Harmony in the Garden Blog

Virginia City’s garden cemetery

DSC_0026 2Halloween is near making it the perfect time to introduce you to one of my favorite places to visit – Virginia City, Nevada.

I’m not entirely sure why it’s a favorite of mine, but for the past 40 years or so I’ve been in love with this place.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this place (okay, I admit that’s probably most of you) Virginia City is a long-abandoned silver mining town hidden away in the barren, inhospitable Nevada desert.  Located 6,000 feet above sea level the summers are so blistering hot you can  hear your brain frying with winters that are mind-numbingly cold.

At its peak, 150 years ago, there was gold and silver in every hill.  The poorest of prospectors were turned into millionaires overnight, and it was considered the richest city in America. It was here in 1863 that a young reporter from the local Territorial Enterprise newspaper first used his pen name Mark Twain.  Yes, this place was THE place to live – the New York City of the West Coast!  I’m not making this up – I promise.GreenBar

These days, there’s just a few hardy residents who call this place home.  During the summer, however, tourists flock the main street with its gimmicky shops – but that’s not the part of Virginia City I love.

It’s the cemetery that lies just outside of town that fascinates me.  And even though the cemetery lies still, its decay frozen in time, I can still see hints of beauty everywhere I look.   It’s these remnants of beauty that have survived 150 years of total neglect, in the harshest of conditions, that grip my imagination.GreenBar

Despite this area’s harsh, dry and unforgiving conditions, creative pioneers in the 1870s figured out a way to transport water deep in the earth to various locations throughout the cemetery – all in an effort to water the gardens they had planted there.

In fact, these types of cemeteries (aptly named ‘Garden Cemeteries’) are considered the forerunners of today’s municipal parks,  once considered places to go for a ‘meditative promenade’ – a place to enjoy nature.

As one resident of the time wrote, this cemetery had a ‘manicured landscape, laced with soft grasses, planted trees and flowers’. Manicured – this place?

A few months ago I spent the day wandering this massive cemetery in search of remnants of gardeners from the past and was amazed at what was still surviving.GreenBar

Shrubs like this massive lilac bush that someone had planted years ago next to this grave site.

Here it sits, surviving on its own without a hint of  supplemental water.GreenBar


Or these colorful, profusely blooming wildflowers and grasses

The incessant hum of cicadas and the quiet scampering of lizards were the only sounds in this lonely place, yet it was still so full of life (so to speak).

And because it’s close to Halloween, I’d like to leave you with these haunting images that have stayed with me for years…GreenBar

I’ve always wondered why this little child’s grave only has the words ‘Lucky’ engraved on it?  Is it some sort of cryptic message, implying the child was lucky to have parted so early?

Since I’ll never know, I always make it a point to try and pick some flowers for this forgotten child’s grave.

In stark contrast to the crudely made grave above, is this child’s grave located in the wealthier section of the cemetery.

Complete with a white picket fence and a little lamb who quietly lies in the tall grass.

GreenBar GreenBar Upon exiting the cemetery, there’s an old piece of wood carved with this poem:

“Stop and read as you pass by,

As you are now, Once was I,

As I am now, you will be,

Prepare for death and follow me.”

Happy Halloween everyone!

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  • Very nice and reflective for All Hallows’ Eve. I’d like to go there sometime. Interesting natives. I find the same thing here in abandoned homesteads, some daffodils, lilacs, old roses and native flowers side by side.

    Cemeteries are good to walk and remember.~~Dee

  • Town Mouse’s comment was so incredible I had to read it twice. I had no idea what a luxury American cemeteries are.

    Like you, I have a fondness for cemeteries and the inscriptions on headstones. Always fascinating. Your exploration of the surviving plants is interesting too.

  • American cemeteries amaze me. You get a plot to keep forever? In Germany you rent. After 15, 20, or 30 years, you may choose to give up the spot and a new coffin is placed on top of whatever is underneath; a new gravestone is put up.

    That means we miss out on amazing places like this cemetery, and amazing photos like yours.

  • Wow, Rebecca. I’m not sure I would have seen the beauty you did if I had been there in person, but you’ve opened my eyes to it with your beautiful photos and commentary. Lovely.

  • we were just talking about virgina city when this popped onto the screen. good job. that ghost on the first picture was not only beautiful but i was so surprised when she spoke to me.


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