Spring Fling

After one of the snowiest, most blustery winters in years, these happenings around the city will help you thaw out and get back into the swing of enjoying the outdoors once again.

Mucking about in the mud is no longer just for kids. For adults with the same inclination to get down and dirty with Mother Earth this spring, Phipps Garden Center of Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is the place to go. Here are a few happenings to tickle your green thumb’s fancy. (Phipps Garden Center, Mellon Park, Shadyside. Registration required: 412/441-4442, phipps.conservatory.org)


Come spring, many people buy petunias or impatiens for their gardens, flower boxes and crocks. For variety, they change the flowers’ color. But there are more ways to introduce variety in the garden year-in and year-out than just with color, and those ways begin with the proper techniques. Instructor Linda Roos not only will show how to prepare the soil, pick a plant and fertilize, she’ll also explain “the right plant for the right place,” she says—what will grow in your shady or sun-seared yard.

Roos, a master gardener at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, favors geraniums, coneflowers, day lilies and Zagreb coreoposis for a change in the garden. Coneflowers, which bloom from late June through August, need six hours of sun daily and can grow from 18 to 40 inches high.

Pink, white, lavender, magenta, purple or blue geraniums bloom from late spring through June. They favor full sun and part shade and grow 8 to 36 inches high. What’s best? They are easy to grow. (Thurs., April 12 & 19, 7-9 p.m. $60; members, $40)


Instructor Carol Papas, another master gardener who operated her own garden design business for 10 years, will introduce perennials that are less-known than Black-Eyed Susans, such as Astrantia major, which bursts into long-blooming pale pink flowers and “wonderful foliage” in midsummer. Varieties range in color from pink to plum.

“Geranium Rozanne,” which, depending on the type, can make a mound 2 to 3 feet wide and almost 2 feet high, “is the longest blooming perennial in my garden,” Papas says. Blue with a white center, “it blooms heavily in early summer. After shearing, it repeats with an amazing show in September and October.” She also recommends Actaea simplex or “Hillside Black Beauty,” which has burgundy foliage. “In early fall it sends up 3- to 4-foot wands of fragrant white bottle-brush flowers,” Papas says.

Geraniums are generally available, but for the Actaea and Astrantia, Papas recommends LMS Greenhouse & Nursery, Sestili Nursery, Michael Brothers Nursery, Quality Gardens or Reilly’s Summer Seat Farm and Garden Center.

If you like flowers that last longer than bananas on the kitchen counter, then this course is for you. (Thurs., April 15, 7-9 p.m. $30; members, $20)


Ingredients for this course multiply quicker than crabgrass in your backyard. Silk flowers, real and imaginary, abound as do fruits, berries and foliage. Instructor Georgene Albrecht will show you how to pick and construct silk-flower arrangements, and each week you’ll take home a new arrangement. Your “garden” tools will include wire cutters, scissors and a glue gun.

On the other hand, if you don’t dig gardening but do appreciate beautiful blossoms and blooms, try this course. (Thursdays, April 1-22. $90; members, $60, plus $5 weekly material fee)


It’s a long but easy walk, says instructor Walter Jarosh. You’ll see native wildflowers, such as Sessile trillium, larkspur, Mayapple, bloodroot, trout lilies, hepatica, liverwort, Dutchman’s britches and squirrel corn. How can you resist? (Boyce Mayview Park, Upper St. Clair. Sun., April 25, 1-3 p.m. $30; members, $20)


Arbor Day is not a holiday when you hug your favorite tree. Its roots reach back to the Nebraska Territory: On April 10, 1872, Arbor Day started with Nebraskans planting a million trees—not just because they liked trees, but because they wanted to prevent soil erosion while providing fuel, building materials and shade.

In 2010, Pennsylvania officially celebrates Arbor Day on April 30, but you can celebrate the spirit of the holiday throughout the month by taking part in these Arbor Day-related initiatives.

Every day is Arbor Day for at least one local man—Phil Gruszka, director of parks management for the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. Throughout the spring and fall, the conservancy works with city park crews to plant large trees and with volunteers to plant smaller trees. What’s more, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is planting 20,000 trees in the Pittsburgh area, Gruszka says. “When we are not planting trees, we are either pruning during the winter or watering during the summer,” he says. (2000 Technology Drive, Suite 300, Oakland. Info: 412/682-7275, pittsburghparks.org)

At Chatham University, where 32 of the campus’ 39 acres are an arboretum, the student chapter of American Society of Landscape Architects conducts its annual Garden Market Place sale, says Lisa K. Kunst Vavro, director of the landscape architecture/landscape-studies programs. (Athletic and Fitness Center, 5701-5799 West Woodland Road, Shadyside. Sat., April 24, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Info: chatham.edu)

Friends of the Pittsburgh Urban Forest (FPUF), which seeks to “protect and restore” Pittsburgh forests, celebrates Arbor Day at eight city elementary schools, the Environmental Charter School at Frick Park and Carnegie Library Sheraden. “We plant a tree with students and host tree-themed activities on site,” says Caitliin Lenahan, FPUF’s education and outreach coordinator. FPUF will also donate tree-related books to the school libraries and plant a tree at Carnegie Library Sheraden. (Info: 412/362-6360, pittsburghforest.org/arborday)

If they keep this up, we’ll be back in Penn’s Woods. Knock on wood.

Categories: Arts & Entertainment, HOME + Design, Things To Do