The Roses and Residents of Hollywood Cemetery Richmond VA

by The Goth Gardener

It’s a very exciting time here at The Cemetery Researcher, because this weeks post is the first ever guest post! I’m so excited to invite the Goth Gardener to take over my blog, with a tale of Hollywood Cemetery, so without further ado…

“The cemetery is an open space among the ruins, covered in winter with violets and daisies. It might make one in love with death, to think that one should be buried in so sweet a place.”
Poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)

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I took a walk through Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, VA this morning and I spotted a robin. Now I just can’t get spring off my mind!

Hollywood Cemetery was designed by noted architect John Notman of Philadelphia and opened in 1849, constructed on the land known as “Harvie’s Woods” that was once owned by William Byrd III, the son of the founder of Richmond. It was designed in the rural garden style, with its name, “Holly-Wood,” coming from the holly trees on the property. It began with 43 acres and grew to 135 acres with enough current ground space to sell for 20-30 more years.

Architect John Notman, who had developed a strong reputation for his romantic landscape designs, took advantage of the natural landscape. One of the best parts about the layout of Hollywood is that essentially you have short vistas terminated by hills and other trees so you’re actually experiencing hundreds of small spaces. Rather than going into a gridded cemetery where in one view you can take in the entire cemetery, at Hollywood you have to move through it to experience it. In fact, there’s no one point where you can look down and see the entire cemetery. Of course, Notman didn’t make the James River or the Kanawha Canal. He added a few trees but ultimately his success was finding a way to connect them all together.


Hollywood is known as a place of history. It is one of three cemeteries in the United States that has two presidents interred, including the final resting places of Presidents James Monroe and John Tyler. Of course being a Southern city and depending on who is responding, one could argue that Hollywood has three presidents if we include the President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis. Other noteworthy interments include 25 Confederate generals including George Pickett and J.E.B. Stuart, which more than any other cemetery in the country.

Monroe's grave is a "granite sarcophagus surrounded by a flamboyant Gothic Revival cast iron canopy” (National Parks Services).  I love that phrasing :)

James Monroe’s grave is a “granite sarcophagus surrounded by a flamboyant Gothic Revival cast iron canopy” (National Parks Services).
I love that phrasing 🙂

The President of the United States sends a wreath of red, white and blue flowers to the burial place of all deceased U.S. presidents on the anniversary of their birthdays. The tradition started during the administration of President Lyndon Johnson.

Monroe's Grave with Presidential Wreath

Monroe’s Grave with Presidential Wreath

The Wreath. Last April, I went out in the rain to snap some pictures before the wreath was destroyed. We had crazy showers that week.

The Wreath.
Last April, I went out in the rain to snap some pictures before the wreath was destroyed. We had crazy showers that week.

Although many visitors come to see the resting spots of presidents or have an interest in Civil War history, Hollywood contains some of the finest examples of native trees and historic roses in the Commonwealth. There are over 2,000 trees in the cemetery today; some predate the cemetery.

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There is also a vast collection of heritage roses.  In 2014, there were approximately 130 rose bushes counted and some of these are over 100 years old.

All winter I’ve been forcing bulbs indoors and anxiously awaiting Hollywood’s Rose Pruning Workday announcement. While I have appreciated the roses in the cemetery for years, this is the first time that I plan to volunteer. I adore gardening but must admit that I know very little about roses. What better way to learn than by attending the Third Annual Rose Day event with rosarians led by Connie Hilker, owner of Hartwood Roses. This year’s event is on the 21st March (for more details click here).

However, it doesn’t take an expert to appreciate the roses in the cemetery. One of my favorites is Mrs. B. R. Cant. This is one of Hollywood’s notable rose bushes located near President’s Circle.  She is a large, lovely tea rose. This type of rose was introduced in  1901 and is unbeatable for it’s continuous bloom and disease-resistance.  The roses are quite stunning but one other reason that I love this rose bush is that it is also located near the plots of a prince and princess who are often overlooked by visitors.

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Mrs. B. R. Cant rose bush near the President’s circle

Prince Sergei Michailovitch Wolkonsky of Imperial Russia was a playwright, actor, essayist, orator, and lecturer. The Russian Prince was born in what is now Estonia in a beautiful palace of his family. He was an influential Russian theatrical worker, one of the first Russian proponents of eurhythmics (a system of training through physical movements to music), and was also the creator of an original system of actor’s training that included both expressive gesture and expressive speech. Further, his paternal grandfather was a highly decorated hero of the wars with Napoleon.

In 1926 he married Mary Fearn French, daughter of United States diplomat who was also the sister-in-law of a Vanderbilt. While vacationing in Hot Springs, Virginia Wolkonsky died after a brief illness and was buried in her family’s plot.

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Another rose, the Rosa Moschata, that I adore in Hollywood is mainly because of its fragrant musky scent and its fascinating story. This is a very old rose, introduced in 1540, that grows in the Crenshaw plot. Because it isn’t on the walkway, I found this one by using Hollywood’s Notable Trees & Roses cemetery map. The creamy white flowers are small and simple but the smell is amazing. I could camp out there all day with a book just for the smell. This rose was thought to be extinct until it was discovered in Hollywood Cemetery.  It blooms in late summer but while I was there last October, there were still a few roses on the bush.

Rosa Moschata

Rosa Moschata

Of course, on days like today one only gets to reminiscence the smell of these roses by enjoying the stone versions, which fortunately can be viewed in all seasons.


If you’ve enjoyed reading this piece, come visit me at Goth Gardening where I use gardening as a metaphor for living. Goth Gardening is a way for me to share how plants & flowers, creepy things, and the dead brought me back to life. The posts range from Virginia history, cultural traditions, infrequent poor-quality outfit posts, and gardening. Since I live in Edgar A. Poe’s old stomping ground, I find that I post about his life and works quite often. Of course, you’ll also learn more about Hollywood Cemetery.


  • I love old carved stones like the one above and I adore the grave of James Monroe! Thank you for sharing this!

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