Behind the Scenes: Winter Park Work

These days our parks are quiet, often covered with a blanket of snow, the trees dormant and flowers having long disappeared…is the staff on vacation?  Not at all! The winter months are full of activity.  Friends Project Manager Bob Mulcahy, Collections Care Manager Sarah Hutt, and consulting arborist and soil scientist Normand Helie are hard at work planning for the year to come, and overseeing winter tree work.

Norm and Bob diving deep into the tree inventory, checking and rechecking!

Sarah and Bob evaluate every piece of sculpture throughout the year, planning out the annual cycle of care and cleaning.  Together they prepare the budget, receive proposals from conservators, ready contracts for the proposed work, and notify Boston Parks and Recreation Department, the Boston Arts Commission and Boston Landmarks Commission about upcoming annual maintenance.  Once the contracts are signed and paperwork filed, Bob and Sarah will work with the conservator contractors to schedule when the Women’s Memorial, among many, will get the TLC they need.

Continue reading “Behind the Scenes: Winter Park Work”

How Trees and Shrubs are Weathering Winter

Photo: Caroline Phillips-Licari
Photo: Caroline Phillips-Licari

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.”-Lewis Carroll.

The historic amount of snowfall this winter looks beautiful in our parks, but poses some challenges to trees and shrubs. Some obvious impacts are snow and ice breakage. Species with brittle wood, such as elms and zelkovas, can lose limbs from the weight of the ice and snow, especially during windy snowstorms. Another common impact is from salt, which is commonly spread on roads as ice melt. Salt gets into the water that is taken up by the trees, and can also be blown onto trees by the wind. Most trees cannot tolerate much salt exposure without suffering significant dieback. Some other impacts of the wintery weather are less obvious. Prolonged very cold temperatures can cause root dieback, although the amount of snow we have had does provide insulation. Most winter damage to plants is not caused just by the cold temperatures, but by fluctuations in temperature. Trees can develop “frost cracks” caused by the winter sun, along the trunk of the tree.  And evergreen trees are susceptible to “winter kill”, which happens on sunny winter days, when the sunshine tricks the tree into trying to photosynthesize. The problem is that when the ground is frozen, the tree cannot draw water up through its roots, which is required for photosynthesis. This results in dieback of the tree.

Fortunately for us, the ongoing tree care that the Friends provides in our three parks creates resilience to stress in the trees. The pruning that we’ve undertaken in all our parks reduces the likelihood of snow and ice breakage, and stimulates the trees to grow more vigorously, which enables them to withstand the stress of the cold temperatures. One unknown of this historic winter of deep snowpack – estimated to be the equivalent of 4”-7” of water – is whether our trees will become susceptible to soil and tree-related diseases that are caused by excess water in the ground.

Nevertheless, and although it is hard to believe now, spring really is right around the corner. The trees will shake off their dormancy and many will burst forth their flowers, followed by their new, pale leaves.

Claire_Corcoran_photoClaire 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.

Claire also wrote the recent post, Explaining the Odd Shape of Trees in Winter – Load Reduction Pruning. 

Holiday Sounds Brought Holiday Cheer to the Boston Common

Thursday evening, the Back Bay Ringers wowed the crowd with their harmonious renditions of holiday classics. Children, adults and even a few dogs stopped to enjoy the pleasant sounds of bells ringing out on the Common. The soothing sounds captivated the audience of about 50 people, many of whom hummed along with the melody of their favorite tunes! Friends of the Public Garden President Emeritus, Henry Lee stopped by the enjoy the performance and exchange holiday greetings with friends and neighbors. The repertoire included Silver Bells, Santa Claus is coming to Town and other delightful holiday tunes! The bell ringers performed each song flawlessly.

The Ringers’ next performance will take place during First Night at the Mary Baker Eddy Library in Boston. For more details visit

Have a safe and warm holiday with best wishes from the Friends of the Public Garden!

Holiday Classics Ring Out on the Common

The Friends of the Public Garden welcome the Back Bay Ringers to the Boston Common this Thursday, December 22nd for an hour long performance beginning at 5:00 p.m. Enjoy an exhilarating evening full of all your favorite seasonal tunes! Boston is full of fabulous holiday traditions, and this is one that won’t break the bank. Whatever holiday you celebrate, this is the perfect opportunity to round up the family and get in the spirit!

Join us near the Charles/Beacon Street entrance to the Common to enjoy this rare holiday treat!

Thursday, December 22nd

5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

The Back Bay Ringers is an innovative handbell organization dedicated to promoting excellence in handbell artistry through performance, education and community! The Ringers have performed at many prestigious locations including Symphony Hall and have held concerts around the Boston area and throughout the Northeast. Don’t miss this great opportunity to see one of the nation’s most exhilarating small arts organizations!

Tree Damage in the Public Garden

Willow in Public Garden

You may have seen the storm damage on a large willow tree by the lagoon in the Public Garden. We have had it inspected by arborists. Although as you can see it looks terrible now, the stump of the limb that broke off needs to remain because removing this would take off too much of the tree and weaken the structure. Look for it to sprout out in the spring with new growth.

Saluting Winter Runners

Photo credit: © 2010 Penny Cherubino

Penny Cherubino passed this along to us. This week, the Back Bay Sun featured the Commonwealth Avenue Mall on it’s front cover. The shot is between Arlington and Berkeley facing the Garden.

An inspiring quote was placed as the caption:

“I always loved running…it was something you could do by yourself, and under
your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted,
fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the
strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs.”

–Jesse Owens,
(American Track & Field Athlete 1913-1980)