South End Blossoms Thanks to City-Sponsored Planting Program
In recent weeks, bright, new daffodils opened up at the entrances of Blackstone and Franklin Square parks, welcoming visitors and the spring. In fact, daffodils are popping up around the South End and in parks throughout the city thanks to Boston Blooms, a new initiative by the Boston Department of Parks and Recreation at the urging of Mayor Menino. According to Ryan Woods, Director of Programming for the Department of Parks and Recreation, Mayor Menino frequently drives around the city surveying its appearance and conditions, and asked Parks and Recreation to revive its bulb distribution program that ended 10-12 years ago. "Mayor Menino is a flower maniac," Woods explained. The Mayor wanted to see more flowers along streets and in traffic islands on major roads as well as in parks. Ringgold, Titus Sparrow, and Blackstone and Franklin Squares are among the parks that took advantage of the bulb giveaway. Washington Gateway Main Streets put in thousands of bulbs across Washington Street as well.
The bulbs were distributed to neighborhood groups that requested them and were planted last fall. Woods explained that daffodils were the flower of choice for the city-wide beautification program because they are easy to plant and care for, and their season ends before the height of the summer heat, when it can be hard to get volunteers to maintain a daily watering schedule.
Erin Frost of the Berkeley Community Garden was investigating options for beautifying the space when someone at the South End Lower Roxbury Open Space Land Trust (SELROSLT) told her about the Boston Blooms program. Frost and her group really appreciate the assistance Boston Blooms offers. "Our garden has been in quite a bit of transition as we work through some problems. We have been living with a long empty planting bed that fills with trash and refuse," Frost said in an e-mail. Last fall, Frost and several volunteers had a planting party to put in the Boston Blooms daffodil bulbs along the garden’s fence on East Berkeley Street. The group was really grateful for the assistance. "We love [Boston Blooms] and would never be able to do this without their help. We hope to participate each year and eventually have quite a spring show in our new planting bed," Frost said.
Anne Smart, head librarian at the Boston Public Library’s South End branch, is also a fan of Boston Blooms. "I thought it was a nice idea; anything that helps to make the garden look nicer," Smart said. The library received about 200 bulbs, which will be planted this fall. "We have volunteers and a Friends group, and the children’s librarian like to garden, so maybe she’ll get the kids to help," Smart added.
The Parks and Recreation Department’s commitment to Boston Blooms is ongoing, as Commissioner Antonia Pollak has already authorized the distribution of 40,000 more bulbs this coming fall. Woods reported that the Department obtained the bulbs for about twenty-three cents each, with a total price tag of less than $10,000. The cost of Boston Blooms, like that of other Parks and Recreation programs, is paid for through private donations, not tax dollars. Parks and Recreation holds fundraisers, such as the Rose Garden Party at the Kelleher garden in the Back Bay Fens, which features live music, refreshments and a preview of the flower show, as well as silent auctions throughout the year. Woods related a unique story of generosity on the part of a couple, both attorneys, who asked their wedding guests to give donations directly to the Parks and Recreation Department in lieu of wedding gifts.
Mayor Menino’s interest in the city’s outdoor spaces is also reflected in the Mayor’s Coffee Hour, a series of meet-and-greets with Mayor Menino, Parks and Recreation Commissioner Antonia Pollak and Parks and Recreation staff that will be held at 12 parks around the city from May 3 through June 23. The series stops in the South End on Sunday, May 6 from 12:30-2:00 p.m. to celebrate the opening of Ringgold Park after its recent renovation. Dunkin’ Donuts sponsors the coffee hours, providing coffee and donuts. Many of the coffee hours are held at 9:00 a.m. on weekdays, drawing about 35 people, mostly dog walkers and local merchants. Woods said, however, that the weekend dates draw as many as 200 guests.
Woods also announced an upcoming special event under the umbrella of Boston Blooms that South End gardeners won’t want to miss. At the Kickoff to Summer at Back Bay Fens on Sunday, May 12 at 10:00 AM, Mahoney’s Garden Center will give away Tom-Ato plants, a new species of tomato plant that Mahoney’s has developed. The giveaway will help publicize Mahoney’s new location in Boston at 339 Western Avenue in Brighton. "When kids think of summer, they think of ice cream, sunshine and beaches. When we green thumbs think of summer, we think of tomato plants," Woods said. In addition to free tomato plants, the Kickoff to Summer will offer children’s activities and live jazz. Community organizations will also exhibit at the event, with the Boston Public Health Commission giving out free sunscreen.