8 Things You Might Not Know About Pittsburgh's Garden History

With its reputation as America’s Smoky City, Pittsburgh’s long history of gardens and gardening often is overlooked. We thought we’d Break It Down.

photo by chuck beard


The birth year of the Botanical Society of Western Pennsylvania (botsocwpa.org). One of the oldest botanical organizations in the country, the BSWP works closely with the Carnegie Museum of Natural History to catalog and study plants.

The number of community flower gardens maintained by Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (waterlandlife.org). (There are many more, but there is no formal census for all of the region’s gardens.)

“My queen is gone! [Where can I purchase a new one?]”
Honeybees account for more than $15 billion of U.S. crop value, but they are under siege from Colony Collapse Disorder and other pathogens. Burgh Bees (burghbees.com) provides beekeeping education to Pittsburghers to promote local sustainable agriculture.

4 Million
The number of urban trees lost annually in U.S. cities. Since its creation in 1998, the city’s Shade Tree Commission has planted 450 trees. Since 2006, local nonprofit Tree Pittsburgh (treepittsburgh.org) has worked to restore and protect the urban canopy.

A Marvel in 1893 & 2016
When Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens (phipps.conservatory.org) opened in 1893, it was the largest glasshouse in the world. Now, Phipps’ Center for Sustainable Landscapes project is the first to achieve the Living Building Challenge, the pinnacle of sustainable building certifications. 

0.1 inch
While the average rainy day in Pittsburgh deposits a quarter inch of water, it takes only 0.1 inch to overwhelm storm drains and sewer lines. The Three Rivers Rain Garden Alliance (raingardenallience.org) helps residents to plan rain gardens to protect rivers and streams.

Among 200 regional urban growers who responded to a survey, 97 percent grew vegetables among their yield. 94 percent grew herbs and 75 percent grew flowers.

Unlike a dress or a document, it’s hard to preserve a garden in a museum. So the Smithsonian Institute created the Archives of American Gardens (AAG), which documents the existence of more than 7,500 historical and contemporary gardens from around the country; in the last five years, it has added a dozen local gardens.


Categories: The 412