Jimmy Fallon. Drew Barrymore. The Sox. Of course, folks, we’re talking about the cinematic pearl Fever Pitch, a romantic comedy gem set upon the backdrop of the beloved Red Sox’ memorable 2004 World Series championship. But Fenway isn’t the only park in the greater Boston area; there are actual non-corporate areas with beautiful flowers and plants where people go to congregate.
So whether you’re a film buff green thumb inspired by beloved Fever Pitch characters Ben Wrightman and Lindsay Meeks—who probably went to a park in one scene—or you’re a city transplant who grew up around gardens, many of us feel the desire to dig our fingers into some dirt, plant a few seeds and watch them grow because, along with the coming warm weather, live flowers and greenery have serious mood-boosting power. They also have the ability to liven up almost any façade, and add appeal (and potentially value) to both urban and suburban properties. But, you can’t just slap a fern on your frontage and call it a day. Climate, placement, species, and, you know, how to actually keep the things alive all matter when considering landscaping and planting in urban settings.
What, and Where?
First things first: You’ve got to figure out what is best to plant. As much as you like roses, your desire for them to grow doesn’t mean they are going to grow, let alone thrive, on your small balcony space that gets very little sun but lots of brownish water dripping from the drain pipe above.
“Primarily, the thing that condos are doing currently, and it makes sense, as it’s highly cost-effective—is opting for low-cost/low-maintenance perennials, as they come back year after year,” says Kathy Curtiss, co-owner and designer at Doug Curtiss Landscape Designing, Inc. in Southborough, Massachusetts “And there are many factors to be considered: is the area in which you’re planting water-accessible? How much sunlight does it receive? But there are plenty of shades and perennials that you can plant. It’s also nice to spot in some annuals, to provide some off-season color. Because perennials give you nice color and texture at specific times, but no perennial blooms for weeks on end, while annuals can bloom for three solid months, should you plant at, say, the end of May.”
“One of the common mistakes I see,” says Mandi Maloney, a horticulturist, landscape environments specialist and integrated pest manager with Garrick-Santo Landscape Co. in Malden, Massachusetts, “is that people will go to a garden center and buy the prettiest things they see.” The problem, she adds, is that the “prettiest” plant on display may not last through the season, leading to disappointed residents. When planning landscaping—whether for an extensive suburban property or an urban courtyard—all four seasons should be taken into consideration. Spring, when winter-weary residents are looking for mood-brightening color, is the shortest season. Summer plantings, Maloney says, will begin in late April or early May, followed by fall plantings in mid-August to mid-September. And even winter gets attention with evergreens in containers, or even cut branches or arrangements that will provide texture and color.