The number of people traversing the Boston Common, Public Garden and Commonwealth Avenue Mall may lighten up in winter months, but it is a busy season when it comes to Friends tree care projects, and is a particularly good time for pruning. Crews have been busy over the past few weeks pruning trees, work that will continue throughout winter and into spring. We were getting ready to update everyone on the pruning of the historic elms located at the Shaw Memorial on Boston Common when we came across a wonderful blog post by Deborah Howe. We wanted to share it with you.
Originally posted on Taking Place In The Trees:
A few weeks ago I was on Beacon Hill to run an errand, and snapped a quick shot of the Shaw Memorial elms in the rain:
It was a soggy, cold day, and I was fast getting soaked, so I didn’t cast around for a better shot. These elms have been standing on Boston Common, across from the Massachusetts State House, for centuries now. This State House (for a long time known as the “New State House”, so as not to confuse it with the original State House on Court Street) was built between 1795 and 1798; the elms date at least to that time, if not to a couple of decades before then.
Elms are a fast growing tree, and before the onslaught of elm bark beetles…
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The Friends of the Public Garden Young Friends group is hosting a private skating night on Frog Pond for all ages. Enjoy outdoor skating and mingling with Friends while supporting the three historic greenspaces cared for by the Friends – the Boston Common, Public Garden, and Commonwealth Avenue Mall
All are welcome and new friends are encouraged to attend this event; membership is not required to participate.
Wednesday, February 11
Frog Pond on Boston Common
7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
$35.00 per person (Skate rental and hot cocoa are included in ticket price.)
Reserve your ticket today!
The Friends of the Public Garden presents “Searching for the Histories of Boston’s Public Garden,” a lecture by Boston University Professor Keith N. Morgan.
Join us as we consider the creation, evolution, criticism, interpretation and enduring value of the most unusual public landscape in the city’s circuit of parks. From its origins as a private botanical garden built on filled marshland to the public horticultural and educational gem of the mid-Victorian era, the Public Garden became a site for controversy and celebration in its nearly two-century history.
Keith N. Morgan is a professor of History of Art and Architecture at Boston University, where he has taught since 1980. He has served as the Director of Preservation Studies, the Director of American and New England Studies, and the Chairman of the Art History Department. He is a former national president of the Society of Architectural Historians.
His publications include Charles A. Platt. The Artist as Architect (1985); Boston Architecture, 1975-1990, written with Naomi Miller (1990); Shaping an American Landscape: The Art and Architecture of Charles A. Platt (1995); the introduction for the new edition of Italian Gardens by Charles A. Platt (1993); and an introduction to a new edition of Charles Eliot, Landscape Architect (1999). Professor Morgan was the editor and one of the lead authors for Buildings of Massachusetts: Metropolitan Boston, (2009). With Elizabeth Hope Cushing and Roger Reed, he has recently published Community by Design: the Olmsted Office and the Development of Brookline, Massachusetts, 1880-1936, (Library of American Landscape History and the University of Massachusetts Press 2013).
Wednesday, February 4
6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Suffolk University Law School
120 Tremont Street, Boston
Admission: $15.00 per person (Pre-registration is required. Photo ID is needed to check-in.)
If the trees could speak to you, which we have been told happens on occasion, or sculptures could share what they see from their unique vantage points, what would they say? They would be thanking you for the gifts you have given to our greenspaces this year.
We don’t think the trees, turf, sculpture and many special spaces within the Boston Common, Public Garden, and Commonwealth Avenue Mall would mind if we thanked you on their behalf. Speaking on their behalf is part of our mission after all, a mission we are so grateful you share with us.
Thank you for caring for these treasured places. We know that you love them – you show it through your volunteerism, advocacy, stewardship, and financial support – and they love you for it. How do we know? A tree told us.
This holiday season, dear Friends, we wish you and yours joy and peace. We look forward to working together with you in 2015 to continue maintaining and enhancing these irreplaceable gems in our midst.
The Friends of Public Garden Young Friends group gathered at Abby Lane on December 9 to celebrate the finale of the “Frame the Garden” project. For two months, visitors to the Public Garden delighted in taking framed photos of breathtaking vistas, themselves, friends, and even a sizable canine or two that was hoisted up to take part in the unique photo opportunity. Hundreds shared pictures on social media with the tag #FOPG and many gushed about enjoying the frames and thanked the Friends for providing them, and for caring for the Garden.
The Young Friends supported this initiative to promote the beauty of the Public Garden, engage visitors, and raise awareness about the park stewardship role that the Friends play. The frame theme crossed over from the Garden to the finale event with a display of photos from Instagram, a frame of a smaller scale that was used by party goers to frame their photos with friends that evening, and a signature cocktail coined “Frame the Garden,” a lush green concoction served in a martini glass. Proceeds from the event supported the project and the Friends work to enhance and preserve the Public Garden, Boston Common, and Commonwealth Avenue Mall.
It is hard to believe that we will be bidding 2014 farewell in just a few days. As I reflect on the year, I am so grateful to my fellow Board members, our wonderful Members, volunteers, donors, and our terrific Executive Director and staff. Your efforts and support are noticed, needed, and much appreciated. Bravo to all.
This year of the Friends will be remembered for many things, perhaps most notably for the completion of the most ambitious project we have ever taken on, the multi-year rejuvenation of Brewer Fountain Plaza and the surrounding parkland on Boston Common. This $4 million investment by the Friends was made possible by contributions from more than 260 individuals, corporations and foundations. We capped this project off in November, somewhat literally, with the installation of cast iron fencing at the edge of the Common near Park Street. The historic fence had been missing since 1895! Now, our role will be one of ongoing stewardship of this area in partnership with the Parks and Recreation Department. It is such a pleasure to see people enjoying this renewed area of the Common and to know that our work will continue to be appreciated by them and generations to follow.
As we celebrate this holiday season, we were thrilled to bring you sounds of the season by hosting several hand bell performances in our parks by the popular Back Bay Ringers. We hope you were able to take a moment to stop by and enjoy the music.
We are so very fortunate to have supporters that truly love our parks and our mission to preserve and enhance them. If you have not renewed your membership, please remember to do so by the end of the year; we need you and our parks need you. Please also introduce us to your friends that may be interested in learning more about our work and joining us in supporting it.
Wishing you a wonderful holiday season and a Happy New Year.
Chair, Board of Directors
I am an ecologist and unapologetic tree hugger, and I spend much of my time in parks looking up at the trees’ canopy. Now that the autumn leaves have mostly fallen from the trees in the Common, the Mall, and the Public Garden, the natural forms of the trees are revealed. Some of them are beautiful and iconic of the species – the classic vase shaped form of the American Elm, for instance, which is instantly recognizable from any distance. The bushy, spreading form of an open grown Red Maple is distinctive, as is the characteristic branching of the Horsechestnut tree, which always reminds me of an athlete flexing his muscles. The old Japanese Pagoda tree’s graceful lines are more akin to a ballerina than a weightlifter. During the dormant season, the many varieties of “weeping” forms are clearly visible as their branches trail down towards the ground – cherries, willows, and beeches. But you may notice something else as well – some of the oldest, most venerable trees appear to have been lopped off at the top! Why on earth would an arborist prune a tree in such an unsightly way?
The answer is relatively simple, but might not be immediately obvious. The very largest trees in these parks are approaching the end of their natural lifespans, which vary from species to species but which don’t generally exceed 200-300 years. Many of these older specimens have some hidden rot in their heartwood, which leaves them potentially vulnerable to damage from high winds during New England’s famous nor’easters, thunderstorms, and hurricanes. Extreme weather events are expected to increase in intensity and frequency as the effects of our changing climate are manifested in our region. To protect against blowdowns, the Friends of the Public Garden has been implementing a strategy called “Load reduction pruning”. Many trees have been pruned to strategically reduce the weight of the canopy. After our last major wind event, we only lost one large limb in the Public Garden, which is a great accomplishment after a high-wind storm!
In most trees this load reduction pruning is hardly noticeable to the untrained eye, but there are a few trees in which it’s quite noticeable – some of the oldest trees in our parks, including the two elms that frame the steps in front of the State House, and one of the oldest weeping willows by the lagoon in the Public Garden. In these cases, the pruning allows the trees to persist despite extensive age-related die-back in the canopy, and for much of the year, to most passers-by (who are not gazing up at the canopy), the tree serves the general purpose of a tree, albeit with somewhat odd proportions. It is only when the leaves have fallen that the odd proportions are fully revealed. I like to think that we value the lives of the older trees perhaps more because of the many years they’ve seen, and tolerating (and understanding) their odd shape in the winter is a small price to pay to have these familiar Boston arboreal citizens persist into the 21st century.
Claire Corcoran is an ecologist and member of the Friends of the Public Garden Board of Directors. She is a self proclaimed “tree hugger” and dedicated advocate for greenspace in Boston and beyond. Claire lives in the South End of Boston with her husband and three children.