Plants

January

There is no better time to come and enjoy our impressive evergreens. Mount Auburn’s conifer collection is noted for its size and diversity. With more than 80 different taxa and more than 1,500 plants, it is comparable to the conifer collections at … Continue reading

February

Now is a great time for a second look at many of our deciduous trees and shrubs. Even without their more showy foliage and flowers, many of our plants have something to contribute to the winter landscape. From the the impressive size and shape of some trees … Continue reading

March

Early signs of spring appear throughout the landscape in March.  The cheerful yellow blossoms of witchhazel that appear early in the month and the beautiful carpets of scilla  that emerge by month’s end remind us that warmer days are soon on their way. … Continue reading

April

Mount Auburn is painted in shades of yellow, pink, white and lilac thanks to the daffodils, forsythia, magnolias, and redbuds now blooming.  For many, though, it is the April flowering of Mount Auburn’s 20+ varieites of ornamental cherries that truly signal spring’s arrival. … Continue reading

May

It is no wonder that Mount Auburn welcomes so many visitors each May.  Flowering dogwoods, crabapples, lilacs, and azaleas are just some of what is on display.  If you’ve never been to the Cemetery, now is the time to make … Continue reading

June

Though May might be the peak of spring bloom, there is still plenty of interest in June.  Rhododendrons, Mountain Laurel, and Kousa Dogwoods add plenty of late-spring color to the landscape. The annual and perennial plants planted in flower beds throughout … Continue reading

July

In July, make your way out to Willow Pond for a glimpse of our butterfly garden at its peak. As you walk at to the pond, you’ll notice a number of summer-blooming trees and shrubs adding seasonal interest to the … Continue reading

August

Late summer blooming ornamentals provide plenty of reasons to visit Mount Auburn, though perhaps the best reason to visit the Cemetery in August is to seek shade beheath the Cemetery’s dense canopy of shade trees.  Maples and oaks are among our shade … Continue reading

September

As the last of our summer-blooming plants make a showing in September, other plants begin showing the tell-tale signs of autumn’s approach.  Our wildflower meadow, located at  Washington Tower, is now at its peak as we bid farewell to one … Continue reading

October

By mid-October Mount Auburn’s landscape is awash in color.  As our many deciduous trees and shrubs begin to transform their foliage into jewel-tone shades of red, orange, yellow, and purple, other plants set out their fall fruits and nuts. Here are some … Continue reading

November

The diversity in Mount Auburn’s collection of trees ensures an prolonged foliage season each fall.  Even in November, there is still plenty of color in the landscape. From our noble oaks displaying autumn color to the fall-blooming witchhzel, there is plenty to see at the Cemetery.  Here are … Continue reading

December

As our deciduous plants drop their last leaves we welcome the winter season. Now is the time to explore Mount Auburn’s many plants displaying four season interest.  The diversity in our horticultural collections ensure that a visit to Mount Auburn at … Continue reading

JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC

Red-twig dogwoods

February 25, 2021

Horticulture Highlight: Red-twig dogwoods, Cornus sericea, Cornus alba

Everyone longs for love’s tense joy

and red delights…

              -Jane Kenyon

A sampling of red delights from past Horticulture Highlights could include blossoms of rufous-tinted hellebores, redbud, tree peony, azalea, rose, rhododendron, cardinal flower and mums, with the added autumn foliage of maple, franklin tree, Virginia sweetspire, sourwood, tupelo and fothergilla as a partial list.

However, none of the above provide their “red delight” display during our winters. So we look towards our red-stemmed or red-twig dogwoods, members of the genus Cornus. Many are familiar with America’s springtime flowering dogwood or Asia’s summer flowering kousa dogwood, fewer may also know the indistinctly named cornelian cherry. These three small trees are arborescent members of the botanical genus Cornus which includes far more numerous shrub species. Recent and ongoing taxonomic examinations allow the ambiguous fact stating there are 30 to 60 species within this genus.

None the less, herein we introduce two frequently planted species, each with notable red stem color during winter months, Cornus sericea, redosier dogwood of North America and Cornus alba, Tatarian dogwood from Siberia, Manchuria and northern Korea. Nearly indistinguishable, Michael Dirr, author of the inimitable Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, states therein “…the red-stemmed dogwoods are difficult to separate by winter characteristics especially as small plants and one is never absolute as to which species he/she is purchasing…”. The dominant winter characteristic referred to is a discernable color transformation of their woody stems from a greenish to a blood red, with many cultivated varieties exhibiting varied hues from bright coral to bold crimson to beet-red.  All shades of red-twigs are strikingly enhanced when surrounded by snow.

Snow,

blessed snow,

comes out of the sky

like bleached flies.

The ground is no longer naked.

The ground has on its clothes.

The trees poke out of sheets…

              -Anne Sexton

There are strong similarities in the appearance of leaves, flowers and fruits of these two species. The branching patterns are opposite as with most members (not all) of this genus. The 2-5-inch-long leaves of both species are smooth-edged (entire margin) with 5-6 pairs of veins curving parallel to the margins. Both provide an attractive reddish-purple fall foliage.

Unlike the large petal-like bracts found on flowering dogwood and kousa dogwood, flowers on these two species as with many other dogwoods appear as small heads of multiple whitish-yellow flowers forming a flat top referred to as a cyme. When successfully fertilized these flowers later develop ½-inch, whitish/slightly bluish fruits (drupes) that are relished by many bird species and hence are not long persistent.

On a winter visit to Mount Auburn look for our Red-twig dogwoods on Story Road, Willow Pond Knoll, Rosebay Avenue, above Narcissus Path, Anemone Path and off Meadow Road.

Oregon Grape

October 30, 2020

The greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add a useful plant to its cultivation.  – Thomas Jefferson

Oregon Grape, Mahonia aquifolium is a good example of Jefferson’s (1743-1826) oft-stated opening quote. This plant of contemporary usage was introduced as part of our country’s early botanical exploration.

Today we may add Oregon Grape to a list of more well-known evergreen shrubs such as rhododendron, mountain laurel, yew and pieris. Averaging 3 to 6-feet high and wide, its distinct alternate compound leaves are composed of 5 to 9 shiny, stiff, leaflets, each 1 ½-to-3 ½-inches long with spines on the tip and margin. Bright yellow, slightly fragrant flowers occur in mid-to-late April, about the same time as some of our flowering magnolias and cherries. Later in August-September these flowers may produce dark-blue berries, looking somewhat akin to grapes, hence the common name. Fruits may be used for jellies, wines and were historically part of traditional diets of indigenous Pacific Northwest peoples.

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Flora Mount Auburn

September 24, 2020

We are excited to announce the public release of Flora Mount Auburn, our online plant collections database. For the first time, visitors can search our entire collection of trees, shrubs, perennials, and groundcovers….more than 15,000 plants!


Get a preview of FLORA with Samantha Richardson, Plant Records Manager:

Mount Auburn’s staff collaborated with Blue Raster, LLC, BG-BASE’s Mike O’Neal, and Brian Morgan with the Alliance for Public Gardens GIS (APGG) on the creation of FLORA MOUNT AUBURN. 


This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (MA-30-17-0309-17).

Panicle Hydrangea, Hydrangea paniculata

August 28, 2020

It was late in September when you took me

To that amazing garden, hidden in the city,

Tranquil and complicated as an open hand, …

                                                – May Sarton

For many of us, September, with its return of school-days, has become a de facto end of summer.  One late-blooming plant, that always extends the lushness of summer flowers, well past Labor Day, is the Panicle Hydrangea, Hydrangea paniculata.

The genus Hydrangea, within the family HYDRANGEACEAE, includes over 70 species of flowering plants, native to south, and eastern Asia, and North, and South America. Hydrangeas are divided into three major groups of plants: vines; shrubs with the flower inflorescences as round, or conical clusters; and shrubs with flat-topped inflorescences. Hydrangea paniculata, with flowers in elongated, conical, terminal clusters, is native to China and Japan, and was introduced into western cultivation in 1861, by Philipp Franz von Siebold (1796-1866), German physician, and notable plant collector.

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