(Sara Brown for Boston.com)
Taking away prizes for lush and lovely foliage, spectacular tree pits and most unique living wreaths, Beacon Hill gardeners gathered Tuesday for an annual celebration of the neighborhood’s iconic window boxes.
Over wine, cheese, and cupcakes, the 53rd annual window box contest reception honored those who beautify the neighborhood with these bits of flora that make visitors to Beacon Hill “think to themselves, and say to others, what a beautiful neighborhood that is,” said Steve Young, the Beacon Hill Civic Association president.
“Thank you for the additional pleasure you give to all of us who live on Beacon Hill,” he told the audience.
Nine residents and one business were the grand-prize winners of the contest, chosen by garden club judges that walked around Beacon Hill over the summer. The winners received plaques, and about 35 other homes and businesses received acknowledgements—including certificates and a small pepper plant--for “their part in beautifying Beacon Hill.”
Winners included Beaver Place resident Peggy Scott, for "overall extraordinary effort with most amazing coleus," Hancock Street, for Best Neighborhood Effort, and 43 Mount Vernon Street for "Most Spectacular Tree Pits."
Among the residences acknowledged: 33 Beacon Street, the historic Parkman Mansion that is now owned by the city.
Antonia Pollak, the city parks commissioner, came to the ceremony and accepted the congratulatory certificate. Young told the Civic Association board that the certificate would hang in the Parks Department office.
“It’s such a pleasure to start the day with colorful window boxes and tree pits,” said Trudy Fondren, president of the Beacon Hill Garden Club. “It just makes my day.”
Fondren, who was one of the judges, said it was a pleasure to walk around the neighborhood this summer to judge contest entrants. She also noted the wide range of plants that populate the window boxes year-round: tulips and crocuses in the spring, mums in the fall, and greens and berries in the winter.
Kathryn Kuchefski, a garden club member who served as a judge, noted that the weather this summer was unpredictable, making it harder for gardeners to keep their plants healthy.
She and the other judges roamed the neighborhood to look for some “gems,” she said later. While Lisa Meaders Hurley served as the flower expert, she said, “I just looked for what I thought was pretty and healthy and different,” including different heights, textures, and materials.
Kuchefski herself said she maintains flower boxes, though she puts hers to work: as a cook, she devotes half of her flowers boxes to herbs.
Rob Mahoney the owner of Alchemy Flowers and Gardens and a window box specialist, gave a window box demonstration at the ceremony, putting together a seasonal array with chrysanthemums, dusty miller, kale, pumpkins and gourds.
“It’s nice not doing this on a ladder,” he said, as he added willow branches for height and angel vine as an outline around the box. He said he’ll sometimes use fake—or “permanent botanicals” to accent the display.
Mahoney also offered tips and answered audience questions. Some helpful hints: he likes to use Lambert’s Potting Soil, and plants should be watered every day in the summer and every two or three days in the fall. For wood window boxes, he suggested a weather-proof liner that can be purchased at Home Depot.
Pansies are a hardy fall flower, Mahoney said, and dusty miller and kale “last through the winter.”
Vandalism is a problem Mahoney did not have a solution for, noting that a recent project he created outside Club Café—two urns and eight planters—was stolen.
Anti-theft suggestions from audience members: planting cacti, or poison ivy.