In the summer, the 400 grave sites in a section of West Laurel Hill Cemetery outside Philadelphia that is known as Nature’s Sanctuary are marked only by a meadow blazing with native scarlet bee balm (Monarda didyma). Memorial stones are set into a nearby wall. The area, which is designated for green burials, is the first cemetery to earn certification under the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES). As such, the cemetery was the subject of an ASLA webinar earlier this year, available for purchase (1.0 PDH (LA CES/HSW)/1.0 GBCI SITES-Specific CE).
To date, approximately 50 landscapes have been certified through the SITES program, which was developed jointly by the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at the University of Texas at Austin, and the United States Botanic Garden. But Nature’s Sanctuary is the first burial ground. “The model here is assisted ecological succession, where the maintenance for the site will be carried out by nature,” says Adam Supplee, ASLA, until recently a principal at Alta Planning + Design who worked on the design. “It’s more sustainable than running a lawn mower over a grave for eternity.”