Category Archives: My street-side tree garden

Information and updates on my gardening efforts around my street-side tree in Boston’s Back Bay.

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
Photos and forms are due July 12, 2013 by 11:59PM.  More details are at or call 617-635-4505.
Good luck!


Mandevillas and Dahlias – A Boston City Garden Finalist?

Street-side Tree Garden with mandevillas, dahlias and petunias
It’s official. I submitted my street-side tree garden into the City of Boston Garden Contest tonight.  There’s still time for other Boston residents to enter.  The deadline is Wed. July 18th at 5pm.

This summer has been a tough one for my garden.  Today’s submission reflects my fourth planting since April.  That’s well over my usual quota of planting through early July.
My current garden has lush, Red Mandevillas and Purple Dahliasred, mandevillas, purple dahlias, bright purple and yellow petunias, pink impatiens and lots of English ivy.

My fingers are crossed that my garden earns a Finalist position.  I’d love the judge to see the colors, textures and beauty that exists on a sidewalk in the middle of the city.  Good luck to all the entrants!

Boston Garden Contest Deadline Extended!

My Street-side Tree GardenHello All:
Good news!  The deadline for the City of Boston Garden Contest has been extended!  Nomination forms with photos are now due by Wednesday, July 18th at 5pm.
I encourage every City of Boston gardener with a window box, container garden or flowering yard to enter to win that Golden Trowel.  Just fill out an entry form online and submit as many as five (5) photos of your garden space.
Details about the contest and the nomination form are at:
Good luck to all!

Petunia Thief On the Loose in Boston

Container Garden with Yellow PetuniasAn alert to all city gardeners:
The Back Bay flower thief has struck again!
Last year, three gorgeous dahlias were plucked from our  street-side tree garden.
This past Friday night, an entire clump of yellow petunias was lifted straight out of our side-street container.
My husband is threatening to install a close-circuit camera!
I must admit this post does sound a bit like the game of Clue…. “He was in the alleyContainer with Missing Petunias with the dahlias from the garden!”  Wish it was all just a game.

In the larger scheme of things, flower theft is small potatoes.  We made a quick trip to Mahoney’s in Brighton to find replacements.  There I learned that flower theft was on the rise all over the city!  The young man at the register told me that I was the 11th or 12th person to come to the Garden Center over the past several days with the same lament.  Misery loves company.
Container with Purple PetuniasAnd yellow petunias?  Very hard to find, just in case you were interested.  Luckily, there were plenty of healthy and hearty Proven Winner purple and white petunias for sale.  Did some serious rearranging in all my containers.  Kept the tall, white “Crystal Peak White” False Dragonhead Physostegia (sometimes called Obediant Plant), removed the Shasta daisies and nestled the new petunias with the existing English ivy.  All the plants seems happy in their warm, sunny space. Fingers are crossed that the flower thief has retired for the season.  Here’s wishing that your flowers are blooming and staying where you planted them!  Enjoy!

City Garden Planting #2 – Daisies, Petunias and More

Daisies, petunias and garden supplies on the stoopChoosing plants for my garden is a creative and exciting process.  Visiting a garden center, discovering healthy plants with great colors and textures, arranging them together until they look just right…  that’s fun for me.  It’s a good thing I like this process since I have to do it at least three to four times between April and September.   City life is hard on plants.  
Last week I had to do something quick.  All of the impatiens in my tree garden and containers were wilted, leggy and needed to be replaced. 
I drove to Allandale Farm in BrooklineAllandale Farm Logo to purchase plants to add new color and variety.  If you don’t know Allandale, it’s Boston’s last working farm and worth the trip.  You can get fresh produce in the main building and usually they have a terrific assortment of flowers that thrive in city environments – vibrant pots of dahlias, daisies, impatiens, petunias and more.   Unfortunately, the flower selection this day was slim.  White Shasta Daisies and Yellow Petunias in Black Container It took some looking but I found six pots of lively white and yellow Shasta daisies and two hanging planters of yellow, purple and red petunias.   I thought I could easily break up the petunias and plant the flowers in the containers and tree garden.  Overall, the daisies look great and are doing fine.  The petunias… well, they are more of a mixed bag.   About half of the transplanted petunias are doing well.  The other half are struggling to thrive in one container and the street side tree garden.  Ugh.  I thought they looked hearty.  My bad.  My counsel would be to buy potted petunias.   Using flowers from a hanging planter as a shortcut might seem like a good, money saving idea but I don’t recommend it.  More replanting this weekend.   Need to get my pictures off to the Mayor Menino Garden Contest by July 13th!  Will visit Wilson Farm in Lexington to scope out their plant selections.  Really want dahlias.  More on Wilson Farm and my plant choices next time.  Enjoy!

Enter Mayor Menino’s Garden Contest – Deadline July 13th

Want a little recognition for your beautiful city garden or a neighbor’s garden? Is there room on your mantle for a Golden Trowel?
Come on, take a chance and enter Mayor Menino’s Garden Contest!  Simply take a few dazzling photos of your buds in bloom and fill out a nomination form. The contest is open to all Boston residents, businesses and organization gardens with amateur status.  Deadline is July 13th!  Five finalists are chosen in 10 categories.  Site visits are conducted to determine the winners.

I’ve entered the Garden Contest for the past two years.  Year 1 – my garden was a finalist. (I was so proud.  Even laminated my certificate)  Year 2 – nothing.  (I was robbed!  That’s my tree garden entry below.  Wasn’t it pretty?) 
So it’s Year 3.  And I’ve got my eyes on that Golden Trowel.  
I’m planting a few more flowers in my garden bed this week.  Need to expand the color palette.  There is currently way too much purple in my garden – purple pansies, purple petunias.  Going to spruce it up with some yellow and white daisies and red astilbe.  Maybe even a pink mandevilla or two.  I’ll share my submission photos in a few weeks.

“Boston’s gardeners work long and hard to beautify their homes, businesses, and neighborhoods,” said Mayor Thomas M. Menino. “This contest recognizes and honors these green thumbs who are helping to improve our city with their talents.”
Click here to get a nomination form.  Deadline for entries is July 13th.  For more information, call Lauren Patrick at 617-961-3051.  Good luck!

Garden in Bloom!

Janine's Street Side Tree Garden - Impatiens, Black Eyed Susans, Lantana, Dahlias, Silverdust and more!Just had to share the
latest photos of
my street-side garden. 
The flowers are  blooming their little hearts out!
Just look at the colors –
purples, pinks, yellows! 
After a tough start, these plants are loving the rain and humidity of August. 

I’m especially happy with the rose-colored dahlias, the black- eyed Garden abloom with silverdust, dahlias, impatiens, black eyed Susans, Lantana and more!Susans (rudbeckia) and the Superbells Lavender (calibrachea hybrid).  
The Lantana is also a wonderful surprise.  This tall flower, in the back corner, starts as berry clusters and blooms into beautiful little bouquets of color. 
And the Silverdust aka Dusty Miller is a great anchor plant for the front edges.  They have thrived amid dogs and people.

As beautiful as my little garden is, it did not take any honors in this year’s Mayor Menino Garden Contest.  I Garden View with Silverdust, Black-Eyed Susans, Dahlias, Lantana and moream looking forward to entering again next summer.   My neighbor commented that the Contest judges seem to like height in a garden.  Hmm.  Next year I’m going to find taller, lusher and more colorful flowers to plant.  What a great winter project… But that is a long way off…  
Enjoy these wonderful August days and  remember to water the plants!

Rx for My Tree Pit Garden

Yellow and purple blotch pansies, purple salvia, hellebore, ivy and African daisies surrounding a treeIt took just 6 weeks for my tree pit garden to show significant wear and tear. 
• The ivy planted in the front corners had shriveled to brown due to dog urine…
• The upright pavers on the left edge of the garden were flat against the concrete.  Car owners would get out of their cars thinking the pavers were stable and alas, they were not… 
• And the beautiful hellebore had grown tall and wild with all the rain and the stems had bent under its own weight.  There are no pictures.  It was a bit gruesome.

New England Garden Ornaments SignSo I’m in Sudbury today visited with a bright and talented lady with a great name – Gray Baldwin – who owns New England Garden Ornaments.  I interviewed her and you’ll see a feature on her and her fabulous containers and pots in June.  But I digress. 

So I pass Russell Garden Centers and had to stop in.  I had heard great things about this Garden Center from several horticulturalists and figured I should get some new plants and get busy fixing my garden.Russell's Garden Center Red Wagon with Flowers in it

WOW!  That’s the best word to describe Russell’s.  Full of flowers and very helpful and knowledgeable people.  I purchased Amsonia Blue Star and Silver Mound to replace the hellebore and a Proven Winner Colorblaze Dipt in Wine Coleus to replace the ivy. 
Amsonia Blue Star, Silver Mound and Coleus Added to Tree Pit Garden
Ta da!!!   I recemented the pavers into an upright position and called it a day.  It was a gorgeous day to plant and the garden looks full and lush and lovely again….

And the gardening begins!

It’s official. My planting season has begun! 
Every year on Patriot’s Day, I dig up my small street-side tree garden and start anew.  I just love this time of year! 
My patch gets good sun most of the spring and summer.  So this year I made a plot plan with several plant varieties.  I’m getting more courageous now that I have some knowledge!  So here’s the plant plan:
In the back, Purple May Night salvia
and Heleborus Pink Frost with Delta Yellow Blotch and Maxim Blue and Yellow  pansies along the sides with Osteospurmum (aka African or Cape daisy) in the front and vinca trailing on the two front edges. 

On Monday, it was colder than expected but perfect for gardening.  We did a complete overhaul, stripped out the old plastic edging, hacked our way through all the spidery tree roots (careful not to cut through feeder roots) and removed most of the soil.  My husband deserves a round of applause for lugging and hauling four heavy bags of “yard waste” to various barrels on Commonwealth Avenue. 

Then the fun part began.  We placed the concrete gray pavers ($1.54 a piece at Home Depot) around the garden and locked them into place with a putty type of concrete.  My husband became expert at wielding the concrete application plunger aparatus. 

In hindsight, I probably should have waited until the concrete had dried more but I was anxious to get planting.  In went the flowers, with a little MiracleGro and water, as designed on the plot plan.  It looks so great!   For a final touch, on went the metal fencing.  Lovely!

Sunflowers make Fall “Don’t plant” list

So, I plant four, hardy, yellow chrysanthemums around the maple tree in my front garden.  Then I put in two, healthy-looking sunflowers – center stage – to give the garden a bit of pop.   See first photo below…  Over the next three days, even with careful watering,  the little sunflower heads were drooping hard and fading fast.  Bummer.  Had to pull them out and replant with small, rust-colored mums.  See second photo…  I must admit it’s not as varied a garden as I’d like but it’s seasonally colorful and still pleasant to look at.  Next year I vow to go beyond the mum!

Yellow mums with sunflowers around a maple tree trunkYellow and rust colored mums around Maple tree trunk