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Want to be a grave gardener in West Philly? Here's how

Help beautify the graves at Woodland Cemetery as a grave gardener
Help beautify the graves at Woodland Cemetery as a grave gardenerRead moreRyan Collerd

Grave gardeners.

The Woodlands have opened up the application process for the second time. To apply, go to Applications for the 2017 season close next Friday.

How does it work?

Each volunteer is given a grave assignment and a list of plants that would have been on the grounds when the person was alive (think snapdragons and lady ferns). These plants are gathered through historical resources around the area.

"Lots of people started doing research on the person" in their allotted grave, said Baumert, a self-described history nerd. "It became more than we even expected it to be. These were people buried in the 19th century that have no one left to visit with them. It's a great way to connect people with the past through gardening."

The gardeners for the grave of Dr. David Jayne got so excited about their grave's occupant that they worked with medicinal plants to spruce it up. At the grave gardeners' end-of-the-summer fete, the College of Physicians of Philadelphia did a workshop about medicinal plants at Jayne's grave.

Do you need to be an experienced gardener?

You're not even expected to bring your plants and flowers, although many people supplemented what the Woodlands provided.

Be ready for a commitment

Workshops start in February. "The first day, people get their graves ready, and do soil amendment in March. Then this season basically goes through the end of October, when we did bulb planting for the next year," Baumert said. "Last year, we did a survey of all the gardeners, and they said it was about a two-to-four-hour week time commitment." Going on vacation and can't make a week? Don't worry, the community will fill in for you. But in you apply, keep in mind you've got a full season of grave gardening ahead of you.

Can't grave garden, but still want to help?

The Woodlands is run by a small staff, so donations are always welcome (go to the website to give). Baumert said she wanted to start grave tours this summer and would hold another grave-gardening fete come September. The Woodlands are open 365 days a year, from dusk to dawn, so even if you aren't planting, you can still enjoy the view.