How Do Our Gardens Grow? - with silver bells and cockleshells and volunteers all in a row

June 14, 2012 by Parks Conservancy Staff

Flowers at the entry to the Walled Garden in Mellon Park

Have you been enjoying our new What’s in Bloom blog series? Pittsburgh’s parks are host to many of our city’s most vibrant floral displays. While careful thought is put into the planting of these gardens, they each require constant attention as they grow. According to Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy gardener, Angela Masters, one of the biggest mistakes people make when planting a garden at home is to assume that the hard part is over.

A beautiful garden is a carefully maintained garden. When the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society presented its Community Greening Award to the Highland Park Entry Garden and the Walled Garden in Mellon Park, they specifically cited the maintenance of each garden as a factor. “The plant material is extensive and the maintenance is flawless,” the judges said of the Walled Garden. They called the Highland Park Entry Garden “meticulously maintained” and added that it is a “sight to behold.”

Oak Leaf Hydrangea in Mellon Park

At the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy we are committed to creating lasting change in our parks and we understand that this means more than the completion of capital projects with striking before and after photos. These restored spaces must remain as beautiful for the generations to come. Each new project we undertake must have maintenance funding secured before we break ground.

With our completion of Schenley Plaza (which hosts a bevy of colorful gardens), the Highland Park Entry Garden, and the Walled Garden in Mellon Park, we hired our gardener Angela to help the City crews maintain the newly flourishing beds. But the unsung heroes of these spaces are the volunteers who come out to help us weed, deadhead, prune, water, sweep, and care for Pittsburgh’s favorite flowers. For two hours every other week, groups of volunteers that vary from 2-8 people at a time work diligently in the Highland Park Entry Garden and the Walled Garden to contribute to the park they love.

A volunteer deadheading in the Walled Garden

I joined the volunteers this past Tuesday in the Walled Garden and we eagerly watched the storm clouds truck across the sky. The tiny squall went as quickly as it came and we were able to roll up our sleeves and get into the dirt. As a Development Associate for the Parks Conservancy, my specialties are planning fundraising events, maintaining databases and spread sheets, and smiling really pretty at people. My work is fueled by my love for the parks, but I completely lack the green thumb genome. I had to give myself a pep talk in the car – just try not to kill the garden. Ever since I had been married there last October, I had been trying to work up the nerve to show up, hoping to contribute to a place that I feel has so deeply contributed to my life. Everyone was thrilled to have another set of hands, and I was given very appropriate tasks in which the plants would survive the liability of my cluelessness. I even learned a thing or two!

We would love to have your help and we absolutely love making new park friends! Our volunteers vary from experienced gardeners looking to lend a hand, to eager park goers who have a lot to learn. Each of them knows that every time a couple snaps a prom picture in the Entry Garden, or says their vows in Mellon Park, they’ve contributed to a place that does more than make Pittsburgh beautiful – it becomes a part of someone’s story.

The remaining horticultural volunteer days are as follows (we’ll provide everything you need) –

Weeding Tuesdays at the Mellon Park Walled Garden

5-7 pm

June 26

July 10 & 24

August 7 & 21

September 4 & 18

Weeding Wednesdays in the Highland Park Entry Garden

5-7 pm

June 27

July 11 & 25

August 8 & 22

September 5 & 19

Color in the Highland Park Entry Garden

Garden Maintenance Tip from Angela

To give your garden definition, make sure your plants have room to shine. “You can’t be afraid to cut back plants or remove some of them when necessary, or they’ll all just grow together,” says Angela. To achieve the stunning color blocking effect you see in the Highland Park Entry Garden, or the calm elegance of the Walled Garden in Mellon Park, allow for some negative space between plants. To really highlight this effect, Angela suggests putting some mulch down on the ground between the plant types.

Learn more about our volunteer programs and how you can get involved here. Really up for getting your hands dirty? Consider becoming an Urban EcoSteward. Dirt not your style? Your donation to the parks will go a long way.

Kathleen Gaines joined the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy as a Development Associate last year.

Highland Park, Mellon Park, Flowers and Gardens, Volunteering, What's In Bloom