Border Brigade Brings Life to the Corners of the Public Garden

By Beth Treffeisen

Everyone knows the Boston Public Garden for the Swan Boats, colorful roses, and palm trees that line George Washington Statue during the summer but few, if not most, pay no attention to the borders that line the garden.

One group, the Friends of the Public Garden (FOPG) Border Brigade, in partnership with the Boston Parks Department, are trying to bring the same attention that is given to the center of the garden outwards, by sprucing up the often forgotten edges of the Garden.

“We’re so busy that we don’t even pay attention on what is happening right next to us,” said Robert Mulcahy the project manager for FOPG. “By coming out and volunteering it allows people to show what we do a little.”

For the second season, volunteers every other Thursday, from late April to the end of summer, help to maintain the newly renovated Boylston Street border and the Beacon Street border in the Garden. Working from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. volunteers are equipped with gloves, kneepads, and some brief instructions on weed indentification and then are ready to roll up their sleeves, dig in the dirt and get to work.

“It is similar to the work that the Rose Brigade does,” said Mulcahy. “It is not along the central spine of the Public Garden and doesn’t have the fragrant smells of the Rose Brigade but it brings you into the park.”

This year it took a long time to get out because the weather has been bad up until recently. This year, Mulcahy said, there were a lot of rain days. Typically the Border Brigade likes to get volunteers out early to tackle the weeds, usually Garlic Mustard, that sprout in the spring but, due to the cold, rainy weather this year, it has deterred them.

“There’s 900 feet of border on this side so there is only a handful we can keep up with,” said Mulcahy. “Depending on how many people show up it’s limited on what we can tackle.”

Volunteers do an array of tasks from weeding to pruning to picking up debris left behind. Mulcahy said that although smoking is not allowed in the park many visitors still do and tend to leave behind a lot of cigarette butts.

Although the Parks Department, Mulcahy said, takes great care of the central part of the park with picking up the trash, mulching, and maintenance care of trees, there isn’t always enough resources to take care of the smaller things, such as picking up cigarette butts on the edges of the park.

“This gives us an opportunity to take that type of care here,” said Mulcahy.

The FOPG are in the last phase of the multi-year renewal of the landscape along the Boylston Street border. This border has served many chapters in its history from playing home to a T stop and more. Today, it serves as a naturalist planted screen from the busy urban environment that surrounds it.

The Friends last renovated the Boylston Street border in 1994. Along with new shrub plantings, the renovations brought in three new bench pads, creating benches here for the first time since the 1970s.

Now, that the Boylston Street border is looking good, Mulcahy said, the Border Brigade is starting to look to see where else they can expand and make a little bit more beautiful.

“We are looking at the different gates and small patches of fence that do have shrubs that need to be taken care of,” said Mulcahy. “That’s going to need a lot of care and volunteers. There’s probably about 4,000 feet of border in the garden.”

Currently the Border Brigade is playing around to see when would be the best hours to garner the greatest amount of volunteers to come out. Mulcahy said that they just don’t know what best fits yet.

On one Thursday in early June, volunteer Jane Boyce of the Back Bay was seen pruning some bushes on the Boylston Street border.

“This is such a great gift for the City,” said Boyce. “I looked online and saw that the most photographed thing in Boston and the Prudential Center showed up but, I think it is the Garden – it is one the best places in Boston.”

Volunteers are still needed for the rest of the summer. Participants get a free Friends of the Public Garden t-shirt and a book about the Public Garden. The Boston Parks Department provides the trash barrels and tools.

Email [email protected] to learn more.

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