This blog post was written by Jaci Bruschi, Gardener at the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy
As the garden spaces mature, observations are made… What performs well? What gets browsed by deer, rabbits, groundhogs, and other critters? What diseases and pests have plagued the plants? What do you spend most of your time doing in your parks? We ask ourselves these questions and so many more year after year.
After those observations are made and questions are answered, the fun begins! We get to plan out these beautiful garden spaces. Perennials are the foundation of the garden, after the trees and hardscaping of course. These magnificent flowers return year after year, with the occasional need to supplement with new plants. However, it can take up to three years for perennials to fully bloom and establish in a garden, which is why it’s important to supplement the garden with annuals to help fill the space.
Annuals bloom only for one year, and while many self-seed—meaning that seeds will germinate for the following season—this is not reliable for the formal gardens that we plant and maintain. Annuals still have a lot to offer, including long bloom time, colors that may not already be in the gardens, and the chance to experiment with new plants.
One of our ultimate goals is to always have something blooming in the gardens, which is why having both types of plants can be so beneficial. These diverse gardens can be seen in that parks that have dedicated annual beds, such as Schenley Plaza, the Schenley Park Visitor Center, and Riverview Park Garden beds that welcome you into areas of the park.
These local gardens have evolved and will continue to grow and change. For example, the addition of specific pollinator plants at Schenley Plaza help support the bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. These beds are still going through trial and error and will evolve as the right plants are found for these spaces.
Some of the native plants can be a little unruly and may not grow neat and tidy in a formal garden setting, but at spaces such as Westinghouse Pond and the Schenley Park Visitor Center, the garden beds are much larger and can support these native plants that need room to thrive.
All these gardens have different growing conditions, therefore various natives can be found for at each site in the park. It is such joy to see butterflies land on the flowers, and I hope to see more species as the natives continue to attract more types of pollinators!