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Celebrate Leap Year on Boston Common Frog Pond

February 5, 2016

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Seeking Volunteers for for Boston Common Study of Park Users

January 27, 2016
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Friends of the Public Garden Puppets on the Common Event (Photo: Caroline Phillips-Licari)

The Friends of the Public Garden is preparing to embark on an exciting three-season study of the Boston Common to better understand how the park is used, the numbers and intensity of various types of use, where park users come from, and what their interests and needs are to help inform planning and management of this important greenspace. We are working with an experienced research firm to conduct this survey and are in need of volunteers to assist. Volunteers and some Friends staff will be carrying out the survey including observing and recording uses and conducting interviews.

Who: Volunteers who are available to work occasional shifts, usually ranging from 3 to 4 hours.

What: Interviewing and counting people on the Common

Where: Boston Common and Friends of the Public Garden offices across from the Common

When: Spring, summer and fall, various times of day (some early morning, some evenings but only during daylight); we will not observe or interview during winter.

Skills needed: 

► clear speaking voice in English, able to be heard outdoors;
► enthusiastic and comfortable approaching park users and asking questions about their patterns of park use and opinions about park issues;
► attention to detail and following instructions about interviewing and observing;
► nimble in making quick counts of large numbers of people while walking around the Common.

  • Minimum commitment: 20 hours (training time + 5 shifts on different days, 3 hours /day)
    maximum commitment: 40 hours (training time + 10 shifts on different days, 3-4 hours /day)
  • Desired work times: flexible, weekdays and weekends, normal park-use times from early morning through early evening; we hope that people will often work together in pairs

Please email us at info@friendsofthepublicgarden.org if you are interested in volunteering for this project.

Monitoring Shadow Impacts on our Parks

January 26, 2016
Boston Common by Caroline Phillips-Licari

Boston Common (Caroline Phillips-Licari)

 

From the 1970s, our advocacy for the Common, the Garden and the Mall has included protecting them from excessive shadow and wind resulting from development near the parks that would have a damaging impact on these centrally important greenspaces and the people who come to enjoy them.

We believe that development is essential to the vitality of Boston. We also appreciate that it brings new life and positive activity to our parks, and have seen this benefit in the recent growth of the Downtown Crossing residential and college communities. Recently, a project has been proposed across the street from the Common (171-172 Tremont Street) that exceeds the height limit of the Boston Common and Public Garden Protection Zone of the Midtown Cultural District. We are advocating for compliance with both the 1990 Shadow Law and Boston’s zoning code’s provisions protecting the Common as well as the Public Garden. 

We wanted to provide an update to let our Members and supporters know that we continue to monitor projects and seek out information to understand their potential impact, including shadows, on the three parks that we advocate for. As always, we look forward to continuing discussions with our elected officials, residents groups, business community, and developers to speak on behalf of our parks. If you have feedback to share with us on this topic, please email us at info@friendsofthepublicgarden.org. As updates become available we will be sure to share them.

Managing Beetles to Preserve Elm Trees

January 22, 2016
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American Elm removal Commonwealth Avenue Mall June 17, 2014

A Commonwealth Avenue Mall Centenarian is removed due to Dutch elm disease (2014)

The Friends has been funding the expert care of trees since 1970 as part of our mission to preserve and enhance the Boston Common, Public Garden, and Commonwealth Avenue Mall. This work would not be possible without the financial support of our Members. We are always delighted when Members express a genuine interest in learning more about the details of the work we do. We noticed an increase in questions about tree care coming in over the past few months, and in particular inquiries about our work related to the elm bark beetle and Dutch elm disease, which seem to have been sparked by our Members Reception presentation (Digging In: Beyond the Roots of Urban Tree Care). We asked our contractor Christine Helie to explain some of the work she does for us. She is an entomologist and field scientist who works with her husband Normand at The Growing Tree.  Chris is directly involved in developing an Integrated Pest Management program to preserve the mature and young elm trees in our parks. Here is what she had to say:

 

Among the trees in the Public Garden, on the Boston Common and on Commonwealth Avenue, is a unique collection of elm trees. This valuable assortment of European, American and Asian elms are susceptible to Dutch elm disease (DED). This disease is caused by a fungus that compromises the conductive tissue of the tree and eventually kills it. The primary vector of the fungus is the European elm bark beetle. Through its breeding and feeding behavior, this bark beetle transfers DED from diseased trees to healthy trees.

In 2012, with the support of Greg Mosman, Tree Warden of the Boston Parks & Recreation Department and on behalf of the Friends and its tree care program, a monitoring and management system for this insect was designed as part of a new elm tree preservation program for the mature and young elm trees in the three parks. The manner in which insects are monitored and managed can vary depending on the habitat in which they exist. For our purposes, a three sided box of plywood, painted green was built to house an 18”x25” sticky trap with a pheromone lure attached in the center.

Pheromones are chemicals produced by an organism that elicit a response from another organism. They are used by insects or animals to communicate with individuals of the same species. Depending on the type of activity, different pheromones will be used to relay a message.

For example, ants use a trail pheromone to mark a path leading to food that other ants in the colony can find and follow. However, when encountering a dangerous situation they use an alarm pheromone to warn their nest mates. The pheromones used in our beetle traps signal to both male and female elm bark beetles that this is a great spot for breeding and laying eggs.

There are over 24 traps in use throughout the parks. From the beginning, our goal was to

Beetle counter, PG, May 23, 2014, EAJ

beetle trap

make them easy to access but discreet. Rather than placing unsightly posts throughout the parks, we decided to install our traps on trees at least 150 feet away from any elm trees.

Because the bark beetle is attracted to elm trees weakened by stress, one of the components in the pheromone mimics volatiles released by a stressed elm tree. As a result, the trees that we chose to place our traps on became substitute elms, luring the elm bark beetles away from the elm trees.

Pheromones are effective at very low concentrations and insect specific. This fact becomes evident when you compare some of the trees with traps to an actual elm tree. The vase shaped elm tree with upright branching is quite different from the pyramidal shaped Norway spruce with drooping branchlets.

The elm has a broad leaf with a serrated edge, whereas the spruce has needle-like foliage. The bark of an American elm tree has deep crevices that form diamond-shaped furrows, while the bark of a Norway spruce tree has thick round scales.

Regardless of these features though, the Norway spruce in the Public Garden has consistently captured high numbers of the European elm bark beetle on its trap.

Below are images showing the physical differences between Elm trees (top photos) and Norway Spruce trees(bottom).

Bark beetles appear to use different methods when locating a proper host tree. By crawling on the bark, they can sense the texture and determine whether the tree is susceptible to attack. Dispersing beetles are also guided by odors from weakened trees. From what we have observed in our program, it seems apparent that when the beetles land on a potential host, one of our stand-in elms, the odors detected override the physical clues they pick up from the tree. As a result the beetles continue to search for the source of the pheromones until they are caught on the trap or die trying to find the “elm.”

These traps have also allowed us to monitor the location, concentration, and pattern of movements of this disease host, helping to indicate the optimal times to treat, prune and, in some cases, remove a diseased tree.

Since their implementation, the elm bark beetle traps have become important tools in our fight against Dutch elm disease. The twenty four traps in use throughout the parks and surrounding areas are installed on thirteen different tree species. While these trees may be Oaks, Locusts, Maples, Lindens, or even a Norway spruce, they actually serve as substitute elms and are important allies in the preservation of our real elm tree population.

Landolt, Peter J. “Sex Attractant and Aggregation Pheromones of Male Phytophagous Insects.” American Entomologist Spring 1997 12-22. Print.

Anne Mostue: Walking into Blossoming Volunteer Opportunities

January 20, 2016
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Friends Rose Brigade co-leaders Carl Foster and China Altman with Anne Mostue (right)

Anne Mostue became a Member of the Friends of the Public Garden in 2013 when she moved back to Boston after several years away. She was born here and grew up nearby. Boston radio listeners may find Anne’s name (and voice) familiar. She works as an anchor for Bloomberg Radio in Boston, 1200 AM and 94.5 FM HD-2. Previously, she was an on-air reporter/producer for WGBH, the NPR and PBS station airing in all six New England states.

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We asked Anne how she became aware of the Friends of the Public Garden and this is what she told us: “I learned about the Friends when I became a volunteer rose gardener! One day I was walking through the Public Garden, admiring the flowers and missing the garden I had when I lived in Maine. It occurred to me that the city might need help, and wouldn’t that be an ideal volunteer opportunity? I made a few calls and found China Altman, who leads the Rose Brigade.”

The Friends of the Public Garden works in partnership with the city to care for the Common, Garden, and Mall. The volunteer Rose Brigade has worked for 28 years to care for the roses, including planting new bushes and weekly pruning, deadheading, and clean-up of beds. Anne says, “Working in the beds every week actually feels like an escape from the city. We’re dirty and completely absorbed in each bud and bush. I look forward to my time in the garden all week.”

Anne started with the Friends as a Rose Brigade volunteer and then began attending Friends events including those hosted by our Young Friends group. She has become a very active park steward who now also serves on our Council, and recently became co-chair of the Young Friends group.

We asked Anne to share something that she has learned from working with the Friends. She says, “People might be surprised to learn that the city can only do so much, so volunteers step in – to garden and also to advocate for the open space and its preservation.”

 

 

Message from Board Chair Anne Brooke

December 22, 2015
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Anne Brooke thanking Members and supporters at the 2015 Summer Party (Photo: Piece Harman)

 

Dear Friends,

It has been a wonderful year for the Friends and our three treasured greenspaces. Our work in 2015 has brought so many plans and projects to life that have improved the Boston Common, Public Garden, and Commonwealth Avenue Mall. One might say that how it all comes together is magical, and sometimes it feels that way, but it is actually the efforts and generous support of many individuals that make it possible.

Thank you to my fellow Board members, our dedicated Members, volunteers, donors, and our talented Executive Director and staff. Each of you makes a difference in all that you do.

You are these parks’ greatest supporters and advocate voices. Because of your contributions, more than $1 million was invested in parks care and programs in 2015, the restoration of the Garden’s George Robert White Memorial fountain will break ground in the spring of 2016, 10 trees and three benches are newly sponsored, and so much more.

We kindly ask that you continue your stewardship by renewing your Membership before the end of the year, inviting friends to join, and delighting someone with a gift of Membership.

We look forward to working together with you in the new year to continue raising the level of excellence in these three greenspaces we care for in partnership with the City. As you know, it takes a great deal of work, advocacy, and money to maintain and improve them; and sometimes a little magic, too. You are the magic that makes it happen and we can’t do it without you.

Wishing you a happy and safe holiday season,

Anne Brooke

Chair, Friends of the Public Garden

Honoring Our 2015 Tree and Bench Sponsors

December 22, 2015
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Photo: Elizabeth Jordan

Thank you to our 2015 tree and bench sponsors for supporting our parks!

  • Sloane Fellows Class of 2000 in memory of Yoshi Baba
  • McKey W. Berkman
  • Barbara and Julian Cherubini
  • Janet J. Fitzgerald
  • Jared Gollub
  • Christine and David Letts
  • Anita Lincoln
  • Committee to Light Commonwealth Avenue Mall in honor of Mimi LeCamera
  • The Family of Werner A. Low
  • Margo Miller
  • Scott Thatcher and Nawamas Chumowart
  • Sherley Gardner Smith
  • Lynn Wiatrowski-Madsen

The Boston Common, Public Garden, and Commonwealth Avenue are greenspaces steeped in history. They are important places where we honor the history, culture, and milestones of our nation, city, and neighborhood with sculptures and memorials. Famous people and events are recognized with statues, tablets, and other displays. And as much as these three greenspaces serve as a place to honor some of the most public figures known to us, they are also a place where individuals celebrate special people or events in a very personal way by sponsoring a tree or bench in their name. The next time you stroll by, read the plaques and ponder the stories of people and events they represent.

For information about the Tree and Bench Sponsorship program in the Common, Garden or Mall visit our website.

 

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