CO-Horts Blog

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Scenes from a Cemetery

Posted by: Alison O'Connor, Jane Rozum, Mary Small, Yvette Henson and Carol O'Meara

The five of us are attending the National Master Gardener Coordinator Conference in New Brunswick, New Jersey. To me, it's amazing how old everything is. In Colorado, "old" is 100 years. To those on the east coast, that's considered modern.

Our hotel is located across the street from two very old churches and adjoining cemeteries. In spirit with the Halloween season, we thought you'd enjoy some photos of what we saw (no ghosts or ghouls). It became obvious that maintaining the landscape within a centuries-old cemetery is a daunting task. The tombstones, some dating back to the early 1700s, are in various stages of toppling. The turf is old and thin. The mature trees create various challenges with surfacing roots and shading. But all in all, it was fantastic to walk through and see those who were buried in the graveyard. Many were soldiers of the Revolutionary or Civil War. In short: it was really, really cool!

Christ (Episcopal) Church cemetery in New Brunswick, NJ (ca. 1745)
First Reformed Church (Dutch Reformed Church) cemetery (ca. 1717)
One of the major problems with older cemeteries is surfacing tree roots.
Tree roots tend to grow on the surface in areas of low soil oxygen. This can
make maintenance around roots (and gravestones) difficult.
A very mature beech tree (love!) growing among dozens of graves.
I wonder if the tree root caused the headstone to lean?
Cemeteries are not exempt from piles of leaves
(it just adds another wrinkle to maintenance).
Turf, which competes for water with tree roots (and is often in very shaded areas), tends to look thin and weedy in older lawns (or cemeteries). Fine fescue is the dominant turf in older lawns, since it's the most shade tolerant grass species. Turf is difficult to maintain in cemeteries and sometimes plant growth regulators (PGRs) are used to reduce frequency of mowing, as maintenance around headstones is laborious.
Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans), a groundcover, has become
an attractive weed in this cemetery.
This is nimblewill (Muhlenbergia schreberi). It's a common warm season weedy grass, especially on the east coast and Midwest. It's difficult to control and forms dense patches in the lawn. It tends to be a problem in older, shady lawns
(or this cemetery). Being a warm season grass, it will turn brown with the first hard frost. It's often confused with bentgrass or bermudagrass. 
A praying mantis hanging out on a wrought iron fence.
What a gorgeous insect. 
Happy Halloween!

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating! Old cemeteries are favored by turfgrass breeders in search of promising germplasm to include in breeding programs for new bluegrasses, ryegrasses and fescues. The natural selection pressure of shade and minimal maintenance will, on occasion, produce a grass that shows high potential to perform well with little/no fertilization or irrigation (and/or in the shade). What fun...and great pics!