Oakland’s gardens are beautiful during all seasons delighting visitors and providing solace for families of loved ones buried here. Thousands of heirloom daffodils bloom during spring along with a cloud of flowering trees and drifts of garden mums. During summer historic iris and dramatic summer tropicals are on show followed by the blazing colors of autumn trees. Winter reveals the beauty of evergreens and berries on a snowy day.
Historically each lot was gardened by family members in a variety of styles. Their efforts focused on creating a small bit of heaven on earth for their departed loved ones and a place of beauty to be enjoyed by the living. They would have chosen flowers for sentimental reasons, including blooms that were favorites of the deceased.
Today’s gardens are also pleasure gardens and draw their style from these earlier times. The genus and species of the plants you see are appropriate to the period of the various lots, and they are presented to evoke the feeling of these bygone days. The garden designs you see today, however, are not recreations from the original lots. Very little documentation remains of original plantings, so we must take cues where we can and let historical accounts, photos and stories guide us as we develop a design for each lot.
All work is performed by three part-time gardeners and countless volunteers, so choosing low-maintenance plantings is important. You will see drought-friendly plants that have proven themselves over generations and that do not need coddling.
Oakland’s 48 acres are home to over 1400 trees, from young saplings to mature giants nearly 200 years old. They provide tangible links to times long gone and cool visitors with their shade. Many reflect Victorian traditions with their weeping form or strong vertical lines pointing towards heaven.
In March 2008 a devastating tornado tore through Oakland Cemetery, toppling over 100 mature trees in a matter of minutes. The devastation was heartbreaking, yet support came from friends, neighbors and nurseries throughout the southeast. Their donations allowed us to replant 114 new trees that fall. It will be many years before these young trees mature, but they are thriving and will be here for future generations to enjoy.
Expanding the Arboretum
Our post-tornado replanting was the beginning of an effort to expand the arboretum. Native trees, especially oaks, dominate the collection. However, we have included many other species that reflect Victorian horticultural sophistication, including crape myrtles. These showy, summer-blooming trees were very popular during the Victorian period; however, they were prone to mildew. Modern breeding has developed plants more resistant to mildew and we have a diverse collection containing both original species and modern varieties.
Caring for Our Mature Trees
We have not forgotten the hundreds of existing mature trees that grace our grounds. Many sustained injuries during the tornado, and all are suffering from the stresses of urban conditions and years of prolonged drought. We assess each tree to determine its unique needs and develop a plan of action for it. We will implement this plan as funds allow.
$1 Million Dollar Tree Campaign
Oakland’s tree canopy includes over 1600 trees and hundreds of species. Some are saplings, while others are close to 200 years old. Since 1982, Oakland has experienced a 50 percent reduction in its tree canopy due to drought, environmental stresses, natural disasters and old age. Oakland is committed to preserving and protecting its canopy. The Tree Canopy Fund will provide our trees with professional care and treatment and will allow us to replant trees as needed. Please donate today.
Historic Oakland Cemetery’s 48 acres of gardens are a:
Certified Wildlife Habitat from the National Wildlife Federation
Advanced Bird Friendly Certified Wildlife Habitat from the National Wildlife Federation
Certified Butterfly Garden from the North American Butterfly Association
Registered site with the S.H.A.R.E. (Simply Have Areas Reserved for the Environment) Pollinator Partnership
It may surprise some to learn that Historic Oakland Foundation's preservation efforts include flowers shrubs and trees in addition to headstones and other hardscaping. As I approach my fourth year as a member of Oakland Cemetery's preservation team, I am still learning and am fascinated…
Second Saturday Volunteer Workdays
Second Saturdays March-May and August-November
9 am-Noon | Meet at the Bell Tower at 8:45 am for registration/check-in
Three-hour garden workdays are planned throughout the year and all willing hands are welcome – with or without prior experience. Volunteers are broken into small teams led by an experienced leader who will teach you the needed skills. Our garden work days are a wonderful way to make new friends while increasing your gardening knowledge. Bring a water bottle and wear comfortable, closed-toe shoes and clothing appropriate for the weather!
Each year we host a number of workdays for private groups of all types and would be happy to talk with you about the possibility of working with your group. Individual projects are also possible for those with more experience.
For more information on scheduling a private volunteer day, or to join a Second Saturday volunteer day, email Director of Gardens Sara Henderson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
American Horticultural Society
Did you know current Historic Oakland Foundation members can take advantage of the American Horticultural Society’s Reciprocal Admission Program for special admission privileges and discounts at more than 300 gardens throughout North America? Not a foundation member? Click here to join or renew your membership today.
If you are a member of a participating RAP garden, visit Oakland Cemetery and show your garden’s membership card to receive 10% off purchases in the Museum Shop and 10 percent off admission to Oakland Cemetery’s garden tours and programs. To view a list of participating RAP gardens and offers, click here.