Sweet Auburn: The Magazine of the Friends of Mount Auburn Connecting the Present with the Past - Page 21

sweet auburn | 2019 volume i MEMBER FEATURE: Alan Emmet By Anna Moir Grants & Communications Manager L ongtime Friends member and landscape historian Alan Emmet of Westford, MA, has nurtured a relationship with the Cemetery that has evolved from enthusiastic neighbor to academic to active supporter of our horticultural and environmental initiatives. Simultaneously, her own gardening philosophies have helped shape Mount Auburn’s landscape as we know it today. Alan’s connection to the Cemetery began in the early 1950s, as a newlywed living across the street with her husband, lawyer and environmental advocate Richard Emmet (1924–2007). In the 1970s, after moving to their historic farm in Westford, Alan attended Harvard’s Graduate School of Design and developed a new appreciation for Mount Auburn while studying both the history of Cambridge’s landscape and the rural cemetery movement. “It made [the Cemetery] more significant to me, to know why it was done, and the men who started it. (It was all men in those days),” she recalled. “It really preceded the [urban] park movement…. The idea of the Emerald Necklace and all that really came after.” Also in the 1970s, Claude Benoit began working both for Mount Auburn, where he eventually became Director of Horticulture, and for the Emmets in the gardens they developed around their home. It was while working for Alan and Richard that Claude learned principles that help define Mount Auburn’s horticultural practices today. The Emmets were passionate about organic gardening as early as the 1950s, a time when, in Alan’s words, “everybody was dumping poison everywhere.” Through the Emmets, Claude learned organic practices that he later worked to expand at Mount Auburn. Additionally, it was there that Claude first worked with perennial plants, rather than the annuals that were in common use at Mount Auburn at the time. By the time Dave Barnett arrived in 1993, Claude had become a perennial expert and was helping increase their usage, particularly groundcover plantings to replace mowed turf—something that has increasingly defined our landscape. Today, Alan is unable to visit the Cemetery as frequently, but she stays in close touch about our landscape initiatives. A lesson learned by both Alan and Mount Auburn’s staff is that landscape preservation is very different from that of buildings and monuments. Because landscapes evolve naturally, the goal is to cultivate plants that create a narrative appropriate for the space’s history without following a strict template. In her Westford gardens, Alan learned to preserve an overall vision while incorporating practical needs and her own life experiences and discoveries. Dave Barnett described Mount Auburn’s approach similarly: “It’s not status quo that we’re committed to, the exact same plants in the exact same spot that were here in 1831…. It’s rather that what we’re trying to preserve is the founding vision—a beautiful, tranquil, inspirational place that people want to be buried at, or want to come birding at and visit, and everything in-between.” From Consecration Dell to Asa Gray Garden, as at Alan’s home, this is a vision to which we all continue to adapt, one season after another. Claude Benoit, Mount Auburn’s former Director of Horticulture; his wife, Linda, and Alan at the ribbon- cutting ceremony for Asa Gray Garden in the summer of 2018 (top), Dave Barnett and Alan in December 2018. 19