New Art Garden and Parklet for the Ballard Boys & Girls Club

For the past six weeks, a team here at Swansons Nursery has been working with Curator PR on a community landscaping project for the Ballard Boys & Girls Club. We've been busy re-imagining the existing entry as a welcoming and interactive garden and parklet for club members and their families and this past week we weeded, dug, planted and watered until we dropped.

We're so excited about the project and can't wait for the art installation and dedication ceremony, happening this Wednesday, July 16th.

Here's a little peek behind the scenes so you can see what's been going on!

Phase 1: Assessing the existing landscape and developing a plan

It all began with a tour of the Club, where we saw the raised vegetable beds that kids from the Club had been carefully planting and tending. Everyone was very excited about the fledgling veggie sprouts growing steadily every day. That inspired us to look at the two entryway spaces as places where the kids could be involved with the gardens, tending to them, playing and relaxing in them and - lightbulb moment! - displaying their garden-friendly art projects throughout the year as they were created.

The two existing spaces definitely needed a little TLC and some imaginative new landscaping, so we met with Club director Shelley Puariea and board member Mike Peacore to share our ideas and plans for the landscaping project were set in motion.

To the right of the entrance, a high-traffic area with plot of well-worn grass and a lonely tree would become a parklet with a 4-sided cedar bench and paving stones where kids and adults alike could sit and relax.

To the left of the entrance, the existing rain garden, which had become overgrown, would be renovated and transformed into a sustainable art garden, with the addition of a river rock pathway, whimsical and sometimes edible (!) new plantings. We included dedicated space to display club members’ garden art projects throughout the year to encourage the boys and girls of the club to truly engage with the garden on a continual basis.

Swansons’ employee Dan Gilchrist, a landscape architect, took the lead in drawing up plans. Taking into consideration the special requirements of a rain garden and making sure the space would be kid-friendly, Dan chose hardy and interesting plants intended to thrive in a rain garden without excessive care. The kids will soon enjoy the fruits of Swansons labor (literally!) as blueberry and huckleberry plants added to the garden begin to produce fruit.

Phase 2: Preparing and planting the gardens

Days 1 & 2

Swansons' employees, the multi-talented Priciliano and Bladimiro (I swear, these guys can do anything), started early last Monday morning creating the foundation for a traffic-friendly parklet. First, they removed the grass from the space around the tree, then added gravel and compacted the soil. Next, they added sand and graded and levelled the ground. Finally came the installation of the paving stones in preparation for the new bench.

The bench, designed and handcrafted by Brian Damron, President of Swansons Nursery, and Shawn Herron, Creative Director of Curator PR, includes built-in planting spaces and will help protect the tree by surrounding it. Special thanks to Dunn Lumber and Mutual Materials for their generous donations of cedar and paving stones! Brian and Shawn have been busy building and installing the finished product, which will have plantings added at the July 16th dedication.

Last Tuesday, a group of enthusiastic volunteers from the nursery met at the Boys & Girls Club to get started in the rain garden. Dan had already marked the plants that would remain in the garden and those that would have to go. The team got to work weeding and removing plants - with a much-needed snack break of pastries - thank you Shelley! They then began to move the remaining plants to their new spots within the garden for a more harmonious design.

Days 3 & 4

After a day to regroup and gather the necessary plants together here at the nursery, planting day arrived. A new group of Swansons volunteers, along with volunteers from the Boys & Girls Club, spent the day planting and watering, only stopping for a lovely lunch provided by the Club.

As you can see, it was a team effort! And the results are beautiful.

Next phase: art and cupcakes!

Phase 3: Installing the garden art and celebrating the new gardens with a dedication

This Wednesday, July 16th, a dedication ceremony and art installation will take place at 3pm at the Ballard Boys & Girls Club on 64th Ave NW, attended by club members and their families, teachers and staff, the Ballard Chamber of Commerce, local press and, of course, Swansons Nursery!

The first planned art projects are hand-painted garden rocks, made by club-goers of all ages, which they will place strategically in the garden. Ballard’s own Cupcake Royale is generously providing their famous babycakes for the kids to enjoy. For more info on the upcoming dedication, read this article, featured in the Ballard News-Tribune.

We can't wait to see the kids install their artwork and enjoy the new gardens for the first time. Stay tuned for an update and pictures of the finished gardens.

If you're in the neighborhood, come check out the gardens in person. Then leave a comment and let us know what you think!