I’m waving a Terrible Towel and eating a Hoagie, can you guess where I am?

I really do pinch myself sometimes, thinking about how lucky I am and how many wonderful people I have met in my life, people who have extended the hand of hospitality…just because.

The bees love Pittsburgh too-Steelers Colours!

One of these people is Pittsburgh local, Garden Communicator extraordinaire and one of the nicest people I have ever met, Denise Schreiber. Those of you who follow this blog will remember Denise, who I met in 2015 in Pasadena. Denise and I drove down to Pittsburgh following our GWA conference in Buffalo, in August and I don’t think either of us drew breath the whole trip.

Pittsburgh by night

We talked and laughed and poor Denise had to answer lots and lots of questions about American-life according to her, from this ever-curious Aussie. We arrived at Denise’ home in Pleasant Hills, Pennsylvania which is a borough of Allegheny County and a suburb of Pittsburgh and after a quick tour of her treasure-filled garden, meeting the family, a quick unpack, we headed in to view the “Dahntown” from the top of Mt Washington-what a site, what a city.

They speak an interesting version of American in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh is home to NFL football team, The Steelers and is located at the confluence of three rivers and so there are lots of bridges crisscrossing the city. Pittsburgh is an old city built on steel but has undergone dramatic gentrification in recent years to become a vibrant and exciting modern place where they speak an interesting version of American.

When you travel with a local, you get to experience a different side to a city, one that only someone with local knowledge can provide and so it was a joyous moment, when after our night time trip to view the city, we headed down the hill to Denise’s favourite ice cream shop for a cheeky soft serve and chocolate sauce.

Inside…like Alladins cave

As a Garden Communicator, no trip to Pittsburgh would be complete without a visit to Phipps Conservatory, in Schenley Park. Stunning glass art by Jason Gamrath, displaying botanical wonders on a massive scale accompanied by permanently acquired, huge Chihuly pieces and more delicate Hans Godo Fräbel works in the orchid house. These provided enhancement to beautiful displays of flora under glass in this giant conservatory. The Sustainability gardens provided insight into providing habitat for nature right in the middle of a busy city.

Phipps Conservatory

This blue glass is incredible

Bees on Joe Pye weed at Phipps

The orchids were stunning in the Orchid room at Phipps

Monarchs at Phipps in the Nature play area

Chihuly at Phipps

Check out this Chihuly

Glass art at Phipps Conservatory

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nature corridors in the CBD

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The outdoor gardens offered beautiful views of the city and the Cathedral of Learning, framed by a gorgeous hydrangea display.

Cathedral of Learning

Check out these Hydrangeas

Beautiful views of Pittsburgh above the city

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Denise works as Greenhouse Manager for AlleghenyCounty Parks looks after many of the plantings at South Park, so naturally, a behind-the-scenes tour was on the cards and a fun time exploring the place where she works.

 

We visited The Strip which is home to European Delicatessens, restaurants and a fabulous Kitchenware shop and we ate a Hoagie, a delicious bread roll filled to capacity with sliced meats and cheese-a must do!!!

The Strip

Selecting cheese on The Strip

A garden centre, Trax Farms Market was also on the agenda and this was of particular interest for me as I was able to compare prices and stock available, I just loved their garden gift lines and planter boxes out the front. They were gearing up for Halloween.

Container planting at Trax Farms Market

 

You would not expect to see this in a cemetery in Australia

Jefferson Memorial Cemetery might not seem like a fun place to visit but it’s actually a stunning arboretum and it was there, at dusk, where we saw a family of deer grazing quietly amongst the trees, my first “Bambi” moment.  There’s a life-sized bronze statue of George Washington and very interesting art that one would not expect to find in a cemetery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something, I might not have mentioned is that I’m a bit of a sucker for craft stores so my visit was made complete with a trip to Pat Catan’s, a huge craft supply store.

Our home now plays host to a ‘Terrible Towel’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhrqDBEi9oo

and my son has barely taken off his Pittsburgh T-shirt and Steelers PJ’s since my return a little reminder of my travels to make me smile.

Girls Night In/Out an annual tradition was a wonderful night held at Denise’s home on the last night of my stay with great food and conviviality, celebrating with lots of women working in Horticulture as well as some of Denise’s nearest and dearest friends and family-they sure know how to party those girls.

Thanks to The Schreibers for generously sharing your home and your town with this Aussie, it was a week I will never forget.

 

My Garden of Friends

 

I have been very blessed in my life with an abundance of wonderful people who I am lucky enough to call and have called my friends. Friends are so important and having a connection with another human being on that level is a joyous thing.

Friends are different from family and add another dimension to one’s whole being. It is true that friends are the family you choose. I am blessed with a large family mostly living in other states of this country and other parts of the world, so my friends are very important to me, whether here or abroad. My Mum is here and she’s a rock, solid piece of living stone that adorns the garden. My children are the pieces of art within the garden, precious treasures.

Some people have been friends for more than thirty years, some even longer, I guess they are the trees in my garden, they have been there for a long time and bend in the wind but for the most part are there, season after season. Some have been fast growing, some slow and some mid-sized and solid. Sometimes, with little contact or need for constant nurture but at the same time provide the bones of the landscape. They provide the basis for life’s garden. Some background, some specimen trees, some offer shade, some offer colour and light, all have their role to play.

My “noble tree” and dearest friend is my husband, is was and always will be.  He’s the one who provides that one true place in the garden. The shade on a hot day. I recently attended a talk by Dr. Michael Dirr from the University of Georgia, who spoke about the importance of the noble tree with great conviction. In an interview, at Penn State Extension with Martha Swiss, when asked what is a noble tree, Dr. Dirr said “It’s anything that outlives us. It’s anything that spans generations, has a long life, supports wildlife, fixes CO2, spits out oxygen, prevents erosion, increases property values, something that’s inherent in our everyday life. We need large trees.” and then Martha Swiss said it very well herself when asked to define the meaning of a noble tree for the Pittsburg Post-Gazette in 2012, “A noble tree is the large sycamore you walk under on a hot summer day, casting welcome shade, or the massive oak you notice in winter for its magnificent silhouette of bare branches, or an old maple from your childhood that held a tire swing. In short, noble trees are those planted to endure for generations, large enough to cast shade and become fixtures in our landscapes and our memories.”

and in my Garden of Friends I’ve had annuals for sure, haven’t we all? Women and men who have come into my life for but a brief moment, in a certain place at a certain time, creating a memory but moving on through, just like any annual, you plant it, nuture it for a short time, enjoy it for it’s blooms or form and then everyone moves on. Sometimes I have put a huge amount of effort into annuals, thinking they were perennials but alas with an element of disappointment there they go, they were only ever meant to be annuals. There’s a joy in annuals for sure and a place in the landscape for them.

There have also been a few weeds who on a positive note, I guess, provide habitat for native bees and butterflies, but probably best removed before they have a chance to bloom again for another season.

I have to say also that I am very grateful for Facebook which has allowed me to reconnect with people who I have known all my life but with whom I had lost contact, for no real reason, life just got in the way. I guess these people are the perennials in my garden, they are there, I planted them, they bloomed and they may be in the shade of the trees, they may be overgrown with annuals or just lying dormant waiting for that essential fertiliser to return them to their former beauty. They are and will always be there. They too form a very special part of the garden.

Connecting with nature has always been so important to me just as connecting with friends, men for sure but women, in particular.  It is part of who I am. I enjoy the company of women, listening to their stories and how they got to where they are at this particular moment in time.

Sometimes, when you least expect it, when you travel with an open heart, you are lucky enough to go out into the nursery of mankind and find some new treasures to plant in your garden and as I so often say to my dear husband “there’s always room for one more plant” (or several) and so it is true that there is always room in one’s life for more friends. Just as a mother finds space in her heart to welcome a new baby into the family it is also true that your heart finds room for new friends while still able to nurture the older ones that exist in the garden.

I have recently had the great joy of spending time with new treasures, they may be trees, perennials or annuals, I’m not quite sure yet, they are all adding to the garden in their own special way. Gorgeous, like-minded garden loving people. I had the very great pleasure of catching up with many of them at the GWA conference in September held in Atlanta, Georgia and I’m feeling ever so grateful. There’s the dear ones from #GWA15 in Pasadena like Denise, Eva, Louise, Susan, Sylvia, Jennifer, Jo-Ellen, Ann, C.L., Kathy J, Pam and Diana, Larry and Kirk and Sara. These folks have made an enormous effort to keep in touch despite geography and are wonderful and cherished additions to my garden of friends.

This year, I have added even more flowers to my garden Jacqueline, Deb, Dee, Marianne, Teresa, Nan, Katie, Maria, Ken and sweet Barbara from England and am so grateful to each and every one of them for coming up to say Hi and having a chat.

I will make mention of one very special friend, AZ Plantlady, who I met last year in Pasadena. This year before the conference she invited me to come visit her in Phoenix, her hometown. She collected me from the airport, handed me a huge home made ‘Welcome to Arizona’ pack filled with treats and lots of information, took me into her home, introduced me to her family, fed me, we laughed and ate at “local” places, we talked non-stop for a week about life, our universe, what’s important to each of us and mostly I feel privileged that she shared with me her joy of gardening in the place where she lives and hopefully I’m firmly planted in her garden of friends too, I’d like to say maybe a young Palo Verde…

“A garden is a friend you can visit anytime” Anon