Sweet Auburn: The Magazine of the Friends A Landscape of Remembrance and Reflection - Page 17

sweet auburn | 2020 volume i Q&A with Jim Gorman and Eleanor Gould By Jennifer Johnston Media & Communications Director L ongwood Gardens Fellow Eleanor Gould (EG) was recently hired as Mount Auburn’s Vice President of Horticulture and Landscape. Arriving at the Cemetery, Eleanor was delighted to meet an earlier Longwood alum, Visitor Services Representative Jim Gorman (JG). Media & Communications Director Jennifer Johnston (JJ) asked each to recall their time and association with Longwood Gardens (LG), which is located in Kennett Square, PA. JJ: Can you recall how you first visited or heard about LG? JG: In 1985 while working for the Boston Park Rangers within Emerald Necklace parks, I began volunteering at the Arnold Arboretum (AA). There I met Gary Koller, a graduate of the Longwood master’s program, and other Longwood Fellows. I visited LG four or five years later. EG: I first heard about LG from my colleagues at Monticello in Charlottesville, VA. Amy Jeffries, Horticulturist, had been an intern and Peggy Cornett, Curator of Plants, was a Longwood Fellow. When I visited, I was blown away by the scale and diversity of horticultural experiences there: precisely clipped topiaries, an eighty-seven-acre meadow garden, the four-acre conservatory showcasing the Roberto Burle Marx Cascade Garden and the Silver Garden. Peter Hatch, Director Emeritus of Monticello, aptly describes LG as the “Super Bowl of American gardens.” JJ: Can you share memories of time spent at LG? JG: They had outstanding woody plant collections as well as exuberant displays of flowers, topiary and rose gardens, vegetable and idea gardens, and giant waterlilies. They had indoor conservatories dedicated to orchids, Mediterranean plants, bonsai, children’s garden, and carnivorous plants. I saw why LG was called an “over the top” botanic garden. In 1998 I entered the Longwood Graduate Program (LGP). There were 170 full-time and 145 part-time employees on the payroll, and 250 volunteers. The FY operating budget was $22.5 million, 60% generated on-site, with an estimated 930,000 visitors a year. My time there was invaluable. JJ: How did you first hear about Mount Auburn Cemetery? JG: In 1985, while I was a new volunteer at the AA, staff would say, “If you really like trees, have you been to Mount Auburn?” On my first visit, it was “love at first sight.” I started making regular visits. In 1986, when the Friends of Mount Auburn was created, I began attending the horticulture programs. EG: I visited Mount Auburn Cemetery during a Harvard Career Discovery summer course in Landscape Architecture. My professors revered Mount Auburn. We visited the newly completed section designed by Reed Hilderbrand; they told us about the project and the nuances of designing for a cemetery. A few years later, as a Masters student, I interned at the University of Virginia’s Office of Architecture with Mary Hughes, assessing the current UVA cemetery on grounds for expansion. She recommended that I look to Mount Auburn as a precedent; I was thrilled to have seen the landscape first-hand. JJ: Now knowing both LG and Mount Auburn, what are the similarities? JG: If you speak to the uninitiated of having a great time at Mount Auburn, some only hear the word ‘cemetery’. And ‘Longwood Gardens’ as mere words can never convey the visitor experience. Yet both create immediate converts. Both are leaders in their fields committed to environmental stewardship. Both care for historic trees dating to our nation’s early era but also incorporate contemporary designs. Critically, both fund to a high degree the maintenance of the physical plant, while prudently protecting their endowments. EG: Excellence manifested in many ways: beauty, knockout horticultural excellence, and leadership. Staff tenure is quite long in both organizations and you can see this in the care of the grounds. Both have managed their resources in a way that considers the long term. I love that both LG and Mount Auburn have taken inspiration from the innovative spirit of their founders and that they continue to evolve and stay relevant to cultural changes. 15