Countdown to 1 Million: The Gardens

July 1, 2010 by Melissa McMasters

Forbes Ave GardensDid you ever think that sitting beside Forbes Avenue could be so peaceful?

That was the idea behind the "garden rooms" at Schenley Plaza. Designed to be beautiful both from ground level and from above, the rooms are divided from each other by upright Japanese yew shrubs and from the street by feather reed, Chinese fountain, and blue oat grass. The grasses provide a buffer against traffic noise as well as visual interest.

The gardens feature abundant plants and flowers that peak at various times of the growing season. Many of them are native, and only non-native plants that are not environmentally invasive were selected. The signature red groundcover plant, heuchera or "coral bells," is a Pennsylvania native.

Schenley Plaza's gardens contain:

  • 470 perennials in 5 varieties
  • 300 shrubs
  • 320 ornamental grasses in 3 varieties
  • 22,000 groundcover plants in 3 varieties
  • 14,500 flower bulbs
  • 450 annuals planted in the summer, including wave petunias, cannas, and dahlias

The plantings in the gardens are rotated several times a year to provide peak color at every season. In the winter the ornamental grasses provide a golden contrast to the snow on the ground.

Wave petunias

Maintaining a garden landscape in such a highly trafficked area can present some challenges, but the Parks Conservancy's Gardener Angela Masters and the Department of Public Works' Jeff Creighton are up to the task. They spent this morning trimming the hedges to keep them from becoming too tall or wide and creating a hazard for pedestrians. Angela shared that her work had made several families of birds none too happy: "They were just sitting there on the ground staring at me and chirping really loud. I'd invaded their homes!" Angela is also engaged in a battle of wits with some bunnies who really appreciate some of the things she's planted.

To hear Angela and Jeff's impressions on working at the Plaza, check out the videos below.

A tour of one of the garden rooms:


Jeff's favorite thing about working at the Plaza:


Some more of what's blooming today (rated S for Shaky Camera Work--mea culpa!):


If you've got some great photos of the gardens, share them on Facebook! And to keep track of the latest additions to our Millionth Visitor Celebration on July 11, watch this page.

Parks Management, Schenley Plaza, Flowers and Gardens, Schenley Park