Category: Uncategorized

Reflections on Mount Auburn with President & CEO Dave Barnett

April 30, 2021

Mount Auburn has been led by President & CEO Dave Barnett since 2008. Dave began his tenure at Mount Auburn in 1993 as the Cemetery’s first Director of Horticulture and has since been responsible for elevating the inspirational qualities of Mount Auburn’s landscape. His many professional awards include a Distinguished Service Medal from the Garden Club of America and an Honorary Life Member designation from the American Public Gardens Association.

As his retirement approaches (September 2021), Dave reflects back on his 28-year tenure at the Cemetery in a series of moderated conversations with his longtime friends and colleagues. View the recordings below.

Mount Auburn’s Evolving Landscape

A conversation between Dave Barnett; Craig Halvorson, consulting landscape architect; and Claude Benoit, retired Director of Horticulture. Moderated by Mount Auburn Trustee Tom Cooper.

1993 was a pivotal year for Mount Auburn on multiple levels – Craig and his team completed a major master plan that has been reshaping our landscape ever since, and Dave was hired to help make the plan a reality. Mount Auburn’s landscape has never been static throughout its entire history, and Dave, Craig, and Claude reflect on the parts they played in its continued evolution, always with the goal of elevating this beloved site to new levels.

Recorded on February 16, 2021.

Mount Auburn’s 25 Years of Habitat Restoration

A conversation between Dave Barnett; Dennis Collins, Horticultural Curator; and Joe Martinez, consulting scientist. Moderated by Mount Auburn Trustee Frank Reece.

From rethinking what we plant where, to reintroducing native amphibian species to our site, to researching how to best serve all of the wildlife that calls Mount Auburn home, our staff and consultants have spent decades transforming Mount Auburn into a more sustainable urban habitat. Together with some of his colleagues and consulting scientists, Dave reflects on how they have made this goal a reality – and what comes next.

Recorded on March 24, 2021.

Preserving Mount Auburn’s Cultural Landscape

A conversation between Dave Barnett; Meg Winslow, Curator of Historical Collections & Archives; and Gus Fraser, Vice President of Preservation & Facilities. Moderated by Vice President of Cemetery & Visitor Services Bree Harvey.

When you hear the words “historic landscape,” do you gravitate towards one word more than the other? How do you manage both equally? And how do historic preservation and landscape work together at Mount Auburn? Dave and a team of his longtime staff colleagues discuss how these questions have informed so many of the projects they have worked on together.

Recorded on April 28, 2021.

Read More

Celebrating Dave Barnett | Join us in celebrating Dave’s remarkable tenure at Mount Auburn and learn more about the newly established David P. Barnett Fund for Horticulture & Urban Ecology, which will support continued excellence in areas that are certain to be part of his legacy.  Read more >>


This three-part series was sponsored by Magnolia Wine Company.

Winter Hazel

April 1, 2021

Two girls discover

the secret of life

in a sudden line of


              -Denise Levertov

Of all of the various secrets of life, one might include taking pause to observe spring’s cornucopia of floral wonder and beauty. April annually allows aficionados to follow a reliable botanical progression of blossoms. A visual cusp of spring beginning in early April then will transform to a landscape loaded with flowers by time of the month’s end. This predictable pushing forward partially includes early nodding, groundcover of hellebores and inconspicuous overhead flowers of American elms, both easy to walk past unseen. Other horticultural highlights might stop you in your tracks like blue sweeps of scilla, sometimes contrasted beneath the wispy yellow flowers of cornelian cherry. More conventional yellow follows with forsythia. By the month’s full pink moon Mount Auburn’s many ornamental magnolias, cherries and shads will have confirmed to any lingering spring-arrival skeptics we have indeed survived through yet another winter.


Local Climate Change Preparedness

February 16, 2021

This virtual Climate Speaker Series event was held on February 10, 2021.

In conversation with
Kara Runsten, John Bolduc, and Laurel Schwab

This panel discussion with three local and state climate leaders includes an overview of the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Program and the efforts of Watertown and Cambridge to conduct vulnerability assessments and implement climate change preparedness and resiliency plans. Panelists also discuss the role of the urban forest and green infrastructure in addressing heat and flood risks.


Kara Runsten is the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Manager at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, where she administers the MVP grant program that provides support for cities and towns in Massachusetts in planning for climate change resiliency and implementing priority projects. Kara has experience working in the government, consulting, nonprofit, and philanthropic sectors. She holds a B.A. in Public Policy from Stanford University and a Master in City Planning from MIT.

John Bolduc is an environmental planner with the City of Cambridge Community Development Department where he manages climate change initiatives. He manages the City’s Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment and the Climate Change Preparedness and Resilience Plan; coordinates the Climate Protection Action Committee, an advisory group to the City Manager on local climate change policy and implementation; administers the Building Energy Use Disclosure Ordinance; and participates in a range of other municipal sustainability efforts. John has been with the City of Cambridge since 1997 and has over 30 years of experience in municipal sustainability and environmental protection. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California at Davis and a Master of Arts from Tufts University in Urban and Environmental Policy.

Laurel Schwab is the Senior Environmental Planner and Conservation Agent for the Town of Watertown. Having been with Watertown since September 2019, she has led the Town through its MVP planning grant process in 2020 and will lead the Town’s “Resilient Watertown” Climate and Energy Plan process in the coming months. Laurel has spent the last decade working on sustainability, climate change, and community development in a variety of public and private roles. She has experience in formulating plans with an eye towards implementation, having worked as a consultant for communities eager for quick action on pressing issues. Laurel has a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies from New York University and a Master in Urban Planning degree from Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

About the Massachusetts MVP Program

The Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness grant program (MVP) provides support for cities and towns in Massachusetts to begin the process of planning for climate change resiliency and implementing priority projects. The state awards communities with funding to complete vulnerability assessments and develop action-oriented resiliency plans. Communities who complete the MVP program become certified as an MVP community and are eligible for MVP Action grant funding and other opportunities.

About the Climate Speaker Series

Mount Auburn Cemetery’s Climate Speaker Series provides a platform for local researchers, academics, public officials, business and non-profit leaders, and volunteer organizations to share with the public their work to investigate, mitigate, and adapt to the threats of our warming climate.

Learn more >>>

Funding for this program was provided in part by the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Lacebark elm

February 2, 2021

And all through the wood, where I wandered with you,

the loud winds were calling;

and the robin that piped to us tune upon tune,

neath the elm – you remember…

              -Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Winter landscapes, especially with overcast skies, are dominated by a palette of muted colors. Occasionally our eyes are drawn to a surprising highlight of ornamental bark. Previously such examples discussed herein have included parrottia, plane tree, paper birch, river birch, paperbark maple, stewartia, and dawn redwood. Add to this list Ulmus parvifolia, Lacebark elm also known as Chinese elm

Many people are familiar with the American elm and its long struggle with Dutch elm disease. However, the genus Ulmus includes 30-40 different species, numerous hybrids and scores of cultivated varieties. Within this elm diversity Ulmus parvifolia, Lacebark elm is easily the most unique due to its exfoliating, mottled bark. Combinations of light-gray, gray-green, brown, orange create impressionistic swirls which in turn respond to changing light upon the trunk. A magnificent characteristic that enhances with age.

Lacebark Elm Tree

Native to eastern Asia, this is a small to medium (30-60 foot) deciduous tree. The 1 to 2-inch long leaves are a lustrous dark green, with serrated margins. The leaves remain green late into October with little fall color. Unlike American and other elm species which have inconspicuous flowers in early spring, Lacebark elm flowers occur in early autumn, hidden under the leaves. When fertilized the flowers produce a ½-inch samara (winged seed) also maturing in autumn. 

 …The thrush on the oaktop in the lane

Sang his last song, or last but one;

And as he ended, on the elm

Another had but just begun

His last; they knew no more than I

The day was done…

              -Edward Thomas

On a future visit to Mount Auburn look for Lacebark elms on Petunia Path, Pyrola Path, Elm Avenue and Birch Garden.

There is a thing in me still dreams of trees.

But let it go. Homesick for moderation,

Half the world’s artists shrink or fall away.

If any find solution, let him tell it…

             -Mary Oliver