Our New Viewing Garden in Chinatown Park
Written By Darrah Cole, Senior Horticulturist and Designer
At the very southernmost part of the Greenway is a long, narrow strip of garden. In the Horticulture Department we fondly refer to this area as “the bus stop bed” because it sits directly behind a metro bus shelter. It has never been an exciting part of the park, and was practically and sturdily planted with leafy shrubs and evergreens. Common plants like yews, winterberry and inkberry were clustered under a row of Gingko trees. When a renovation of Mary Soo Hoo Park was completed by the City in 2012 a layer of new flowering plants – including Russian sage, Rhododendrons and spring hyacinth bulbs were added in.
Unfortunately, as the rest of the Chinatown Park got busier and more used by the community, this area became a go-to place for bad behavior – and the plants suffered terribly. This garden bed has seen negative uses that have killed shrubs, trampled understory, and threatened the long-term health of the trees.
As stewards of the park our goal, at a minimum, is to keep the area clean, green, and safe. This was a constant challenge for our horticulture and maintenance staff. The rhododendrons – wonderful native plants with tough leaves but brittle branching – suffered broken branches on a weekly basis until there was nothing left to care for. Small plants were ground away underfoot, while other collected windblown trash and needed constant maintenance due to twisted and torn branches.
This past autumn we finished a new and protected planting are for this garden bed. It is a wonderful mix of plants native to Asia, and to New England. Some are common and some are unusual. All are shade tolerant as this area is sheltered by Gingkoes, Elms and a Golden Raintree. As the garden grows in over the next two years you will find Painted Ferns and Ostrich Ferns, delicate Barrenwort, Soloman Seal and the round soft leaves of Canadian Ginger. Spring flowering Azaleas, Rosebay Rhododendrons, Red Bells, and then our native Summersweet shrub and ground covering Scarlet Carpet Rose provide blooms in the summer and fall. Three kinds of grasses, and a new clumping bamboo variety add soft texture and movement, catching your eye to lead you on a visual exploration of the space. With your support and encouragement this viewing garden will grow in lushly and thrive to be enjoyed for many years.