Sunflowers!

This summer my Greenway project is the Demonstration Garden at Dewey Square near South Station – a section that features gardens aimed to inspire homeowners.  It includes a pollinator garden, a rain garden, a raised vegetable garden, and a small orchard, all bordering a large lawn. There is a good representation of native plants, and the work is like any other garden – clearing and planting in the spring, then the regular maintenance of weeding, cutbacks, and staking.  Because it is in a prime area that hosts many activities such as yoga classes and evening parties, we take special care that the garden is always looking its best.

This year the Greenway staff selected a theme for the annual and vegetable plantings: plants whose origins were from Africa, were dispersed around the world, and are cultivated by Black communities.  So, the vegetables include specific species of kale, collards, squash, peppers, and okra.  This theme extends and complements the new mural that faces into the park. “Breathe Life Together” was painted by a prominent Roxbury artist, Rob “ProBlak” Gibbs.

In early July we had a surprise project, which resulted from a collaboration of the Greenway Public Art and Horticulture groups with Ekua Holmes, who leads Roxbury Sunflower Project. The Sunflower Project itself is a wonderful story – Holmes started it by planting 20,000 sunflower seeds on unloved public land in Roxbury with a mission of spreading beauty and hope in this historically Black neighborhood. The project has grown each year as Holmes extends her message of resiliency and radiance. Last year, for instance, the Museum of Fine Arts invited her to plant sunflowers on the front lawn at the museum.

Credit: http://www.RoxburySunflowerProject.tumblr.com

Our project, titled “Seeds of Love and Justice”, was to plant sunflowers in all the garden beds surrounding the main lawn, with a goal of extending the Roxbury effort into central Boston.  A team of Greenway Public Art and Horticulture staff, Sunflower Project volunteers, and us regular Demo Garden volunteers came together to install close to 200 sunflower seedlings.

In front of the mural Breathe Life Together, our leader from the Roxbury Sunflower Project, London McWhorter, explains the project, while Greenway Horticulture leaders Darrah Cole and Abby Parker, and Greenway Public Art staff Sheila Novak look on.
London and his co-leader Kai Holmes and others in the project started the sunflowers in their homes and brought these cute little seedlings for us to plant.  There were four different types with different colors and heights.
Volunteers from the Roxbury Sunflower Project planted seedlings in a precise pattern to give dense coverage and maximum impact.
Last year there were a few sunflowers in the Demo Garden, and they left behind a seed or two.  This was a volunteer sunflower from last year’s seeds, already in bloom on the day we planted.
Six weeks later, our tiny seedlings are three feet high and ready to bloom!

If you have a chance to visit the Greenway over the next several weeks, you too can enjoy the plantings and their message, “Seeds of Love and Justice”.

For more information: the Roxbury Sunflower Project website on Tumbler; the Boston art collaborative Now and Then on the Sunflower Project, and the Greenway blog post about the collaboration and “Seeds of Love and Justice”.

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