2011 Greenest Block in Brooklyn
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden has been holding the Greenest Block contest for 17 years and this year, Lindsey Taylor, GARDEN DESIGN's Style Director, was a judge. Check out our photos of the winning block (and Brooklyn's best window box!) and of some of the other Brooklyn neighborhoods that participated!
East 25th Stret, between Clarendon Road and Avenue D, in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, (pictured here) is the first place winner!
“We tried for 100 percent participation,” said Hazel Deane, who has lived on East 25th Street for 37 years and is chairperson of the block’s gardening club. “With 56 homes on the block, that’s a challenge. This year we had the most participation ever.”
The block was chosen for its fine use of native plants and careful attention to the street's tree beds, as well as the block's adoption of a vacant building, where the block's neighbors have created a vegetable garden. The block has a distinguished history in the contest, having won first place in 2004 and 2006.
“Above all, the sense of design on this block, the gorgeous colors, and careful arrangement of textures in containers, is just breathtaking. It was far and above the most beautiful block in the contest due to their gardening and their amazing collective effort,” said Robin Simmen, director of GreenBridge, the community garden arm of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which oversees the contest.
Lindsey Taylor, GARDEN DESIGN's Style Director, was one of the judges for this year's contest, and she blogs about her experience. Check out our slide show, with Taylor's commentary, of some of the different blocks that entered this year's contest. (And at the end of the slide show, we show the winners of Best Window Box, the Greenest Storefront, Best Street Tree Beds, Best Community Garden, and Best Commercial Block.)
The Greenest Block in Brooklyn is run by GreenBridge, the community environmental horticulture program of the Brooklyn Botanical Garden that promotes the greening of the urban environment through education, conservation, and creative partnerships.
In 1994 they started the Greenest Block in Brooklyn contest for residential and commercial blocks, which is meant to be a friendly competition for communities to work together to beautify their blocks with window boxes, container plantings, as well as greening their front gardens, storefronts, and street tree beds.
We covered a lot of Brooklyn that day, visiting many neighborhoods including Williamsburg, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Lefferts Gardens, Crown Heights, Park Slope, and Windsor Terrace.
A peach tree in Lefferts Gardens.
We were lucky to meet some of the block leaders (center) while we were judging. They may have been keeping an eye out for us, knowing that it was judging week.
Lindsey Taylor, second from left, stands with the other judges and two block leaders in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
The results were varied, from block to block and neighborhood to neighborhood. For the most part, I was intrigued and encouraged by the efforts the blocks had made—some blocks have been gardening for many years, while other blocks were newer to the contest and to gardening. But with most of the blocks, you could see a domino effect, with each spruced-up yard serving as an inspiration for its neighbors.
A block in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
I particularly liked one of the Lefferts Gardens blocks. It’s a wide and long block, with many two-story homes, and it was one of the biggest blocks that we visited.
It was also one of the newest blocks to enter the contest. The street's trees were relatively young, so it was quite hot on the street and not as bucolic as some of the other blocks. But the people who lived on the block were keen gardeners! Their enthusiasm was obvious and I had a feeling that they would keep it up, even after the contest was over.
To catch the judges' attention, one of the block leaders sent around a notice to her neighbors asking for old pocket books. She collected a number of them, creatively planted them and attached them with duct tape to the street's lamp posts. It was a brilliant and playful take on using and recycling what you have. The block's leader talked about sharing plants, ideas for the future, and how this effort has changed their community for the better.
As judges, we were instructed to judge for a number of criteria, including the quality of the tree bed plantings, maintenance, horticultural practices, use of native plants (a theme of this year's contest), creativity, and soil and mulching.
It doesn’t take much to make a change and enthusiasm goes a long way. Blocks that enter into the GreenBridge program receive support through free clinics and workshops at the beginning of the season, and then the development of a block's greenery is left to the people of the community to plan and to execute.
Hibiscus on a Bedford-Stuyvesant block.
As we left Lefferts Gardens, one of the women we met wanted to know when we would announce the winner. She was told her block was in the second round of finalists, having been whittled down from more than 200 blocks to approximately 30 blocks. She smiled and said, "So we ARE winners!"
Best Community Garden Streetscape
Red Shed Community Garden, Kingsland Avenue between Skillman Avenue and Maspeth Avenue, Williamsburg
Best Window Box
Joyce Rooney, 430 Eighth Street, Park Slope
Habana Outpost, 757 Fulton Street, Fort Greene
Best Street Tree Beds
Eighth Street between Eighth Avenue and Prospect Park West, Park Slope
First place in the commercial category
Atlantic Avenue between Bond Street and Nevins Street, Boerum Hill