Nancy Philpot picks fragrant purple lavender blooms from the Herb Garden in the Botanic Garden at Monroeville Community Park West. She’s volunteered here since 2019, and although the garden looks great, there’s still work to be done. Philpot is hoping to get more people interested in helping.
“My dream is to have a bunch of volunteers out here planting something they are passionate about and learning about it,” she says standing in the garden.
This hidden gem goes back to 2006 when landscape architect Richard Rauso was the lead consultant on creating and designing the garden and park too.
The gazebo in the center of the garden is a popular place for weddings and is surrounded by colorful annual flowers planted by the Botanic Garden Advisory Committee, all volunteers, who weed and care for the garden. It’s also a favorite spot for senior portraits and prom pictures.
Paul Estok is director of Monroeville Parks and Recreation; he supervises three hard workers who cut the grass and do a multitude of other jobs here when time allows. They just finished putting a nice layer of mulch around the gazebo.
He finds this quiet space to be a perfect oasis from the hustle and bustle of the city for residents.
“To come up here on Saturday or a Sunday, it’s incredible,” he says. “This is a happening place that’s evolving.”
Originally this was an old airport, and then ballfields for years until the new plan was put into place in 2006.
A dry stream bed runs through the middle of the Contemplative Garden. There’s Asian inspiration here with big Japanese maples and some mature, incredible paperbark maples creating dappled shade. It’s a quiet space for thinking.
Over the years though, it’s been hard to keep up with everything, Philpot says.
It was Joe Burgess who was a driving force in the garden until he moved away several years ago. It’s been a challenge for volunteers just to keep up with the weeds.
A Bird and Butterfly Garden faded away — all that’s left now is lawn. The Spring Garden was filled with daffodils, but they have naturalized so prolifically, they barely bloom. The Hummingbird Garden was overtaken with sea oats and then winter rye, used in an attempt to revitalize the space.
“We’re going to take out everything we want, tarp it for the winter and start fresh in the spring,” a determined Philpot said.
She has lots of dreams for this garden. The bones are in place, but more people are needed to transform and maintain what’s here.
“I would love to have more seating areas,” she adds.
There are established Native Gardens, Drying Garden, Fall Garden, Xeriscape Garden and more. The Children’s Maze is a labyrinth which the local Rotary has erected a Peace Pole.
It’s quite a remarkable place, with its host of mature display gardens. There is one filled with bright orange and yellow hot poker plants blooming over waves of golden yarrow.
Philpot would like to re-establish the Bee and Butterfly Garden, create a Black and Gold Garden as those are the colors of Gateway High School.
“I’d love to see a greenhouse on-site,” she adds.
Right now, the volunteers buy their annuals, but she would like to grow some here and propagate the existing plants.
The idea is to make the garden a destination, she also hopes to add an education center to hold classes.
For now, she’s searching for funding and with the help of the township and the volunteer continues to work on improving the existing gardens.
“There’s very little diversity in the beds,” she says. “I want to get that diversity back.”
As Estok finished the garden tour he looks over the lush display beds.
“I think it is a great community opportunity for the garden to be here, to bring people together,” he says proudly. “It’s already off to a good start. It takes a lot of work, but this is a great place.”
When thinking about what kind of volunteer she would love to see join the ranks, she says, “someone who wants to take some ownership and grow it.”
The Monroeville Botanic Garden is at Monroeville Community Park West, 2399 Tilbrook Road in Monroeville.
Visit Monroeville Botanical Gardens on Facebook to volunteer or for more information or call Laraine Hlatky at 412-373-6906 or 412-551-1646.