SOMETIMES IT IS EASY to overlook the beauty that’s right in our own backyard. That was one of the ideas behind the “Tour of Troy Gardens” that our master gardeners took themselves on this past Wednesday. Since many of us don’t want to travel too far during this pandemic, it made sense to stay close to home and visit two of the sites master gardener volunteers spend hundreds of hours making beautiful in the Collar City each season.
Donning masks, toting hand sanitizer and checking boxes on health forms, we met at the 9/11 Memorial Park in Lansingburgh, standing six feet apart. Owned by the City of Troy, the focus of the park is a dark marble and steel monument dedicated to the tragedy of that September day in 2001. It’s a beautiful spot for a pocket park, adjacent to the Hudson River and just north of the 112th Street Bridge, but not that long ago it wasn’t so pretty. Derelict house trailers stood here, and after their removal it was a rather ugly empty lot.
The monument was dedicated in 2011, and master gardeners have been involved with beautifying the park for the last nine years. Knockout roses surround the monument, and daylilies line the walkways. A mixed border perennial garden featuring a wide variety of plants, including redbuds, hydrangeas, coneflowers and ornamental grasses forms the north border. While it is a very lovely garden today, the site still isn’t without challenges. The steep riverbank makes weeding a death-defying task, since plants of all kinds easily take root on the slope and shoot skyward, threatening to block the view. The soil occasionally yields peculiar trash, while less than upright park visitors and dogs leave their own calling cards.
The master gardeners have learned to take this all with a shrug and a chuckle. Local companies have donated fencing and landscaping supplies, and the master gardeners receive support from the City via grant funds, trash collection and lawn mowing, making the maintenance of this urban gem a community effort.
Our second stop was Leslie’s Garden, located just south of Washington Park on Adams Street. The garden is owned by TAP, Inc., a local non-profit, and was named in honor of Leslie Adler, an ardent supporter of Troy whose efforts led to numerous state-sponsored community grants for neighborhood improvement. Chico Christopher, a long-time master gardener and TAP employee, was the garden’s caretaker, but after his passing in 2017 additional master gardeners joined with TAP Board members and staff, as well as the Riverside Neighborhood Association, to keep the garden growing. Today, Leslie’s Garden features a variety of perennials and small trees surrounding two open spaces with benches, which encourages small gatherings and neighbor interaction. In high summer, a huge circle of colorful zinnas becomes an eyecatcher. The garden is adjacent to the School Ten Apartments, owned by TAP, that are income-eligible homes in a former Troy public school. It’s a wonderful harmony of plants and people cooperating to create a special place.
To reach David Chinery, horticulture educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Rensselaer County, email