25 Years of Parks: Celebrating Park Gardens

As we celebrate 25 years of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, we want to honor your cherished green spaces! Year-after-year, the Parks Conservancy cares for blooming gardens and flower beds across the city.

Did you know that our team spends more than 10,000 hours maintaining your park gardens and restoration sites per year?

From the historic Circlet Garden in Allegheny Commons Park to the colorful flower beds in Schenley Plaza, our dedicated team of Horticulture and Forestry professionals has cared for more than 38 of your gardens and restoration sites for the past two decades.

Your unique gardens are full of a variety of diverse plants and flowers found throughout the park system!

Most gardens feature perennial plants and supplements with small woody shrubs or landscape trees. The team selects the plants for many reasons, such as color or bloom time, wildlife or pollinator value, tolerance to harsh conditions, or their ability to mitigate erosion or stormwater overflow.

Learn more about some of your most iconic gardens below!

August Wilson Park Banner Image

Located in the historic Hill District, Cliffside Park was created in 1975. It was later renamed August Wilson Park in Spring 2016. Many improvements took place in this beloved community park. A walkway was installed with a grade of less than five percent to allow for ADA accessibility down into the heart of the park. A shallow stream runnel infiltrates the runoff collected from the street and eventually flows downstream to the bottom of the park into the rain garden. Within the runnels, soft rushes were planted to help slow the water during periods of heavy rainfall. Native vining honeysuckle is found above the playground on the hillside. This is an excellent alternative to invasive honeysuckle. Red twig dogwoods are also located in the park and retain the bright red stems throughout the seasons. Park visitors will find native shrubs, grasses, perennials, and trees throughout the park.

From Slavery to Freedom Garden Banner

The Frick Environmental Center and gardens restoration was completed in 2016. The garden is a mix of native trees, shrubs, perennials, and grasses. Around the historic gatehouses are flowering perennials to nourish pollinators. The building plantings include trees to provide shade and large beds of native grasses that support beneficial insects and require less mowing.

The From Slavery to Freedom Garden showcases plants used by enslaved people on their journey to freedom. This garden also provides a space for participants in PPC educational programs and the public to learn about vegetable plants. As you move away from the FEC, there are meadows of flowering plants and grasses to provide habitat for birds and insects and create a transition into the woodland area.

Highland Park Entry Garden Banner

Restored in 2005, the Highland Park Entry Garden features a glorious mix of herbaceous perennials and spring bulbs. Among the first flowers to start blooming in this garden is squill. It's a small bulb that contains a blue flower and stands three feet tall. The spring bulbs bloom from March to May and include squill, crocus, daffodil, tulip, hyacinth, glory of the snow, and alliums. Fall Anemone and goldenrod conclude the blooms for the season.

In 2017, a donor gave a generous gift to add butterfly/pollinator plants to the garden. So you will see monarch butterfly caterpillars munching on milkweed & butterfly weed, tiger swallowtail butterflies drinking nectar from tall garden phlox, and bees buzzing around purple salvia.

The elevated view from the top of the Reservoir Loop Walk steps down to the Entry Garden is the best way to take in the clean lines and balanced plantings as a whole.

Riveview Park Chapel Shelter Banner

The restoration of the Riverview Park Chapel Shelter, now the most requested shelter in the city parks, was completed in June 2008. Built in 1894, the Chapel Shelter was located at the corner of Perrysville and Riverview Avenues and known as Watson Presbyterian Church. Several years later, the congregation outgrew the building and moved to its current location in Riverview Park.

The building, which had been closed to the public and slated for demolition in 2005, was completely refurbished to make it accessible and enjoyable for park users. The landscape was restored, with a new trail connection, removal of invasive species, and garden beds. The Chapel Shelter houses native perennial plants, as well as non-native plants that are a deer-resistant species. There's an abundance of daffodils that complement the dogwood blooms in the spring, followed by lilac flowers.

Schenley Plaza Garden Banner

Making its debut on June 8, 2006, Schenley Plaza is a result of a community partnership that included the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. The five-acre area was restored to its intended use by the Parks Conservancy and community partners in 2006 after being used as a parking lot.

Today, this is a public, open green space that features a one-acre lawn, amended with a unique soil mixture that allows for the holding capacity after a three-inch rain event, functioning as a large rain garden to slow down the absorption of rainwater. The mature trees on the lawn provide shade in the summer heat. The Victorian-style carousel is surrounded by garden beds filled with Heuchera. The formal garden area includes seven annual beds and 13 perennial beds. The garden beds contain pollinator plants, native herbaceous plants, ornamental grasses, and a spring bulb display including common snowdrops, crocus hyacinths, tulips, and daffodils of various sizes.

The garden beds are sectioned off by evergreen hedgerows, giving park users a sense of privacy while enjoying the seating throughout the garden area. Throughout the Plaza, visitors can explore more than 20 containers of annual flowers throughout the five-acre area.

Westinghouse Memorial Pond Banner

The Westinghouse Memorial was restored in 2016. Frequent heavy storms damaged the pond and the transition from a pipe under the pond to a by-pass pipe that diverts water around the side of the pond. This installation helps to keep sediment from filling the pond and keep the water level from overflowing. Horticultural features around the pond include aquatic plants around the edge of the pond that provide an ideal environment for beneficial insects. Native grasses, perennials, and shrubs that are suitable for wet conditions are planted throughout the gardens.

A bubbler was installed in the pond to prevent algae blooms in the pond while creating an artificial water feature. Sections of water lilies throughout the pond are reminiscent of the original lily pond design. Native ferns are planted within the landscape and are ideal for growing under trees. Spring bulbs and witch hazels add to the longevity of bloom time to the garden. Weeping Katsura trees planted at the pond's edge are reminiscent of the historical willows that once inhabited the landscape.

The Westinghouse Memorial Pond features different aquatic plants that surround the pond. Starting from the shoreline are a species of blue flag iris and a variegated variety. The blue flag iris features blue-lavender flowers with a yellow interior that blooms later in the spring. Behind the irises is the Pickerelweed. These plants feature spikes of violet-blue flowers that bloom late into the fall. The sections of hardy waterlilies are in the interior and vary in color from salmon, peachy yellow, pink, white, and yellow from late spring to early autumn.

The Conservancy is proud to care for Pittsburgh's gardens and green spaces year-round. If you would like to support your parks, please consider giving to the perennial fund, which allows our team to beautify and add vitality to the lush gardens found throughout the city. By diversifying the garden spaces, your parks will become more sustainable of environmental events such as droughts, pests, and disease.