Pittsburgh Botanic Garden opens Wednesday for year-round enjoyment
March 28, 2015 12:00 AM
Bruce Goodman and Matthew Burns, both 7, spread mulch on a trail at the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden in Oakdale as part of a service project for their Cub Scout Pack 225.
The main event hall of the Bayer Welcome Center at the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden. The restored 1870s barn will accommodate up to 130 people.
Benjamin Carroll, the Pittsburgh Botanic Gardens' horticulture and facilities manager, on the walkway to Bayer Welcome Center. The Pittsburgh Botanic Garden's will have its grand opening Wednesday.
Matthew Burns, middle, and Marc Little, right, both 7, help Benjamin Carroll, left, the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden's horticulture and facilities manager, spread mulch on a trail at the garden in Oakdale as part of a service project for their Cub Scout Pack 225.
Benjamin Carroll, the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden's horticulture and facilities manager, shows the first signs of spring on a witch hazel plant.
Inside the 1780s log house that will serve as a classroom for the garden complex.
This 1780s log house that gave Settler's Cabin Park its name has been restored and will be used as a classroom at the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden.
Andrew Rush / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 3/21/2015 Benjamin Carroll, the Pittsburgh Botanic Gardens' Horticulture and Facilities Manager, explains the future plans for the facility during a tour of the grounds. The gardens are in preparations for the grand opening on April 1.
By Mackenzie Carpenter / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
They say great gardens are never finished, and this particular one — all 460 acres of it on abandoned mining land — still has a lot of ground to cover.
The Pittsburgh Botanic Garden opens Wednesday — not just for the 2015 season but permanently, year-round. It’s still a work in progress in its second year, but already the REI Run 5K/10K “Race in the Garden” at 9 a.m. April 12 is sold out — a sure sign of the vast property’s steady growth as an outdoor destination.
Even if you can’t join other runners for the REI event, there will be a lot of other activities this season to draw families, athletes and nature lovers — or some combination of the three — to the botanic garden, which adjoins Settlers Cabin Park in Oakdale.
Pittsburgh Botanic Garden
Where: 799 Pinkerton Run Road, Oakdale PA 15071.
When: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. all other days.
Memberships: Individuals are $35; families $50. Admission is $9 for adults; $8 for seniors/students; $6 for children 3-18; children under 3 free.
The garden has completed the first phase of its master plan, with 60 acres on its northern ridge open to the public and three miles of trails for hiking (one mile is wheelchair-accessible, with more in the works). Eventually, there will be 18 distinct gardens and five different types of woodlands, but because the ground under the middle and southern ridges were both deep mined and strip mined for coal, completion is a long way off.
“We’re still in a very initial phase of a mammoth reclamation project, which will take years,” said Kitty Vagley, the garden’s director of development. “We are doing one of the largest reclamation projects in the country, and it’s a very slow process, but it’s the only way you can eradicate acid mine drainage.”
Nonetheless, in April the garden will be planting 1,800 saplings on the middle ridge, “which is a very big deal, marking another hurdle met in our efforts,” she said.
Among the treats for young and old this season: At the end of April or early May visitors will be greeted at the “front door” of the botanic garden — where the 18th-century homestead is — by four new sheep — the “Baby Doll” Southdown breed. While they’re available for a pat on the back, as official residents at their own sheep shed, their main job will be to keep the grass trimmed in the Colonial-era apple orchard.
“They are our lawnmowers,” said Ms.Vagley, only partly joking.
Also new at the homestead will be a chicken coop with heirloom — “Barred Rocks” — varieties, which will be up and running in late April or early May.
Thousands of bulbs, planted last fall, will be on display for the first time, beginning next month with the “River of Blue,” Glory of the Snow chionodoxa bulbs edged with yellow daffodils. They can be viewed along the walkway to the new outdoor plaza next to the current Bayer Welcome Center, a restored 1870s barn. It has a new second-floor space, the Ada and George Davidson Event and Culinary Center, which seats 130 people and has a catering kitchen and will serve as a rental space for weddings and special events.
Later in April visitors can view Virginia bluebells in the woods, and in May, the dogwood meadow.
On May 16, the garden — which was incorporated in 1991 and signed its lease on the acreage in 1998 — is holding its annual plant sale. Because this is its 25th — or silver — anniversary, silver-leafed plants will be available to order beforehand, along with a wide array of other trees, shrubs and herbaceous perennials. April 15 is the deadline for mail orders and the plants will be available for pickup at the botanic garden from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 16.
When the weather turns warmer, yoga aficionados will be able to sign up for classes at the garden. There also will be specialty tours with experts on birds and wildflowers along the garden’s three miles of groomed paths.
And in September, local chefs will celebrate Alice Waters, California restaurateur and pioneer of the organic food movement, with a “garden-to-table” dinner at the culinary center.
Behind the scenes, though, the garden is always growing and changing, said Ms. Vagley, noting that in the past four years workers have cleared 20 acres of invasive plant species — multiflora roses and Oriental bittersweet, among others — and planted more than 6,000 native trees, shrubs and perennials, and 18,000 bulbs.
The garden’s pond came back to life last year, and now it supports lotus, iris and lilies. In September fish were added, “and in October we got our first blue heron, which marked our 104th bird species, up from 58 in 1998,” Ms. Vagley said.
Mackenzie Carpenter: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1949; Twitter: @MackenziePG.
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