By Carol Stocker
The Old Northern Avenue Bridge, an important pedestrian link between the Rose Kennedy Greenway and the Seaport District, has been spruced up with 12 giant planters of flowers spanning Fort Point Channel. A ribbon cutting ceremony Tuesday morning celebrated the project, called the Harbor Links Gardens, which is an example of public and private cooperation.
Representatives included Michele Hanss and Leslie Wills of The Boston Committee of the Garden Club of America, which contributed $50,000 to the project, Vivien Li, president of The Boston Harbor Association, and JoAnn Massaro, Commissioner of Public Works for The City of Boston and Antonia Pollak, Commissioner of the Boston Department of Parks and Recreation, who originated the idea. Also on hand were David J. Warner of Warner Larson Landscape Architects, which provided pro bono services for the design and oversight of the installation and designer Sameer Bhoite. A reception sponsored by the Milton Garden Club followed at the ground floor facility for public accommodation at 470 Atlantic Avenue.
With rooftop gardening becoming more popular, innovations in lightweight products were employed to protect the historic but fragile bridge, including "Roof Lite" growing media donated by Read Custom Soils.
Other companies that contributed to the project include BH Brown Landscape Design, Mahoney's Garden Center and Greentop Planters of Rockport, who built large but light weight containers from fiberglass and aluminum with polystyrene cores for maximum insulation in heat and cold with a minimum of weight. These are a long way from the old concrete municipal planters that were once the standard.
"Making horticultural and open space available in this important area of Boston is consistent with the Garden Club's mission of supporting horticultural projects that can have an impact upon the greatest number of people," said Hanss. "We want to show developers that this kind of beauty and greenery should be part of the new waterfront. Mayor Menino has done a great job and I hope whomever the new mayor is, he or she keeps green space and beautification on the City's agenda."
The 1908 metal truss "swing" bridge" has "always been gritty, a connection to warehouses and railroads," said Li. "No one really thought of it as an entry to an 'Innovation District,' We took a rusty bridge and made it a beautiful connector." She praised Mayor Menino and his staff for his support. "Think about this: The Garden Club gave us the money in November and the project was executed by June."
The planters are moveable because long term plans for stabilizing and refitting the bridge for multiple uses are still in the works. In the meantime, plants have been installed that can withstand punishing summer sun and winter winds in a very exposed location.
Shrubs and trees include blue holly, Japanese black pine and white pine, purple leaf sand cherry, Icy Drift rose, Blue Pacific Shore juniper, and Color Guard yucca. The tough perennials are equally well chosen. Leading the field is the wonderful reblooming clear yellow Happy Returns daylily bred by Darrel Apps. Also up to the challenge are May Night salvia, Moonshine yarrow, Little Spire Russian sage, black eyed Susan, Angelia sedum, Black Beauty coral bells, Walker's Low catmint, Elijah blue fescue grass and Hamlen fountain grass, Potato vine, petunia and purple verbena are the annuals used, along with driftwood for a sculptural effect.
Funding from the Boston Committee of the Garden Club of America is raised from a membership of 1100 women from 14 garden clubs in Greater Boston and southern New Hampshire.