Open Position: Assistant Gardening Supervisor

August 26, 2019

POSITION SUMMARY:

Assists the Gardening Supervisor with the preparation, planting, record keeping, maintenance and removal of lot plantings, new sales areas and other corporation plantings, and special garden areas such as the Front Gate, Asa Gray Garden, Story and Bigelow Chapels, Garden Crypts, Birch Gardens, Tower Meadow, Spruce Knoll, Willow Pond and Willow Pond Knoll.  Coordinates the use of interns, apprentices and volunteers for various gardening tasks.

Acts as the Gardening Supervisor when the Supervisor is absent, directing seasonal and full-time employees of the Gardening Department. 

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Story Chapel Exterior Masonry Repairs

February 20, 2019

Work will begin in March on a two-year exterior masonry repair project at Story Chapel.  The project will include rebuilding many of the building’s stone buttresses, extensive repairs to the stonework on the upper portion of the chapel’s tower, and 100% repointing of the exterior masonry joints.  Ongoing moisture issues related to deterioration of the stonework necessitate replacement of a significant amount of the stone at the buttresses and throughout the building.  The original red sandstone quarried in Potsdam, New York, has been susceptible to splitting along bedding planes, opening up gaps in the stone and contributing to failed masonry joints through which water can penetrate.  The Potsdam sandstone is no longer quarried, so identifying a replacement of stone has been a challenge for maintaining the building.  Working with architects at McGinley Kalsow and Associates, a suitable red sandstone from Locharbriggs, England was identified in 2015, and has been used on two smaller repair projects in order confirm that it will be a good substitute.  When dry the replacement stone is a very close match in terms of color and it was used successfully in a pilot project last year reconstructing buttresses at the southeast corner of the building. The pilot project also provided us with an opportunity to test different mortar recipes for compatibility, color, texture and workability. 

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Horticulture Highlight: Symphoricarpos, Snowberry or Coralberry

November 5, 2019

How interesting will our times become? How much more interesting can they become?

            -Mark Jarman

A retired medical school dean would appropriately interject into conversations that hearing any one’s doctor mention, “isn’t that interesting,” should not always be the preface of what one wanted to hear next. “Isn’t that interesting,” is also heard from visitors walking our landscape, during this time of year, when coming upon any of our Symphoricarpos, Snowberry or Coralberry.

It is completely unimportant. That is why it is so interesting.

            -Agatha Christie

These modest-sized, twiggy, deciduous shrubs within the CAPRIFOLIACEAE, the honeysuckle family, are innocuous most of the year. Inconspicuous small opposite leaves, lacking any fall color and easy to miss small clusters of pinkish, 1/8-to-1/4-inch, bell-shaped flowers do not cause these to capture much attention. However, as we come into November, it is the distinctive and persisting, white and magenta fleshy fruits that serve as the most conspicuous ornamental features of these primarily native shrubs.

Of the 15 Symphoricarpos species, only one is indigenous to Asia, the rest are native to North and/or Central America. The etymology of the genus alludes to ancient Greek for fruit (karpos) bearing together (sumphorein). These ½-inch diameter, fleshy, berry-like drupes containing two seeds matured back in September. While offering food for various birds and small animals, the lengthy time these fruits ornamentally persist, for our enjoyment, suggest many birds do not have them on their top ten, or perhaps even top-twenty, bulking-up-list pre-migration.

Interesting,”

someone remarks between bites.

“to be right here in the moment

yet also out there watching

some once-in-a-lifetime sublimity

unfold, as if living as if already

dead.” …

            -William Hathaway

Nonetheless we can mention appropriate, bi-centennial historical notoriety. Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) in presidential retirement was adding these plants at Monticello. This enthusiastic botanist often shared his new plant finds with many others and we know he sent cuttings of snowberry to Madame de Tesse (1741-1814), in France, his friend and correspondent of three decades.

There is not a sprig of grass

that shoots uninteresting to me.

-T. Jefferson, Dec. 1790

The greatest service which can be

rendered any country is to add

an useful plant to its culture…

            T. Jefferson, In Memoir

At Mount Auburn we recently added more cultivars of coral berry, some tried (‘Candy Sensation’) and some new for us (‘Proudberry’) which may be found on Spruce Avenue, along with snowberry found elsewhere.

What really dissatisfies in American civilization is the want of the interesting, …

-Mathew Arnold

November sun that latens with our age,

Filching the zest from our young pilgrimage,

Writing old wisdom on our virgin page.

Not the hot ardour of the Summer’s height,

Not the sharp-minted coinage of the Spring

When all was but a delicate delight

And all took wing and all the bells did ring;

Not the spare Winter, clothed in black and white,

Forcing us into fancy’s eremite,

But gliding Time that slid us into gold

Richer and deeper as we grew more old

And saw some meaning in this dying day;

Travelers of the year, who faintly say

How could such beauty walk the common way?

            -Vita Sackville-West

Blooms at Mount Auburn

November 5, 2019
Mount Auburn’s landscape is composed of a diverse array of plants and trees that come into bloom at different times and in different seasons.

What’s in Bloom: Week of November 4, 2019

Japanese anemone, Anemone hupehensis, several locations

Aster, Aster tartaricus, Asa Gray garden

Aster, Symphyotrichum ‘Raydon’s Favorite’, Asa Gray garden

Mountain fleece, Persicaria amplexicaulis, Asa Gray garden

Leopard plant, Ligularia sp., Asa Gray garden

Panicle hydrangea, Hydrangea paniculata, several locations

Rose, Rosa sp., several locations

‘The Fairy’ rose, Rosa ‘The Fairy’, @ Sphinx

Witch hazel, Hamamelis virginiana, Oak Ave., Hazel Path

Chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum sp., many locations

Ladies tresses, Spiranthes sp., Beech Ave.

‘Endless Summer’ Hydrangea, Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Bailmer’, Spelman Rd.

‘Knockout’ rose, Rosa ’Radrazz’, Spelman Rd.

‘Rose Creek’ Abelia, Abelia xgrandiflora ‘Rose Creek’, Field Rd.

Geranium, Geranium ‘Rozanne’, Admin. Bldg.

Catmint, Nepetaa ‘Blue Wonder’, Azalea Path

Cosmos, Cosmos bipinnatus, Greenhouse garden

Zinnia, Zinnia sp., Greenhouse garden

Cock’s comb, Celosia sp., Greenhouse garden

Globe amaranth, Gomphrena sp., Greenhouse garden

German statice, Limonium sp., Greenhouse garden

Bird Population Declines – And How We Can Help

November 4, 2019

Ornithologists have long recognized Mount Auburn as one of metropolitan Boston’s most important bird refuges. Its 175 acres of green space and rich vegetation are crucial resources amid recent urbanization trends. A 2019 study from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology reports that there are three billion fewer birds in the U.S. and Canada since 1970, meaning one in four birds has disappeared over the past fifty years, with steepest declines in the eastern U.S. And according to the annual State of the Birds Report, a comprehensive analysis on bird populations in America published by the Secretary of the Interior since 2009, nearly a third of the nation’s 800 bird species are endangered, threatened, or in significant decline due to habitat loss, invasive species, and other threats. We recognize that these studies signal a broader ecological crisis. Luckily, we’re also aware that it’s not too late to help species which rely on ecosystems like those offered at Mount Auburn. We have therefore been prioritizing initiatives that are making the Cemetery an even better destination for both year-round and migratory bird populations, both through habitat enhancement throughout our landscape and collecting data (with the help of our community) on how well these habitats are serving their populations.

Yellow Warbler in Bradford Pear, photo by Brooks Mathewson

In recent years, Mount Auburn has become a living laboratory for scientists studying wildlife populations like our many species of birds. We now also have a multi-generational team of over 100 well-trained volunteers making it possible for these scientists to acquire the data they need at a much higher volume than they (or our own staff) would ever be able to on their own. These volunteers are part of our Citizen Science Program, now in its fifth year, with studies on phenology in our landscape each spring and fall to help us track changes in the timing of leaf, flower, and insect emergence related to weather and climate disruption (which impacts food availability for migratory birds). The program also features a new survey (launched in 2019) of breeding bird abundance and distribution throughout the Cemetery.

Black-throated Green Warbler in Canada Yew, photo by Brooks Mathewson

We have partnered with Brooks Mathewson, an ecologist with a long history of birding at Mount Auburn, to lead the program ever since its first year. Looking ahead to 2020, he will once again offer a series of workshops, training walks, and educational materials to teach our team of volunteers how to collect data for three studies in the spring and fall: breeding birds, red-backed salamanders, and phenology. Brooks then organizes, enters, analyzes, and summarizes the data; and he follows up with reports on the findings. With every year of data and analysis, we are better able to take a proactive approach to determining what adjustments need to be made in our landscape to maintain this rare resource: a thriving, sustainable urban wildlife habitat.Our Citizen Science Program would not be possible without support from friends like you; please donate today! If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, contact Wildlife Conservation & Sustainability Manager Paul Kwiatkowski at pkwiatkowski@mountauburn.org

Top photo is of a Northern Parula, by Brooks Mathewson