Shadows and our Parks

A typical fall day on Boston Common
A fall afternoon on Boston Common

Dear Friends,

We have heard from our members expressing concerns about the Winthrop Square development proposal, and asking about the Friends’ position regarding the protection of our parks from shadows, in light of recent press about this proposal.  While comments from the Friends have been included in some articles, with varying accuracy, we want you to know that we stand firm  in our commitment to protect our parks from any weakening of existing  shadow laws.

The shadows from the proposed 750-foot tall project in Winthrop Square would reach as far as Commonwealth Avenue Mall and violate the current shadow legislation. The Friends of the Public Garden has consistently advocated for protecting our parks from excessive shadow and wind resulting from development projects that would harm these vital and historic greenspaces in the heart of Boston.

As you know, in 1990, the Friends worked with elected officials and the Boston Redevelopment Authority to draft and enact legislation to protect the Boston Common and Public Garden from damaging new shadows. This shadow protection has worked as intended – it has successfully protected our parks, while allowing robust development to continue in the city. Now, 25 years later, we are facing a new generation of buildings that challenge our  parks.

We believe that we need a comprehensive solution to downtown development projects that threaten to cast shadows on the parks and do not conform to the current legislation. We are meeting with the BPDA, gathering information, and seeking answers to unresolved questions about the project.

If you want to make your voice heard, please contact your state elected officials (Byron RushingJoe BoncoreAaron Michlewitz, William Brownsberger and Jay Livingstone) and Boston City Councilors (Michelle  WuAnnissa Essabi George,  Tito JacksonMichael Flaherty,  Bill LinehanJosh ZakimAyanna Pressley, and Sal LaMattina) directly to express your concern  about any potential changes to the state shadow laws that would reduce the  shadow protection that has existed successfully for 25 years.

Help us protect the Boston Common, Public Garden, and Commonwealth  Avenue Mall.  Together we can ensure the healthy future of our parks.

Sincerely,
Liz Vizza
Executive Director, Friends of the Public Garden

 

The Nature of Cities: Practice and Perception

The Friends of the Public Garden is pleased to be a co-sponsor of the following event. 

FRIENDS OF FAIRSTED LECTURE SERIES 2016-2017

The Nature of Cities: Practice and Perception – investigates nature and the urban environment from the vantage point of a landscape architect, and a cultural historian.

DECEMBER 2016 LECTURE

From the Granite Garden to West Philadelphia (with a nod to the Fens):
Restoring Nature & Communities

Anne Whiston Spirn
Professor of Landscape Architecture and Planning, MITanne-spirn-sm

Anne Whiston Spirn, our speaker on December 1st, has raised awareness of the segregation of ecology from urban planning ever since her publication of The Granite Garden: Urban Nature and Human Design in 1984.  For thirty years, Spirn has directed the West Philadelphia Landscape Project, an award-winning program dedicated to restoring nature, rebuilding inner-city communities, and empowering youth. She will describe this research-in-action, its impact on Philadelphia’s planning policies, and its lessons for more equitable and sustainable communities.

Thursday, December 1, 2016
6:00pm Reception | 7:00pm Lecture
Wheelock College, Brookline Campus
43 Hawes Street, orner of Hawes and Monmouth Streets, Brookline, MA
Seating is limited and reservations are required.
Reserve online or 617-566-1689, ext. 265

BOSTON’S CHRISTMAS TREE ARRIVES NOVEMBER 18

Photo credit, www.larskim.com
Photo credit, www.larskim.com
The annual gift of an evergreen Christmas tree from Nova Scotia will arrive by police escort at Boston Common at approximately 11 a.m. on Friday, November 18.

This year marks the 45th anniversary of this traditional gift giving, a way to thank the people of Boston for providing emergency assistance when Halifax, Nova Scotia’s capital city, was devastated by a wartime explosion in 1917.

Boston’s official 2016 Christmas tree is a 47-foot white spruce tree located alongside Hwy 395 in Ainslie Glen, Cape Breton.  The tree is on a highway right-of-way and owned by the Province of Nova Scotia which is unusual because, with the exception of 1981, the Christmas trees sent to Boston have been donated by private property owners. The spruce is located near the Waycobah First Nations community nestled along the shores of the world-famous Bras d’Or Lakes.  In addition, Nova Scotia is donating smaller trees to Rosie’s Place and the Pine Street Inn.

On November 18, the official 2016 Christmas tree will be escorted by the Boston Police Department beginning around 10 a.m. from Billerica via Route 3 South to Route 128 North to Interstate 93 South to Sullivan Square to Rutherford Avenue over the Charlestown bridge and will weave through downtown Boston on North Washington, New Chardon, Cambridge, Tremont, Boylston, and Charles Streets to enter Boston Common at the corner of Beacon and Charles Streets at approximately 11 a.m.

Boston Parks Commissioner Chris Cook, an official Nova Scotian town crier, Santa Claus, and local schoolchildren will greet the tree at its final destination near the Boston Visitors Center at 139 Tremont Street.  The tree will be lit at approximately 7:55 p.m. on Thursday, December 1, as the City of Boston’s Official Tree Lighting is celebrated on Boston Common from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Celebrating the 2016 Rose Brigade

Thank you, Rose Brigade!

As the growing season draws to a close, the magnificence of the roses begins to fade.  The roses were particularly and extravagantly beautiful this year with the emergence of the unique and special sport rose. Each rose bed looked so radiant, it was impossible to choose a favorite.

We want to thank China for her exceptional leadership of – and undying enthusiasm for – the Rose Brigade, along with her wonderful co-leader Carl.  And we especially thank the volunteers who were out on Tuesday evenings to care for those exquisite roses. Experienced volunteers and newbies were welcomed each week with grace, erudition, lemonade, and cookies.  Boston, the Public Garden, and indeed the Friends of the Public Garden are blessed to have the dedication and knowledge of the Rose Brigade, without which we could not imagine the Garden.

Members Reception: Legacy Parks in a Changing City

This past Tuesday, John Alschuler, Chairman of HR&A Advisors spoke to Friends members at our annual Members Reception at the Four Seasons Hotel Boston. John Alschuler gave an excellent and thought-provoking presentation entitled Sustaining Excellence: Legacy Parks in a Changing City. The capacity crowd was very engaged and asked John many interesting questions after his presentation. Attendees enjoyed meeting new friends and catching up with old ones at the reception after the program.

If you were unable to attend, the entire program is available to watch on YouTube. The presentation slides are here.

Continue reading “Members Reception: Legacy Parks in a Changing City”

Meet the Trees: Gingko Biloba

 

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By Sherley Smith

The ginkgo tree is the oldest living tree species in the world. It is a botanical “living fossil,” dating to the time of the dinosaurs -250 million years ago. It was the very first seed-producing tree, which means it was the first tree that could live and reproduce on land. Ginkgo biloba is a “single species,” which means it has no living relatives, and fossil ginkgo leaves have been found on every continent, but the tree primarily survived in the protected valleys of China.  In the eighteenth century, European visitors discovered the ginkgo on the grounds of Buddhist temples in China, Japan, and Korea.

Ginkgos are well represented in two of our parks, with thirteen gingko trees on Boston Common, and eight in the Public Garden, both male and female trees. The first Ginkgo biloba in the parks was transplanted to Boston Common near the Joy Street steps in 1835. Already 40 feet tall at the time, that tree was moved to the Common from the nearby estate of Mrs. Gardiner Greene, daughter of John Singleton Copley.

The male tree produces small, cone-like structures that hold pollen. When female trees are about 25 years old, they produce small fruits with a fleshy, apricot-colored skin around the nut inside. The pulp is quite pungent when mashed and has a strong odor that many find unpleasant.

Long valued for aesthetic, religious, and medicinal reasons, it is said that Confucius studied under a ginkgo tree, giving it special meaning to Buddhists. The nuts are thought to have healing properties and can be eaten as a special delicacy. Extracts of the leaves are also used in medicines to enhance memory or stimulate blood flow.

Due to its resilience, the ginkgo has become a popular ornamental tree in the last fifty years. The tree tolerates pollution, extreme temperatures, road salt, and the confinement of being planted along a street. It is also both pest- and disease-resistant. It is easy to see why the tree is a symbol for longevity in Asia. There is an individual Chinese ginkgo said to be 3,500 years old.

The ginkgo is easy to identify due to its unique, fan-shaped leaves, with veins that fork outward from a central point. Its common name is “maidenhair tree” because the leaves resemble the leaves of a maidenhair fern. Carl Linnaeus, the renowned Swedish naturalist, gave the tree its Latin name, “Ginkgo Biloba,” which refers to the lobed shape of its leaf. In autumn, the leaves turn a beautiful golden hue before falling to the ground, typically all at once, resulting in a wonderful carpet of yellow surrounding the tree

Look for the ginkgos as you walk in the Public Garden and the Boston Common.

 

 

 

Surviving Drought – if you are a Lawn in an Urban Park

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By Normand Helie and Toby Wolf

This year’s extreme drought has affected landscapes throughout eastern Massachusetts. It may also be a harbinger of a more common future, as climate change alters weather patterns.

Over the summer, as the turf on Boston Common began to go dormant, many people felt alarmed by what they saw as dead grass, and pictures of the Common’s turf cropped up in several newspaper articles about the drought.

How can lawns be restored from brown to green – and how can they be kept green in the future? As extreme weather becomes more common and park use increases, what are the keys to maintaining healthy lawns in urban parks?

Some of the news is good: The grass in those brown patches is dormant, not dead.  Turf grasses cope with hot, dry weather by holding water in their roots rather than their leaves.  They sacrifice their green top-growth, which becomes brown and brittle, to keep the roots alive, biding their time.  When the weather cools and the rains return, the roots send up fresh green shoots.

Dormancy is a natural, adaptive response that helps grasses survive dry summers. By understanding these responses, we can learn to create conditions that support grass’s natural resilience. Every lawn is different, but here are some general guidelines:

  • Start each year with a plan: With each increase in accuracy, long-term weather forecasts have become a more important tool for planning.  If summer drought is forecasted, for example, consider mowing higher [or watering deeper] during the spring so that the turf has more sugars [water] stored in its roots by the time dry weather arrives.
  • Grass Loves to be Cut: Turf grass’s astonishing adaptability includes its ability to grow back stronger and thicker after being mown – as long as the mowing is moderate and well-timed.  If a lawn is mown too low, when the weather is too hot, or too soon after fertilization, the loss of leaf area will weaken the plant, reduce root growth, encourage weed germination, and cause premature brown-out.   It is optimal to mow to a height of 3” or greater, and reduce the height of the turf by no more than 1/3 in any one mowing. Mowing should be reduced during drought, and not be performed within a week following any treatment or when the temperature is above 90 degrees. The right equipment makes a difference too: sharpened mower blades make cleaner cuts, and mulching mowers keep nutrients on site, reduce water loss, and eliminate the cost of off-site disposal.
  • Irrigate in moderation: The shape of a plant’s root system is often determined by the availability of water. In lawns that are irrigated daily, water is available at the surface of the soil, so roots spread horizontally. These lawns may look great in the short term, but they are entirely dependent on continued watering, and their shallow roots are vulnerable to root rot. Irrigating less often allows the soil to dry out between waterings and encourages root systems to grow deep, where moisture levels are more stable. Deep-rooted turf is less likely to develop an unhealthy thatch layer and it is better adapted to withstand drought.
  • Build healthy soils: When urban soils are compacted by foot traffic and other day-to-day use, they can become impenetrable to water and air, and root growth. Deep-rooted turf can reduce soils’ vulnerability to compaction, but if compaction is already present, aeration is necessary. In most cases core aeration is helpful, as a best practice measure, but under extreme stress vulnerable lawns/soils can be harmed by the aggressive nature of aerating. Always refer to your plan and be prepared to adapt to seasonal conditions.
  • Feed lightly: Some soils are better suited for lawns than others, so it’s tempting to try to create the “perfect” soil on every site. For any large park, however, it’s more realistic to work with the soils we have, adding nutrients and minerals lightly and selectively.   Observation and testing can help to understand what the soils need, and necessary products can be added. For example, timed applications of lime can mitigate acid soils and increase the availability of existing nutrients, and light treatments with Potassium can help turf and other plants survive drought by regulating their transpiration of water.
  • Set realistic expectations: The mark of a healthy lawn isn’t that it never browns out at all; it’s that it browns out partially and briefly — for weeks, not months. Understanding dormancy as a natural adaptation, rather than a sign of failure, is essential to establishing the real-world practices that will create thriving and resilient turf.