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 Welcome to the 2019 Grave Gardener Season

Interested in being a Grave Gardener this year? Read on for information about the program, workshops, FAQ’s, and application instructions. The application period will close on Tuesday, January 15th, 2019.

Please note that due to the popularity of this program and large number of returning Grave Gardeners, we are only able to accept 30 new gardeners this year.

The Grave Gardeners are a group of volunteers who are each assigned a cradle grave to adopt at The Woodlands. These graves were originally designed to be planters and would have been planted and cared for by loved ones in the Victorian era. Our Grave Gardeners tend to their assigned cradle grave throughout the entire growing season (March-November). A wide variety of plant material is provided to gardeners by The Woodlands. Group workshops, demonstrations, and planting happy hours are scheduled throughout the season.

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What will the Grave Gardeners be planting? 
All gardens will be designed (by you!) with the Victorian Garden aesthetic in mind. These are ornamental gardens, not vegetable gardens. An approved planting list of Victorian Era plants and flowers has been created by The Woodlands to help guide the gardeners. A large amount of plant material in the form of seeds, plugs, and bulbs is provided by The Woodlands, though gardeners are also welcome to supplement with additional plants. Workshops held in February and March will give gardeners a knowledge base to work from and provide historical context for the program and this particular style of gardening. Group work days, demonstrations, and events will be held throughout the growing season to help you develop new skills as a gardener and keep your grave gardens looking good! 

How do you become a Grave Gardener?
The application period for this season is open through January 15th. If interested, please fill out the application below. Want to try it but are new to ornamental gardening? That's okay! All levels are welcome. 

What kind of time commitment is expected? 
Past Grave Gardeners who had the most success dedicated 2-4 hours a week caring for their garden.

What kind of challenges can be expected?
Dealing with pests, groundhogs munching on your plants, and drought are a few challenges our gardeners had last year. 

Words of advice from Grave Gardeners:

        "Don't be daunted if you're not a gardener. There is plenty of support and it's about progress, not perfection!"

        "Make sure you have the time! I was in love with the idea, but between my work and school schedule, it was a lot harder to get over to The                    Woodlands than I thought it would be. "

        "There are some fantastic gardeners who participate. Get to know your fellow grave gardeners."

Can't commit to becoming a Grave Gardener, but still want to be part of the program? Consider making a donation directly to the Grave Gardeners to ensure this program can continue for years to come. 

Donate to the woodlands grave gardeners


Workshop 1: Tuesday February 5th, 2019 from 6:00-8:00PM

Gardens (and Houses) in Graveyards: The Regional Peculiarities of America's Rural Cemetery Movement & the Business of Horticulture in Philadelphia
Presented by: Aaron Wunsch and Joel Fry

Location: TBD

Frequently discussed as a national movement, the push to establish "rural" cemeteries before the Civil War also drew on regional gardening traditions and ideals of country life. Here, Aaron Wunsch will put the Philadelphia story in context, paying special attention to The Woodlands. Then, Joel Fry will discuss Philadelphia's early horticultural economy and the city's role in shaping early horticulture in America. 

About Aaron: Aaron Wunsch holds a B.A. in History from Haverford College, an M.A. in Architectural History from the University of Virginia, and a Doctorate in Architectural History from the University of California, Berkeley.  His 2009 dissertation was entitled “Parceling the Picturesque: ‘Rural’ Cemeteries and Urban Context in Nineteenth-Century Philadelphia.” He serves as vice president of Philadelphia’s Woodlands Cemetery and has been active on other nonprofit boards. 

About Joel: Joel Fry is the Curator of Historical Collections at Bartram's Garden.

Workshop 2: Tuesday, February 19th, 2019 at 6:30PM


Researching Genealogy and Horticulture at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Presented by: Lee Arnold Senior Director of the Library and Collections, and Chief Operating Officer

Location: Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Senior Director of the Library and Collections, Lee Arnold, will provide an introduction to conducting research in HSP’s library. Returning Grave Gardeners will give short presentations on their research process and findings.

Workshop 3: Tuesday, March 12th, 2019 from 6:00 - 8:00PM

Planning Your Garden for Year-Round Blooms with Classic Cemetery Plants
Presented by: Joshua Darfler and Robin Rick

Location: TBD

Gardening is not just for the warm months. While the ground is still frozen, and plants are aren’t growing, it’s time to do some plant palate preparation. With pre-planning, and creative thinking, you can achieve more with your garden. In this workshop we will discuss how to select plants and plan your garden for the maximum amount of interest and “wow factor” through the entire growing season…and beyond. After the talk, you'll get your grave assignment.

About Joshua: Joshua holds an M.S. in Public Horticulture from the Longwood Graduate Program at the University of Delaware, where he studied the phylogenetic relationships of ornamental camellia species housed at Longwood Gardens. He is the Biology Department Manager for the University of Pennsylvania where he oversees plant research facilities and the botanical garden.

About Robin: Robin is the Facilities and Landscape Manager of The Woodlands, and has been a Grave Gardener since its inaugural year.


Workshop 4: Sunday, March 31st, 2019 from 10:00AM - 1:00PM

Seeds and Soil: Prepping Your Cradle Graves at The Woodlands

Location: The Woodlands

The Woodlands staff and returning Grave Gardeners will be on site at The Woodlands to share tips on getting your beds ready for planting success. We will do a hands on demonstration on how to prep your garden with fresh soil and then we’ll start digging and prepping the beds for planting. Soil and some tools will be provided. This is the day you start to get your hands dirty, so dress accordingly!

The 2019 Grave Gardener Application is closed. Thank you for your interest in the program. To learn more about the Grave gardeners, visit gravegardeners.org.

Some of the 2016 Grave Gardens, blooming in June.

Some of the 2016 Grave Gardens, blooming in June.

Thank you to    The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS)    for being a dedicated partner of this program.

Thank you to The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) for being a dedicated partner of this program.



© 2014 The Woodlands 
4000 Woodland Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19104