Sorry to see her go… Parks Commissioner Toni Pollak Retiring

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Hello Gardeners!
Just learned that
Boston Parks Commissioner Antonia Pollak is retiring from her position.  I had the good fortune to meet Toni for an informational interview in 2010 after I left my corporate job.  Even today I dream of becoming a park ranger.  🙂

The Commissioner shared her career journey and offered a candid assessment of opportunities in the Parks Department and other area organizations focused on parks and open spaces. I was impressed with her knowledge, her warmth and her down-to-earth attitude.  Not long after that meeting, I started this City Garden Ideas blog.  Thank you Commissioner for your advice and guidance.  I wish you well in your next chapter!
The Friends of the Public Garden is joining with Boston Park Advocates to celebrate retiring Parks Commissioner Toni Pollak on February 26, from 5 – 7 at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel.  Admission is $10, and space is limited.  Please rsvp by February 20 at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/thank-you-to-toni-pollak-tickets-6825494237.  I’ll be at the party.  Please come and celebrate the Commissioner and all she has done to maintain and beautify our city.

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Fenway Victory Garden Tour July 27th!

Hello City Gardeners!
Here’s a great opportunity to see some wonderful city garden spaces!
On Saturday, July 27th from 2 – 5pm, more than 25 Fenway Victory gardeners will open their FenwayVictoryGardenwithPrugates to visitors.

Come view beautiful flower and vegetable gardens, picnic in the meadow, play bocce, learn new gardening tips and get inspired!  Sounds like great fun!

There will be a sprinkler for kids of all ages to run through…come on down!  The gardens are located in Boston.  A map will be available at the flagpole.  Rain Date July 28th.
For more information, call 617-267-6650 or visit www.fenwayvictorygardens.com.

Boston Garden Contest – Entry Deadline July 12th

Hello Fellow Gardeners!
It’s time for the annual City of Boston Mayor’s Garden Contest!  I love this contest and encourage everyone in Boston with a front, back or side garden, window box or container garden to enter! 

FlowersonthestoopResidents and businesses can nominate their own or a neighbor’s garden.  Why not make someone’s day?  Only gardens planted by amateur gardeners are eligible. Just think, in a month or so you could be the winner of a coveted Golden Trowel!  Deadline for entry is Monday, July 12th.

ImpatiensMy tree garden needs some work to be contest ready.  The impatiens I planted in late April are dried out, sprawling and spindly.  However, the  lavender, catmint and ivy are doing just fine. 

Tree Garden June 26, 2013This morning I replanted my tree garden with yellow snapdragons, white and purple petunias, grasses and Blue Dwarf argeretum in the Ageratumfront corners.  All the plants come from That Blooming Place (TBP) on Route 53/Washington Street in Weymouth. They don’t have a website but don’t let that stop you from stopping by.  The hanging plants are gorgeous and there’s a great selection of healthy potted plants!  

8.21.11 Garden - Right ViewA few years ago my tree garden earned an honorable mention in the Mayor’s Garden Contest.  Unfortunately, tree gardens are no longer eligible for the Contest. I’m not exactly sure why but it’s a real shame. I’m going to enter anyway and try to get them to open this category back up.

Gardening around a street tree actually helps the tree.  It is getting good soil, water and attention.   You just shouldn’t mound soil around the base like a volcano because it may suffocate the tree and flowers or ground cover should be planted, never shrubs. Shrub roots could interfere with the tree roots.   

Enough about me… Here are the Contest specifics:
Fill out the application form and attach or send up to five (5) photos.  The judges will use these photos to narrow the entrants to five finalists per category. Site visits by the contest judges will determine the winners.
Applications can be mailed or filled out online.  Go to  www.cityofboston.gov/parks/gardencontest
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Photos and forms are due July 12, 2013 by 11:59PM.  More details are at GardenContest@cityofboston.gov or call 617-635-4505.
Good luck!

Landscape Institute Offering Summer Courses

Looking to learn more about landscape design, construction and drafting?

Heather HeimarckHeather Heimarck, a long-time friend to City Garden Ideas and the director of the Landscape Institute at the Boston Architectural College, sent along the Institute’s Summer Course catalog – Summer 2013 COURSE OFFERINGS

Check out the short, hands-on classes at the Massachusetts Horticultural Society in Wellesley.  Think about attending the course by painter and a historian, Ma Qingxiong.  Students learn about Chinese landscape design and try their hand at doing oriental brushwork. Take a look at Ma’s website  http://www.maqingxiong.com

The Institute is offering many other courses including a three-week introduction to design intensive, M-F, in July.  Heather says it can be very rich to immerse oneself that way.  If you have any questions, call 617 585 0100.  Be well!

BAC

Selecting Plants That Grow – Encore Expert Advice

Tom Smarr1ENCORE!  Tom Smarr, now Director of Horticulture at the High Line in New York City, offers timeless advice on selecting plants that will grow.  This 2011 blog deserved an encore post!
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“In the city, tough plants go into the ground. When you choose your garden plants, consider sunlight, moisture, bloom color and height. Know your exposure.  Notice how much sun and shade are in different areas of your garden.”   – Tom Smarr                               

Determine Your Sunlight Levels:
Full Sun – 6 hours or more of direct sunlight (in summer)

Part-sun – 2 to 6 hours of direct sunlight
Part-shade – 1-2 hours of direct sunlight
Light shade – Dappled sunlight, or shade below open sky
Here are some of Tom’s favorite plants by sun level:
1. Full sun:  Black-Eye Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’)
Dwarf New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae ‘Purple Dome’)
Husker Red Foxglove Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’)
Daylilies (Hemerocallis cultivars)
Blue Licorice Giant Hyssop (Agastache scrophulariifolia ‘Blue Licorice’)
Blue Ice Amsonia
“All of these are medium to tall plants that would grow great in a perennial boarder or meadow style with ornamental grasses.  These provide a season of blooms and foliage interest and are hardy in urban garden conditions.”
2. Medium sun:
Heavy Metal and Shenandoah Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum) plus Little Blue Stem (Schizachryium scoparium ‘The Blues’) are two great grasses that are durable and have nice solid color.
Snow Flurry (Symphyotrichum ericoides) is a low growing, groundcover type aster.
Sheffield Pink Florist Daisy (Chrysanthemum x morifolium ‘Sheffield Pink’) is a hardy blooming chrysanthemum along with many other cultivars provide different colors in the garden for autumn.
All of these will do fine in full sun to medium light and mixed with plants in the full sun category.
A favorite shrub is Dwarf Witch-alder (Fothergilla gardenia) an early spring flowers with vibrant autumn foliage.
3. Part Shade to Shade:
Pachysandra is a dependable groundcover as is Liriope spicata that is a grass-like blooming plant.
•Tom’s favorites are Hydrangeas that provide good summer color and mounding shrubs.  Popular cultivars are mop head types like ‘Blushing Bride’ and ‘Endless Summer’ or a lacecap variety like ‘Blue Billow’.
•He also likes Oak Leaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) as it has unique flowers and leaves. •Barren Strawberry (Waldsteinia fragarioides) is a groundcover that does well in shady conditions like many other woodland favorites seen at Garden in the Woods in Framingham.
Tom admits that plants for shady sites can be tough as little or no light reaches the ground.  He recommends trying some of the groundcovers in Part Shade and thinking uniquely about the location for garden ornaments.

This Wednesday, May 15th – Plant Something!

This WednesdGetting Ready to Gardenay, May 15th, people all over the Commonwealth will get busy planting something beautiful in every city and town. Come join in!

It’s all part of Plant Something MA, a joint project of the Massachusetts Flower Growers Association and the Massachusetts Nursery and Landscape Association. The goal is to have a public planting across the state and encourage residents to plant something – anything!

As Lady Bird Johnson once said,
“Where flowers bloom so does hope.”

So get yourself to a local garden center, find some fabulous flowers and then get out your gardening gloves!Daffodils in Rain Boots  My plan is to use an old pair of rain boots as my containers and put in calla lilies and ivy.  My inspiration comes from a fun planting (pictured right) I saw at the 2012 Boston Flower Show.

I’ll post pictures of what I plant.  If you plant, please send your photos so we can all see what you did!

5 Tips for Flower Garden Success – Expert Advice from Perennial Garden’s Ellen Abdow

Ornate container with pansies, pussywillows and ivyHello Gardeners!
Before you plant your Spring window boxes, containers or street-side tree gardens, please read this!  Ellen Abdow, the talented owner of Perennial Gardens, is offering her 5 top tips for a successful flower garden.  Ellen Abdow - Close Up
As a featured speaker at two City Garden Ideas workshops, she famously introduced the phrase ‘Thriller, filler and spiller,’ the three flower components for a winning container, to the audience.  Watch Ellen in this YouTube video from the 2012 CGI workshop.
Here are her 5 top tips:
Tip 1. Look, listen and learn from all the gardeners that have come before you and the gardens all around you.  Indulge in some good books.   I always buy The Well Tended Perennial Gardenthe ones with the most pictures. (Janine likes The Well-Tended Perennial Garden).  Subscribe to magazines and gardening blogs to learn about the latest trends and tricks of the trade. Go on garden tours in the city, attend the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days garden tours.  See what you like in other peoples gardens, copy, and make it your own. Mass Horticultural Society, New England Wildflower Society and the Arnold Arboretum all have excellent lectures and courses throughout the year jam packed with great information.
Tip 2. Be honest: Make an accurate evaluation of sun vs. shade, and plant what’s best geared for those light conditions. There are so many interesting cultivars of plants for any light conditions. Read the labels, ask your local garden center for advice and guidance, and plant accordingly.
Tip 3. Food and water: Proper soil and nutrition grows healthy plants. Build OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAa solid foundation and plants will grow easily. Take the time to evaluate your soil and add organic matter to create nutrient rich growing environments. Invest in good potting soil for hanging baskets and potted plants that drains quickly found at your local garden center. Water regularly, not too much, and not too little. Ask for expert advice, and use it!
Tip 4. Change your mind: If you don’t like the way your planting looks, PG - Container and shrubschange it out. Try something new. A garden is never finished. Be willing to take chances. Have fun, relax, and grow what makes your heart go pitter patter.
Tip 5. Use every inch of space you have: Stuff every centimeter of your space with plants. Mount shelves on the walls, hang baskets off the railings, try vertical gardening. You can grow almost anything in a pot, just remember that a plant in a container is totally dependent on you for water and food.Perennial Garden Truck

Ellen started her business in 1993 and she and her team actively design and install gardens in Boston and out in the suburbs.  To learn more about Ellen and Perennial Gardens, visit www.perennialgardens.net.
By the way, that’s my tree garden 🙂 in front of the Perennial Garden truck.  Happy planting!