SEEDLINGS GREETINGS FROM THE GARDEN AND GREEN SPACE COMMITTEE: Twelve Gardens and Still Growing! -Ed Gergerich and Susan Benn
You’ve probably noticed that BHCF volunteers plant and maintain several gardens in the neighborhood. Most are on City or County-owned properties. The first three were established at the intersection of California and Termon Avenues. Since then, several others have been adopted.
Here is a brief summary of our gardens:
1. The corner adjacent to Adam Ravenstahl’s office has a mix of perennials and annuals. Last fall, the center portion was dug up in an effort to eliminate invasive bindweed (morning glory family) and Japanese Knotweed. If you battle these pesky weeds in your own yard, you know that the fight will continue this spring before the center is replanted. This year the plan is to create a wildflower and bird house in the center with natives’ vines trailing off the bird house posts. Can you think of up a name for this garden?
2. “The Green Up Lot,” adjacent to lower Termon, is the largest corner. A mix of perennials and small trees make this corner a pleasant little passive park. One idea is to make a pollinator garden in the shape of a butterfly planted with seeds from the Audubon Society/Beechwood Farms, as they are giving away seeds (2014) for the special milkweed plants that Monarch butterflies need to survive. Their mission is to help increase the declining Monarch population. The seeds free are available to anyone.
3. The “Bear Lot,” with two small concrete bear statues is a mix of shrubs, perennials and annuals. The lot is privately owned but the corner plantings are done by BHCF.
4. Along Brighton Heights Blvd., the area in front of the “Great Wall” has been planted with trees and shrubs by Tree Vitalize. Before this was done, BHCF volunteers planted vines and ornamental grasses to visually screen the wall. Since the trees and shrubs are now well established, the ornamental grasses were dug up one rainy day in April of 2014. With the help of two Western Pennsylvania Conservancy staff members, Kelly and Mile, BHCF Garden and Green Spaces Committee volunteers, Ed Gergerich and Susan Benn dug up, divided and transplanted the grasses. WPCA staff worked well into the late afternoon to finish planting and mulching and cleaning up. The grasses will be a striking addition to the WPCA garden for years to come.
5. WPCA Garden, McKees Rocks Bridge at Route 65, Brighton Heights, BHCF maintains a bed of annuals provided by the Western PA Conservancy as well as a few items beneath our Brighton Heights Tree sign. Susan Benn has been the volunteer garden steward for the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy garden for the past 6 years. The site was nominated by WPCA for a portal Green Space Award from the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society out of Philadelphia and won! We have a nicely framed award certificate in our office.
6. At Legion Park, bulbs and annuals are planted at the corner entry points to add a bit of color to the trees and monuments. Our veterans and their families really appreciate this, and many help with the up keep. During the summer of 2014 Public Works helped us till new garden spaces for perennials and shrubs. We are developing design drafts for walkways that would continue, and add to, the walkways to the monuments from the four entrances. Three entrances have existing steps, one with tiles done many years ago and holding up well. The fourth walkway would be from the Shadeland side which is flat (no stairs), so easily handicapped accessible. We would like people to walk the pathways to and around the monuments. BHCF pays for electricity for the park, to light the flag and, of course, the Christmas tree for the holidays. We are working with several entities to find a way to have a water source in the park. Victor Mullen and Mark Kirby are pioneering this project and Don Orkesky is providing design ideas.
7. Hanging Flower Baskets:Western Pennsylvania Conservancy Association’s (WPCA) hanging flower baskets first adorned Brighton Heights Business District on the lamposts in 2013. They created a spectacular summer long splash of color with two baskets per Ornamental Street light. The Brighton Heights Citizen’s Federation board of directors made a commitment toonce again purchase 14 baskets at an underwritten cost of $250 each from the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy who plants, installs, and maintains the baskets from June through September, watering (almost daily), fertilizing, and insuring them for replacement if needed. Board Member, Susan Benn, coordinated the sponsorship/underwriting of the baskets with Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and all 14 were sponsored. A rotating banner on BHCF’s Website’s homepage page recognized each sponsor. Tee website also included a Basket Sponsorship Page. Foremost, each flower basket featured the sponsors name on a plaque – giving terrific street recognition!
8. The Antrim Street Rain Garden (what is a rain garden?) is a triangular lot bounded by Antrim, Richardson Avenue, and an unnamed public Way. It was started with funds from a Love Your Block Grant with in-kind design help and plant donations from the Audubon Society at Beechwood Farms. It suffered from a lack of water in 2013. Ironically, for many years, water from a natural spring has been running down the Way, on the Richardson sidewalk and after creating quite a slippery muddy mess or small glacier, continues to flow directly into the sewer, adding to waste water needed to be treated at the ALCOSAN plant. BHCF worked with several public officials on a project to divert this water into the garden, turning a water problem into a water resource.This was completed in August of 2014 and it seems like the engineers and workers did an outstanding job.PWSA really came through for us with the brilliant help of Chester Engineers. This garden resulted from a Love YOur Block grant also, a collaboration of the City and Home Depot, with in-kind consultations and additional plants provided by Beechwood Farms Native Plant Center’s Roxanne Swann. Susan Benn managed this vacant lot planting, from purchasiing the plants and trees, to coordinating the volunteer planting day – which required a last minute call from our councilwomen to get a backhoe in on a Saturday. AS hard as teh volunteers tried to dig up the huge basin, they found it impossible to get teh building rubble out by hand. After two guys spent an hour trying to get a full chimney out, we called in the big guys for help.
The Beecchwood Farms Native Plant Center will donate plants and shrubs to add to the rain garden in October of 2014.
9. Goe Garden: In the summer of 2013, a large green government mailbox disappeared from a small island at the intersection of Goe Avenue and Wapello Street. Susan Benn, who lives nearby, adopted the space and turned it into BH’s newest and smallest public garden.
10. “Pollination Garden” The vacant lot at the corner of California and Benton Avenues is in idea generation. Susan is looking into funding through the National Rock Garden Society to augment the Love your Block Grant for up to $5000 for a unique shale barren garden that would be designed to help restore the population of the greatest pollinators – the non-aggressive, non stinging very small native black bees who live in holes they burrow one foot into the ground. The sandy slop would be alive with thousands of crocuses and coreopsis and other native plants. If this project would come to fruition, it would be a major asset to Pennsylvania’s preservation of plant life and food sources.
11. Park to Park Connection: Vinnie’s Hill Trail is a new initiative that seems to have occurred simultaneously to several people who found each other through the Garden and Green Space Committee. Although in its infancy, the idea is gaining momentum. The goal is to gather a collective of organizations and individuals interested in blazing a pedestrian/bike trail from Brighton Heights Park (Jack Stack Pool) down the hill across Woodsrun Avenue to Riverview Park. An initial walk through meeting will be at 6pm on May 19th at Birkoff and Woods Run. If you could walk or bike, please do so. There is parking in Riverview Park, with just a short walk through the woods to site. Matthew Yurkovich, Jan Held , and Sean Brady are taking the lead and working with the city, trail and bike groups as well as other interested conservation and transportation entities.
12. Between Antrim Street and Woods Run Avenue Brighton Heights Citizens Federation was granted a Love Your Block Grant in June of 2014.The City put in over 100 feet of new sidewalk and the grant involved creating a garden on the slope from the sidewalk down to the parking lot across from Young Brother Bar. Public Works terraced the hillside and provided 10 inches of top soil to put over the rubble on the old building site, and a load of mulch. community volunteers hand shoveled over the entire bank of approximately 8000 sq. Over two days the top soil was laid, perennials and shrubs planted, and an ad hoc rock garden took form in the extra space the city realized it also owned on the hillside the existing parking lot. We are working on getting a water supply and need more people to help with watering with buckets. Sometimes we call the Orchlee Fire Department to help with this lot and Legion Park, which also as of yet has no water supply. Susan Benn managed the fulfillment of the grant, coordinating with public works, BHCF board and committee members, Penn State Landscape designers, Home Depot staff on Highland Avenue in East Liberty (Home Depot provided $2000 for plants and gardening equipment) and a host of community volunteers.
BHCF has been successful in developing working relationships with the Western PA Conservancy, the City, the County, The Audubon Society, and other agencies, but our community has the ultimate responsibility for what happens at each of these gardens and is limited by cost and by the amount of maintenance labor available. Mowing of most of the grass areas is by the county, but planting, weeding, and watering is all done by volunteers.
Throughout the season, all of the gardens need volunteers to help with weeding, watering and maintenance. Please let us know if you would like to help.
If you’re interested, be a guest at the Garden and Green Space Committee. We usually meet at the BHCF office at 7:00 PM on the second Monday of the month, We use the winter months to plan, design, sprout seeds, plan fundraisers, etc. We are always looking for people or groups to “co-adopt” one or more of our lovely green spaces. We also write grants, look for sponsors and seek donations from the community. Getting our hands dirty can be fun and the best thing we grow is pride in the neighborhood. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Susan at 412-766-7747.