 acres in all, under the control of the Sunderland county borough council and are laid out in a way as to make them appear more like parks than cemeteries. In each cemetery we plant annually quite four hundred thousand flowering plants for spring and summer bloom. The spring flowers chiefly consist of early flowering Dutch bulbs, tulips, hyacinths and narcissus forming the greater part, large quantities of dark red wall flowers (about fifty thousand), together with primroses, myosokis, aubrietia, arabis Alpina compacta forming large masses by the long avenues. In addition to this my committee undertake on behalf of the relatives of deceased persons the care of grave lots and plant suitable flowering plants together with flowering shrubs twice during each year, by the way I may mention that I notice in the states that many burial authorities receive grants of money for the perpetual care of grave lots, which I fully approve of and hope that the authorities of our cemeteries in Great Britain will soon follow your example.

In the year 1875 when I first took over the care of one of our large cemeteries there were no flowers cultivated and remember asking the consent of my board to purchase four dozen geraniums to form a flower bed which was very conspicuous, being the only one in 24 acres of land; as time went on the number of flower plots increased also did the grave planting and now the fees from this source is one of the best sources of revenue, averaging near £1,000 per year. When the spring bloom is over the flower beds and borders are cleared and replanted with their summer occupants, such as geraniums, calceolarias, violas, echeveria, lobelia, begonias, East Lowthian stocks, the various kinds of asters and numerous kinds of annuals worked in large quantities, the demand for grave planting in our cemeteries has necessitated the erection of a large number of greenhouses which not only supply the graves but furnish a large number of plants for the general decoration of the vast grounds of our cemeteries.

I notice that the question of erecting glass houses in the cemeteries in the states has been much questioned as to whether they were profitable or otherwise here we find they are profitable but apart from this they enable us to do something to brighten the surroundings in our cemeteries where thousands of our people gather in large numbers. Since the introduction of floral decorations in our cemeteries it is not an unusual sight to see 5,000 people walking through the avenues, especially on a Sunday evening. This I think is sufficient evidence that a good floral display in a cemetery is a fit and proper thing to do. This may give rise to much discussion at the convention but this is my opinion founded on 31 years of practical experience.

Flowering shrubs also form a great part in our floral display, rhododendron, "Cunningham White" being especially useful. Olearia Hastu should always be in evidence with its large clusters of hawthorne like blossoms. This shrub is particularly hardy by the coast, makes a perfect bush and easy of cultivation. I have seen many changes and much progress in gardening, especially in floriculture, which has for its object the production of subjects of taste and curiosity.

For early spring bloom and making a brilliant display I strongly advocate "violas." No one need be afraid of being amply repaid for their labors if they try the following varieties. I grow annually about 20,000 plants.

"Viola cornuta papilio" a beautiful violet shade of blue is most profuse and makes a complete sheet of bloom, a good bed of this is not to be equaled by any, other variety so far as I know. "Viola cornuta rosea," is a new type very distinct and a color much needed. These I consider would give full satisfaction to any who do spring bedding.

The many varieties of self colored pansies form a striking contrast for spring bedding and are worthy of your attention, as I have grown large quantities with good effect.

Stocks are indispensible for spring bloom. For over 20 years I grew large quantities of the scarlet and white queen and improved the strain to a considerable degree until an average of 80 percent were doubles. In 1876 I obtained a few plants from a friend in Newcastle which averaged perhaps 10 percent of doubles the first year and improved each year until 80 percent was reached:

"Primroses," of late years I have been much interested in their cultivation.

Auriculas. This class of spring flowering plants is of great interest to those who can spare the time to give them the attention they require. For many years I purchased seed from specialists and had a failure each time, then I purchased strong plants which flowered well and in a hot season produced abundance of seeds which I had sown immediately it was ripe, under this treatment I produced thousands of plants.

Bulbs. As the cultivation of hyacinths, snowdrops, scillas, crocus and similar spring bulbs is so well known I do not propose to offer any remarks on them.

I trust this short paper has interested you as it is my earnest desire to do.

From the publication:
AACS - Proceedings of the 20th Annual Convention
Held at Detroit, MI
August 21, 22 and 23, 1906