25 Ways To Celebrate Your Galentines and Valentines (Part 1)

Whether you’re celebrating your Valentine, Galentine, or really anyone that you enjoy, we’ve compiled a list of date ideas — platonic or romantic! — that will knock your next park adventure, well, out of the park:

1. Catch sunset at the Highland Park Reservoir

The Overlook at Schenley Park is a fan favorite for sunset spotters. Take a stroll around the Highland Park Reservoir, though, to see the sun set betwixt trees and the Giuseppe Moretti entrance statues in the peaceful entrance garden.

highlandsunset

2. Ride a bicycle built for two on Pocusset Street

Don’t have the balance to reenact that timeless Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid scene with your sweetie? Riding a tandem bicycle (or any bike, really) down the biker- and walker-only Pocusset Street in Schenley Park is the next best thing.

caterpillar

Knock, knock!

3. Hunt for fairy doors 

In Frick and Mellon Park, Allegheny Commons, and many other parks are teensy little doors for the resident fairies. Find and knock on them to see if anyone’s home.

4. Gaze at stars in Riverview Park

The iconic Allegheny Observatory opens its doors weekly to star-struck astronomers for free tours, lectures, and open houses at this incredible space. On clear nights during these events, the 100-year-old-and-older telescopes are generally open for use.

5. Gaze at stars in Mellon Park

Whatever the weather, you can always see 150 stars peeking up from the lawn of Mellon Park’s Walled Garden thanks to 7:11AM  11.20.1979  79º55’W 40º27’N, a memorial art installation.

mellonparkstars

6. Read Shakespeare in a Shakespearean garden

Whilst we speak of Mellon Park, o’er the hill of the Walled Garden thou must recite verses when alighting in the Shakespearean Garden.

7. Make a snowman or snowbeast

This is an anywhere, anytime activity. Let your creativity run wild. Just try not to sing that one song from Frozen when you’re out there; it’s contagious.

telescope

Telescope in Allegheny Observatory in Riverview Park.

8. See the cityscape from Emerald View Park

The Mount Washington overlooks get a lot of love (deservedly), but seeing Downtown peek in and out from the undulating trails of Emerald View Park is always a rewarding experience.

9. Take a trip around the world with a visit to the Plaza

Immerse yourself in international flavors with the fares served in Schenley Plaza. Your hankerings for Chinese, Greek, Belgian, or the ever-changing cuisines at Conflict Kitchen are all conveniently in one square acre.

10. Traverse the tufas

The solid bridges along the lower and upper Panther Hollow trails in Schenley Park, made of a limestone variety (tufa) and built by W.P.A. crews, are straight from a storybook, covered in moss, lichens, and now snow. See these and other old-timey Works Progress projects sprinkled throughout the park.

tufas

Tufa under snow.

11. Latch a love lock and throw away the key

Make a statement with your sweetie by adding your own lock to the Schenley Bridge and throwing away the key — just as you do it in the proper waste receptacle. (Forgetting the combination also acceptable.)

 12. Tour the neighborhood, visit parkside cultural establishments

While you’re in the neighborhood, drop by the Carnegie Museums, the Frick Pittsburgh, Phipps Conservatory, the National Aviary, the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, and many other must-see institutions around the parks.

13. Think spring

Send warm thoughts to family, friends, or someone you’re flirting with this Valentine’s Day with the gift of daffodils in the parks. Make a donation of $25, and we’ll plant 50 daffodils in the park of your choice — and send your someone special a personalized e-card to boot. Get started here.

 

Check back next week for the second half of our park date ideas. Share your inspired date ideas below or through Facebook and Twitter!

XOXO,

The Matchmakers at the Parks Conservancy

Volunteer Spotlight: The Keeper of Mellon Park

Standing at the junction of four neighborhoods is one man who scares the thistles off of invasive plants.

“That over there is Garlic Mustard Heaven… at least, it was,” points out John Olmsted, Shadyside neighbor and volunteer extraordinaire, triumphantly. He’s taking three Parks Conservancy staffers on a personal tour of Mellon Park, showing us the spots he knows like his own backyard and telling us about how he came to have such an impact on the park.

john olmsted

“John is definitely the keeper of this park.”

Angela, Parks Conservancy horticulturist, has pulled weeds alongside John for years. After moving around post graduate school, John and his wife returned to Pittsburgh to be closer to children and grandchildren. And he has since become a quiet but significant change-maker in this historic community park.

IMG_1738Mellon Park, situated at the junction of Regent Square, Shadyside, Squirrel Hill and Point Breeze has never been adopted entirely by one group over the years. This setup has made for some interesting development throughout the grounds: The Parks Conservancy restored the serene Walled Garden as a Capitol Project; Phipps houses a greenhouse and has experimental show gardens around the grounds; groups like the Herb Society handle particular plots, such as the Shakespeare Garden; and a number of community members take other small plots in their own garden-gloved hands when they have the time.

That’s where John comes in. After moving to the perfect house just across the street from Mellon, John made his way over to the park during his free time, pulling some invasive plants here and there until, five years later, he’s tackling whole beds. “So far, none of the maintenance people have complained that I’m taking work away from them,” he jokes. With only a bit of previous gardening experience (John’s father grew a victory garden during WWII, his mother had a garden of her own), John first tackled whole sections of garlic mustard and Canada thistle from established daffodil and daylily gardens — and then kept them cleared.

We especially appreciate John’s story of dedication to Mellon Park because 17 years ago, that same drive inspired the creation of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. Faced with the deteriorating conditions of the parks, a cadre of concerned Pittsburghers decided to start an organization to work towards maintenance and restoration of the parks. John, too, has stepped up to fill a need to keep the greenspaces he appreciates in really fantastic condition.

daffodil buds

Daffodils peeking through the soil in the beds John tends

 

As we stroll through the park with John, we give him all the kudos we can for his work in Mellon Park. He’ll be out there again this spring, whacking away at the weeds that creep up in the daffodil beds. He has a standing offer to anyone that wants to join him on his crusade to bust burdock.

Lauryn Stalter for the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

Wondering about the name? John is indeed connected to the famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. “Four generations back and four steps over,” as he says.

Daffodils like those pictured above will be welcoming Spring soon. Support our efforts to keep these gardens growing by contributing to the Daffodil Project.

What’s in Bloom – April 2013

Winter may be holding on with every last breath, but signs of spring are popping up all over Pittsburgh’s parks. It’s time for our monthly What’s in Bloom series showcasing the park’s seasonal gardens. Bursts of color are polka-dotting the landscape and our horticulturist, Angela Yuele, has captured every bountiful bloom.

Highland Park Entry Garden

Daffodils and Siberian Squill (Scilla siberica)

Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa)

Hyacinth ‘Jan Bos’

Mellon Park Walled Garden

Daffodil ‘Tete-a-Tete’

Lenten rose (Heleborus orientalis)

Riverview Park

Daffodil species

Daffodil ‘Ice Follies’ at the Riverview Park Chapel Shelter

Magnolia blooming

Schenley Park Cafe and Visitor Center

Blue hyacinth and pink tulips

Schenley Plaza

Daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths

Daffodils

Mixed daffodils

Species tulip ‘Lady Jane’ and white daffodils

Various daffodils

We’re always looking for help with our gardening projects. Our seasonal weeding Tuesdays at Mellon Park Walled Garden kick-off on May 14 and Weeding Wednesdays at Highland Park Entry Garden begin May 1. For more information, visit our Horticultural Volunteer Activities page or email volunteer@pittsburghparks.org.

Learn more about The Daffodil Project and how you can help plant new bulbs throughout the regional parks.

What’s in Bloom – March 2012

Winter showers bring …March flowers? It doesn’t sound right, but this year it’s true. The strangely mild winter followed by what can only be described as an early onset summer has everyone a bit befuddled, including Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy gardener, Angela Masters. Her entire planting schedule has been altered. “It feels like everything’s moved up a month,” she says, “trees, shrubs, and perennials are all starting to grow”. She’s thrilled to be getting a lot of her flower bed maintenance done early – such as the massive amount of mulching she must complete with the City – because it will free her up later in the season to focus on details she may not otherwise have time for.  

As thrilling as 80 degrees in March may feel, there are concerns for our plants. “We could end up with some insect problems since it didn’t get cold enough for them to die,” Angela worries. Of primary concern are thriving insects such as the Emerald Ash Borer which threaten our City’s trees.

Another concern is that spring will “go out like a lion” as the saying goes, and the beautiful flowers we see blooming around us will be short lived when a late frost takes them out. “It doesn’t upset me as much if the frost takes them after they’ve bloomed, because we’ve had the opportunity to enjoy them” says Angela, “but if they freeze while they are still budding they never get to show their beauty.” Angela says that this is often what happens to Magnolia trees in this area, but thankfully Pittsburgh’s streets have already been lined with their striking pink blooms this year.  

Enough doom and gloom. Let’s focus on the positive. There are beautiful flowers everywhere! Angela took some photos to show us what’s in bloom on March 15th 2012. If you love Pittsburgh’s park flower beds consider donating to our Daffodil Project.

Highland Park  

White Crocus in the Highland Park Entry Garden

Daffodils in the Highland Park Entry Garden

Iris reticulata, Dwarf Rock Garden Iris in Highland Park Entry Garden

  Mellon Park

Helleborus orientalis, Lenten Rose in Mellon Park Walled Garden