We’ve Only Just Begun: Get Ready For A Big Parks Year

Last year was big for Pittsburgh’s parks.

All year long Parks staff tended park gardens, monitored for threats like Asian longhorned beetle, taught learners of all ages, raised important funds needed to restore much-loved spaces and monuments, worked closely with communities across the city, and so much more.


While we do love reminiscing, we’re much more jazzed for the new year. 2016 is poised to be tremendous. Check out these big numbers below to see why the new year — our 20th! — in the parks is going to be so exciting.


This year, you’ll be seeing the 15,618 new trees, flowers, bulbs, and shrubs that Parks Conservancy staff and volunteers planted in 2015 making your parks healthier and even more beautiful.


What could you have done with the 6,663 hours that Parks Conservancy educators spent teaching young learners in 2015? You could watch the new Star Wars movie almost 3,000 times, or listen to Stairway to Heaven 50,000 times! These many hours will be the foundation that students will build on to learn even more about the natural world this coming year.


This year, four fabulous park places are undergoing major transformations. Look forward to the unveiling of the new Frick Environmental Center, the restored Westinghouse Memorial and Pond in Schenley Park, the renovated Cliffside Park, and continued restoration of the Panther Hollow Watershed. Also, get excited for big things on the horizon for Allegheny Commons, Arsenal and Leslie, McKinley, Sheraden, and other community and neighborhood parks around Pittsburgh!


Join us in the celebration of our 20th anniversary! We’re ecstatic and honored to be celebrating two decades this year, and looking forward to continue working to make your parks some of the best in the nation.

Why not make a resolution to visit 12 regional parks in 12 months as part of DCNR’s #My12Parks campaign? Find a map of your local parks here to get started!
Native Plants and Transplants: Meet Our New Zone Gardener

Native Plants and Transplants: Meet Our New Zone Gardener

When I told my family I was moving to Pittsburgh after college, they could not understand why I would want to live in such a dirty city.

It was noisy, dreary, crowded and depressing. Green, open spaces — besides where the Pirates or Steelers played — were not what came to mind when they thought about Pittsburgh.

Rosie, embracing her new home in Frick Woods.


After all, I enjoyed the simplicities of a rural upbringing; a world without cable. Play time included exploring the woods, creeks and meadows — my backyard. Traffic involved not being able to pass an Amish horse and buggy or farm tractor on a country road.

Invasive grapevine choking a tree.

I admit moving to an urban area was an adjustment — especially before I knew what the “Pittsburgh left” meant. But folks here are friendly and happy to share their favorite spots in and around the city. I found great comfort and relief in discovering the many nearby parks and exploring them. A short drive or long walk and I could be in the middle of the woods.

Before coming to the Parks Conservancy, I established the Rosalinda Sauro Sirianni Garden in Bellevue, an urban garden that provides fresh produce to two food pantries. I was also a grower at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, and the Watershed Coordinator/ Environmental Educator at the Snyder County Conservation District. I hold a BS in biology from Lycoming College.

Sedum groundcover growing on shaded slope.

I am excited to be a part of the Parks Conservancy team, serving as the Zone Gardener for the Frick Woods Nature Reserve. My focus will be identifying and regenerating native plants and developing sustainable, multi-purpose gardens while tackling the removal of invasive species in the Reserve.

The winter months are ideal for familiarizing oneself with the park. I will be spending time journaling my observations and prioritizing restorations sites. I will also be in charge of the gardens surrounding the new Frick Environmental Center. These gardens will showcase native plant species of western Pennsylvania, allowing park visitors to see them in their native habitat throughout the Nature Reserve.

Orange bark of invasive Norway maple.

Managing over a hundred acres is not an easy task and I’ll need your help, Pittsburgh. I look forward to working with Urban EcoStewards and volunteers. Conquering invasive plants and restoring native habitats will be a rewarding experience that we can reach together.

Rosie Wise, Zone Gardener with Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

Speaking for the Trees

Speaking for the Trees

Last week, a bloom of garden writers cropped up in Schenley Plaza. There was laughter, there was garden conversation, there was… a flash mob to the song “Happy.”


Did we mention that garden writers are a rowdy bunch?

The 600 or so party animals gardeners from across U.S. and Canada were in town for the Garden Writers Association convention and made a special stop in Schenley Plaza to see the award-winning gardens that are on display there — for free! — all year long. They were also there to scope out the Every Tree Tells a Story exhibit, made possible by Davey Trees and the Cultural Landscape Foundation and going on now around the Mary Schenley Memorial Fountain.

During their stop, we asked them to do what they do best — tell some stories! Davey Trees recorded 70 or so really amazing tree tales, which are posted to their YouTube channel. Here are some of our favorites:

And our Most Favorite Video Award goes to…

Have you visited the Every Tree Tells a Story exhibit yet? Catch it before it ends on September 1st!

If you would like to speak out for the trees, we invite you to join us at our Park Tree Fund launch event on Thursday, August 21st. The Park Tree Fund exists to maintain and strengthen our urban forest. With your support, we can keep Pittsburgh’s trees growing strong for generations to come. Now that would be a great story to tell.

We want to hear your tree story! Post your stories to the comments section below. 

Countdown to 1 Million: The Gardens

Forbes Ave GardensDid you ever think that sitting beside Forbes Avenue could be so peaceful?

That was the idea behind the “garden rooms” at Schenley Plaza.  Designed to be beautiful both from ground level and from above, the rooms are divided from each other by upright Japanese yew shrubs and from the street by feather reed, Chinese fountain, and blue oat grass.  The grasses provide a buffer against traffic noise as well as visual interest. 

The gardens feature abundant plants and flowers that peak at various times of the growing season.  Many of them are native, and only non-native plants that are not environmentally invasive were selected.  The signature red groundcover plant, heuchera or “coral bells,” is a Pennsylvania native.

Schenley Plaza’s gardens contain:

  • 470 perennials in 5 varieties
  • 300 shrubs
  • 320 ornamental grasses in 3 varieties
  • 22,000 groundcover plants in 3 varieties
  • 14,500 flower bulbs
  • 450 annuals planted in the summer, including wave petunias, cannas, and dahlias

The plantings in the gardens are rotated several times a year to provide peak color at every season.  In the winter the ornamental grasses provide a golden contrast to the snow on the ground.

Wave petunias

Wave petunias provide a striking foreground for the Cathedral of Learning.

Maintaining a garden landscape in such a highly trafficked area can present some challenges, but the Parks Conservancy’s Gardener Angela Masters and the Department of Public Works’ Jeff Creighton are up to the task.  They spent this morning trimming the hedges to keep them from becoming too tall or wide and creating a hazard for pedestrians.  Angela shared that her work had made several families of birds none too happy: “They were just sitting there on the ground staring at me and chirping really loud.  I’d invaded their homes!”  Angela is also engaged in a battle of wits with some bunnies who really appreciate some of the things she’s planted. 

To hear Angela and Jeff’s impressions on working at the Plaza, check out the videos below.

A tour of one of the garden rooms:

Jeff’s favorite thing about working at the Plaza:

Some more of what’s blooming today (rated S for Shaky Camera Work–mea culpa!):

If you’ve got some great photos of the gardens, share them on Facebook! And to keep track of the latest additions to our Millionth Visitor Celebration on July 11, watch this page.