adopt a garden

Mt. Lebanon hires a professional landscaper at a cost of $21,000 a year to maintain 30 public flowerbeds in visible areas of the community. Residents who appreciate how public gardens beautify the community have adopted another 22 planting areas in less prominent areas, as budgetary concerns have limited the number of beds the municipality can fund.

Osage garden plot tenders Sheila and Danielle Nathanson (front), Judy Hamilton, Joe Smith and Jennifer Franz are just a few of the many residents who have stepped forward to adopt the community’s public gardens. If you are interested in adopting a garden, check the list of available plots at Photo by George Mendel.

Phipps master gardeners Nancy Smith and Janice Seigle applaud the joint public/private effort and would like to recruit residents to adopt the 26 remaining beds, restoring the community’s public gardens to their former glory. They are willing to contribute their expertise to help newbie gardeners create lush plots that will survive, thrive and become easier to care for as the years go by.

Smith has cared for the library’s gardens for years, along with one near her home at Avon and Jefferson drives she maintains with her neighbor, Margaret Hooton. It was while serving on the Parks Board together that she and Seigle, who also worked on the Arboretum Committee, devised a plan they hope will generate more interest in the beautification effort.

The pair has created a recommended list of perennials, shrubs and small trees that can serve as the foundation for a permanent year-round garden that can be enhanced with annuals, grasses and ground cover. The list of recommended plants includes hardy, attractive varieties that will not interfere with drivers’ sightlines, an important consideration. Among them are native grasses, canna lilies, pulmonaria, acanthus, geraniums, asters and salvia. Herbicides and chemicals are not recommended.

Smith and Seigle will be happy to meet personally with any of the current or prospective community gardeners to provide advice as to how to prepare and maintain the beds properly so they will be both beautiful and hardy. No money was allocated in the 2012 budget to help the volunteer gardeners, although Commissioner Kelly Fraasch said she is hopeful the commission may be able to find some funding to help volunteers defray the cost of purchasing plants.

Lack of money has not deterred devoted volunteer gardeners such as Jennifer Franz and Sheila Nathanson of Virginia Manor. Each maintained a plot in their neighborhood at considerable personal expense for a couple of years with friends and family helping with maintenance. Noticing the difference the flowers made, many other neighbors chipped in to create a gardening fund, with Dollar Bank VP and neighbor Joe Smith serving as treasurer. They have collected enough money to sustain five flowerbeds for several years.

Franz also solved the persistent problem of how to water the bed at Cochran and Osage roads, where there was no spigot close enough to reach with a hose, Smith says. On the advice of Mt. Lebanon Public Works Director Tom Kelley, Franz applied for and received a grant from Pennsylvania American Water, and that bed now has a water source and a meter.

You don’t need to be a master gardener to adopt a bed—the only requirement is an interest in gardening and/or community service (and perhaps a hose or watering can). After the garden is planted—usually in May—the work is mostly watering and weeding, Smith says. And once the bed is established, maintaining it becomes easier each year. “You can assess it and add to it, if you like,” she says.

If you might like to adopt a bed, check the list of available plots at and call Public Works Director Tom Kelley at 412-343-3869. If you adopt a bed and would like to meet with Smith and Seigle, email Smith at