NOTES FROM YOUR GARDENERS
Take a behind the scenes look inside Pittsburgh's parks from the view of our Horticulture and Forestry team!
"So you do a lot of planting?"
This is a question I receive often when people realize I'm a professional park gardener.
Fun fact – we spend most of our time pulling weeds!
Yes, we plant trees, bulbs, and annual flowers, but this is a small fraction of what we spend our time doing within Pittsburgh's parks. The types of vegetation we plant in the parks have very specific windows in which they can be planted.
Planting trees takes approximately five days in the spring and five days in the fall. We also spend approximately two days in the fall planting bulbs and spend four-to-six days in May planting annuals. However, we spend days - actually, weeks - pullings weeds!
The flower beds in the parks are planted with perennial plants that bloom year after year, so they don’t require planting, but they do require regular weeding. We even pull weeds during the winter months.
In the park woodlands, pulling vines from trees and removing woody invasive shrubs is a form of weeding and this is how we spend our winter months in the parks. We don’t use herbicides to control weeds, so it’s up to our team of park gardeners and volunteers to remove them.
While we enjoy gardens for their beautiful blooms, attractive foliage, and fragrant blossoms, a variety of other animals enjoy these spaces too! When out working in the parks it’s not uncommon for us to come across wildlife that have made their home in the lush greenery of the gardens.
The variety of perennial plants that grow in the gardens provide a myriad of species with both food and shelter during the summer months. We see many different pollinators attracted to the nectar and pollen of blooming flowers, caterpillars munching away on leaves, and even birds that like to feed on seeds of the flower that have finished blooming.
If you worry that attracting insects might be a problem – have no fear! A lush garden also attracts predators of these insects, things like praying mantis, lady bugs, friendly spiders, birds, and small mammals which all help to keep the garden ecosystem in balance.
The dense foliage of perennial plants also provides great habitat where different critters can hide from predators, take refuge from the hot summer sun, and even raise their babies!
It was a delightful surprise last summer when I came across this bird’s nest in a peony in the Highland Park Entry Garden! I was careful not to disturb the nest once I knew it was there, but I was able to check on it periodically to see that the eggs hatched and within a few short weeks the baby sparrows had all successfully fledged from the nest. Maybe they’ll come back to start families of their own this year!