Sweet Auburn: The Magazine of the Friends A Landscape of Remembrance and Reflection - Page 15

sweet auburn | 2020 volume i As Craig recalls, the main point of the master plan was articulating a new set of goals and strategies for Mount Auburn to approach its future more creatively. After that, it was up to Mount Auburn to implement it: “The master plan was very theoretical. But the application and how it came out? That came through the staff. It wasn’t somebody sitting there dictating that you have to do this or that. People got the goals and objectives and then figured out in detail how that would happen.” The master plan set in motion a series of changes that brought the entire site up to much higher levels. The new business model, featuring more creative uses of the landscape, went far beyond simply adding more decades of selling burial space: it repositioned the Cemetery as an innovative industry leader. Likewise, it inspired a new approach to horticulture and design that has gradually reshaped our landscape. Previously, the grounds were designed more to feature specific types of trees in the Cemetery’s collection, with less emphasis on the holistic landscape surrounding them. “What people were doing was planting trees thirty feet apart,” Craig explains. “It was basically a tree over lawn cemetery.” The master plan laid out suggestions for strengthening Mount Auburn’s horticulture program. It sought to preserve what was already successful and to approach the landscape as a series of interconnected “character zones.” The resultant horticultural designs captured various themes that fit with the history and topography of each area, simultaneously allowing for more diversity in plantings and styles. The main themes were Naturalistic (in line with how these areas were first developed in the nineteenth century, with a more informal planting style) and Ornamental (inspired by styles of the late Victorian period and early twentieth century, with more embellished, formal, and gardenesque styles). Previously, Craig remembers that “there was a fantastic collection of plants here, and it actually looked fine,” but the new designs have brought the collection to a new level, with the increased focus on both the history of the site and its ecological potential as a sustainable urban habitat. “You have to go and find what Mount Auburn is telling you to do and work with it. You don’t want it to look designed. You want it to look like it just happened, and you don’t even know there’s the designer involved. I think that’s the way it does look today, and that’s a big difference.” On Mount Auburn’s staff, one of the first key people to embrace these recommendations was garden foreman Claude Benoit, who later went on to serve as Assistant Director and then Director of Horticulture. Craig and Claude began working together to put smaller-scale changes in place, picking out plants to replace grass in an initial group of granite curb lots, for example. Claude quickly became immersed in the new ideas that the plan had to offer. “The master plan became my bible,” Claude recollects. “I didn’t know anything about design. I knew about plants. This was a huge thing to be walking around with an artist, architect. Things grew from there...and I had this person that became a mentor.” In the process, as Claude absorbed both the master plan and everything he was learning from his interactions with Craig, he combined them with his own in-depth understanding of plants to put this new approach to the landscape into effect. Current President & CEO Dave Barnett also has a close affinity with the master plan, having started working at Mount Auburn in 1993 as Director of Horticulture—a new position that the plan recommended creating as part of rethinking the landscape. As Dave recalls, “They were trying to recognize professionalism in the horticulture field differently....I was the beneficiary of coming at a time when the gates had been opened, the thought process had been changed. And it’s been happening ever since.” Working with Claude, Craig, and Bill Clendaniel, Dave also quickly became invested in finding ways to make the master plan a reality at Mount Auburn. One of the first major projects inspired by the master plan was the restoration of Consecration Dell to a woodland habitat. Dave brought his training in ecology to the team, and Claude became an avid force behind using native plants to bring the space 13