History of Oakland Cemetery
For someone who only lives 20 minutes from Atlanta and have spent over half my life in the metro area, I have not spent a lot of time in the city. I am one of those suburbanites that detest traffic, the lack of parking, and just the general hustle and bustle of a big city. This year, I have made it a mission to get over my big city prejudice and discover Atlanta’s hidden gems.
Atlanta was founded in 1836 and is rich in Southern History. Of course, most people know Atlanta for Coca-cola, the Braves, and Gone with the Wind. There is more to this city and one of its “secret gardens” is the Historic Oakland Cemetery.
Oakland Cemetery was established in 1850 when the City of Atlanta outgrew its municipal cemetery. It was originally 6 acres of farmland on the edge of town. Due to the growth of the railroad industry and the Civil War, Oakland was expanded to its current 48 acre size. Oakland Cemetery is home to 70,000 former citizens of Atlanta, including most noted citizens like Bobby Jones, Margaret Mitchell (author of Gone with the Wind), and Maynard Jackson.
A Victorian Garden
Atlanta prospered during the Victorian Era, and Oakland it a superb example of the style of gardens of that era. These types of gardens are distinguishable by their mausoleums, statues, and flowering plants and ornamental shrubs. Oakland features winding brick paths, large shade trees, flowers, and ornate shrubs, and appealing vistas.
Originally, each grave lot was maintained by family members thus a great diversity of styles are represented at Oakland. There are very ornate lots with stone planters and topiaries, lots planted with various types of perennial herbs, and lots planted with a single type of flowers like irises or mums.
Today, the entire garden cemetery is maintained by 3 part time gardeners and volunteers. The majority of the plants in Oakland are low maintenance and do not require a lot of coddling. These plants have proven themselves over many generations and continue to thrive.
What you can learn from old gardens
Old gardens can show us attractive plant combinations. It’s hard to envision what your newly planted hydrangea bush and day lilies are going to look like a generation from now. In our own perennial garden, we are attempting to plant low maintenance flowers and shrubs that will give us years of serene beauty. After our visit to Oakland, Mark and I came back full of ideas and inspiration! My personal favorite were the use of herbs, especially rosemary,in many of the lots. Mark was impressed by the old native oaks.
Planning a Visit to Oakland Cemetery
Oakland is located 5 blocks from downtown Atlanta. Historic Oakland Cemetery is a public park, and is open from dawn until dusk 365 days a year and is completely FREE. Parking is free and there is no charge for admission. There are several special events hosted by Oakland throughout the year such as musical events and a Victorian street festival. If you are a local and have not checked out this public green space you should! If you are planning a visit to Atlanta anytime, make sure Oakland is on your list.
Oakland Cemetery is definitely a place we plan to visit again. With the many different types of plants in the garden, Oakland offers a year round destination. I personally can’t wait to see what Oakland will look like in the fall. I took over a hundred pictures during my visit. I have created a special Oakland Cemetery page under the “Garden Photography” menu to view more pictures of the gardens and sculptures. Check back regularly. I have not finish editing all my pictures and I plan to add more as the season changes!
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