Frederick Law Olmsted, Hermann Grundel, and the Remaining Back Bay Fens

(I originally posted this article at Union Park Press.)

By now, anyone who actually cares about Boston’s 19th-century park design has already read Justin Martin’s article “A Body of Water so Foul” about Frederick Law Olmsted and the Back Bay Fens. For those of you who don’t care, or can no longer read articles longer than 140 characters due to a nervous Twitter habit, here’s the 139-character summary: thanks to poor drainage due to filling in salt marshes, the Back Bay smelled very bad by 1878. Frederick Law Olmsted cleaned it up. Yippee!

Back Bay Fens ca. 1887—Harvard GSD/LOC

Back Bay Fens in need of tidying up, 1887—Harvard GSD/LOC

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What’s Not Quite Blooming: Boston’s Giant Corpse Flower

It’s big, it’s stinky, and it’s about to burst into bloom. The Franklin Park Zoo is waiting for an Amorphophallus titanum—a.k.a. corpse flower or titan arum—to flower in its greenhouse.

Titan Arum, U.S. Botanic Garden

Titan Arum, U.S. Botanic Garden

It will blossom for just a day or so once it deigns to unfurl its enormous, reeking petals; these fetid inflorescences can stretch up to six feet tall. The Twitter hashtag for spotting the imminent Franklin Park Zoo emergence is #Morticiawatch. Continue reading

What’s Blooming in Boston: Oakleaf Hydrangeas

Oakleaf hydrangea

Oakleaf hydrangea, Sitting Grove, Boston Mandarin Oriental Hotel

These oakleaf hydrangeas are blossoming in the Sitting Grove between Boston’s Mandarin Oriental hotel and the Shops at Prudential Center. The Sitting Grove isn’t as popular as the Pru’s South Garden, even though it’s open to the public. It’s smaller, and shadier, more intimate and out-of-the-way.

Tobias Wolf designed a cool oasis for this roof garden on top of a 1964 parking garage in the middle of a mall, and it is growing greener every year; the photos on Wolf’s site don’t do justice to the Grove today. It’s lush and airy, a lovely place to be alone in the middle of the city.