Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Beautiful Gardens... Destination Pittsburgh

Thanks to Valley View Farms' owners Andy and Bill Foard, I was able to attend the national Garden Writers Association symposium, held this year in Pittsburgh. I have been in, out and around that city many times in my life, but this was my first chance to stay for 5 interesting, busy, fun-filled, days.
Rooftop garden at Phipps Conservatory Center of Sustainable Landscapes
 A typical day started with a breakfast meeting, followed by several information gathering seminars, lunch on a bus en route to beautiful gardens, an afternoon of touring and then dinner at a garden venue with 400 garden writers/bloggers, TV and radio garden show hosts, public garden administrators, book authors, photographers, and other garden communicators. The bus ride offered a chance to get to know writers from all over the US and Canada. This year, we were treated to tours of beautiful gardens in the Sewickley Valley, Phipps Conservatory, Schenely Garden Plaza, the East End and other areas in and around the Pittsburgh.
Here are some photos of some of the gardens. The plants, flowers, and venues were incredible. I fell in love with the Phipps Conservatory. The outdoor gardens were spectacular!
Perennial gardens outside the Conservatory

Great garden performers 

Two formal water gardens could be seen from inside; I had to check them out!

 The indoor conservatory was just plain fun, with trains, dinosaurs and displays of Chihuly glass in unexpected places.
Trains were featured in several of the indoor rooms

Chihuly glass


Annual and tropical plants with the choo-choo train

Interesting desert room reminded be of Baltimore's conservatory

The private gardens were over the top. Beautiful tree hedges, mulched "lawns", old garden gates and, again, dinosaurs provided whimsy and unexpected storytelling in many gardens. The hosts opened up their grounds to hundreds of us.
Texture and color; flowers are secondary

Too much sun? This garden seat offers comfortable shade.

Peek through the garden wall for a look at the pool

This extensive pruned tree hedge bordered the upper lawn beautifully

Layers of shrubs on an emerald lawn-Wow!

Ivy covered walls

Dinosaurs need strong legs to cover the many hills in and around Pittsburgh

All of our  garden hosts were super friendly and knowledgeable 

Footbridge across Fern Gully

Lions were a common sight at many of the entrances 

 One of the gentlemen even started up his 1957 tractor, connected it to a cart and picked up some of the more physically challenged of our group, so that they didn't have to make the long trek up his driveway.

Our host talks to plants-man LLoyd Traven about his garden

Bit out of my price range, but beautiful just the same

Even the parking area gets the garden treatment
The planning committee did an extraordinary job. The garden tours made me wonder about the hidden gardens in our own community here in Baltimore.

One day, I played hooky with 3 other garden writers- Susan Reimer, from our own Baltimore Sun, Ginny Smith, from the Philadelphia Inquirer and Susan Harris, a garden writer, blogger and green activist here in Maryland. We struck out on our own and found Randyland.

Randy Gilson  of Randyland

Quirky garden! That's an understatement!

Randy re-purposes junk and creates jaw-dropping gardens

Look up, down and all around; you don't want to miss anything

Buy lunch down the street and bring it back to enjoy in Randyland

This Pittsburgh neighborhood is forever changed

Container gardens bring flowers to the street front

 Susan Harris wrote about this unique garden in her blog, Garden Rant. Talk about passion! Randy's view of the world and the joy and enthusiasm he brings to it is extraordinary. The four of us wandered in amazement while listening to Randy talking about the "junk", (his term, not mine) and plants in his garden. He is a waiter in downtown Pittsburgh and used his tip money and donations to create a one-of-a-kind city-scape.  While we were there, people stopped to say hi and donate to Randy's mission. He has gardens all over the city, but this is the one he calls home. For more photos, google Randyland.

Thank you to all of the people connected with GWA. Pittsburgh has become a new place to travel to and spend time in after my attendance to the 2014 symposium.
Pittsburgh was a wonderful host town
 Next year, Baltimore plays host to another horticultural group, the Perennial Plant Association. What a great chance to show off our city and the gardens in our area. Grow, Baltimore!


  1. Carrie
    I am so sorry to miss Randyland! I need to go back just to see that.

  2. Claire, I highly recommend a stop next time you're near Randyland. It was a delightful surprise for us. Turns out Randy is a waiter at the Westin. I had breakfast there Tuesday morning and heard him waiting on customers. Cool guy; evangelical about his garden.