Grave Gardeners

A casual walk through the Historic Easton Cemetery gives a silent lesson in nature’s variety and beauty. Over the decades, many families have chosen to honor their deceased loved ones with plantings at their graves, from simple annuals to rose bushes intended to bloom for years.

As home gardeners know, maintaining flowers and other decorative plantings requires skill and effort. In recent years, a corps of volunteers has stepped forward to provide these to the Cemetery, complementing the overall maintenance work of the grounds crew.

Graves featuring a planting bed projecting from the memorial stone itself are referred to as garden graves, cradle graves or French gardens. Typically, the family of the deceased planted and maintained flowers in the bed - but neglect became common after a generation or two. In 2016, volunteer Shelley Arhweiler “adopted” several of these graves and began providing the care that they needed.

Soon after, Superintendent Jeff Mutchler was inspired by a TV segment on the large volunteer gardening program at Philadelphia’s Woodlands Cemetery to expand the effort here. He contacted local Master Gardner Lois Prytherch, who undertook several projects, recruited volunteers to do more, and now provides overall leadership for the various initiatives.

A group is experimenting to identify plants that are hardy, and importantly, deer-resistant. Stephanette Schwartz-Smith coordinates several volunteers who now work on the garden graves. Master Gardner in-training Mike Hoskins is heading up work on a project of identifying and caring for the many antique rose bushes throughout the cemetery.

If decorative gardening is among your interests, volunteering at the Historic Easton Cemetery could be a rewarding experience. To learn more and to get contact information, use the link below to visit the “How You Can Help” section of our website.

Rory Morgan