By Sabina Mollot
It’s springtime following a particularly rough winter that managed to be both unseasonably warm as well as frigid, and in Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village that means just one thing: time for a landscape renovation.
Chuck Hartsell, the property’s director of horticulture and landscape, said this year’s damage wasn’t as extreme as in some recent years due to some precautionary work and current projects include adding 21 shade trees and protecting plants from dogs as well as making the grounds more dog friendly.
To accomplish the pooch-related goals, Hartsell said there’s been fencing and removal of fencing on a rotational basis on grass areas. This was done, he explained as “an experiment” with the grounds crew later noticing that a fenced-in area was kept pristine while an open area was completely laid to waste thanks to, well, dog waste.
The idea this year in moving fences inward to give dogs more “strips” of turf as opposed to larger plats of grass, has two goals. The first is to see if by offering some space, dog owners will be cooperative about keeping Fido out of green spaces behind the fences that are off limits, and to provide clearer walkways for pedestrians by allowing the dogs extra space.
“That’s why we have so many fences,” Hartsell said.
In addition to the fences, there has also been mulch placed around many of the trees, which, along with helping the roots maintain moisture, gives them some protection from dog urine.
Meanwhile another animal related issue in the complex seems to have sorted itself out. Hartsell had told Town & Village last spring that the most common weed yanked by gardeners in ST/PCV is the peanut plant, due to many residents’ custom of feeding the squirrels. However, he said he’s found fewer peanut plants despite still occasionally catching people throw nuts in the flower beds.
As for the lawn renovation, which is ongoing, it includes repairs along the Avenue C Loop, which has been a difficult spot for greenery due to water main leaks that cause sink holes. However, Hartsell said this has recently been addressed by the property’s engineers. During the work, to avoid oversaturation and duress to the plants, plants were transported to other areas of the property. At this time, the landscapers are in the midst of installing replacement plantings around Ave C.
At the same time, another problematic area, the Oval, which for years has had drainage issues, has seen some improvement.
“In the last three years we’ve seen a considerable drop in poor drainage areas or sagging areas,” Hartsell said.
Another improvement was in the health of the property’s population of evergreen trees. The landscaping crew took precautions last November to protect them throughout winter by spraying them with an organic pine sap solution called Wiltpruf. Hartsell explained that the product helps prevent plants from losing water, which prevents windburn.
“That really helped,” said Hartsell. “This winter wasn’t as bad as the previous winter. In 2014 we lost a lot of plants due to the cold so we took the precaution (of using Wiltpruf). But we only did one third of the property and this year we did the whole property and it really helped the plants.”
As for the new shade trees being installed, they’ll be turning up around playgrounds and the perimeter of the property. A couple of spots include around Playground 2 in Peter Cooper and on East 23rd Street. The trees, which are replacing others that have died from disease or environmental factors, will be around 12-14 feet at the time they’re put in. A number of trees that were chopped down three years ago because canopies were growing into each other have already been replaced, Hartsell said.
The trees and plantings now being brought to Stuyvesant Town come from several nurseries in Westchester as well as one large nursery in Maryland.
For some time now, the complex has had a wide variety of trees, with the recently blossoming varieties including magnolias, crabapples and dogwoods. The property’s cherry trees blossomed the earliest in the season.
“They blossomed super early because of the warmer winter,” Hartsell explained.
Residents can also expect to find a variety of newly installed flowers, including pansies, tulips and daffodils on the grounds as well as in the planters along First Avenue. Some annuals that will be planted this season include caladiums (brightly colored leafy plants) and various hydrangeas (often seen in Stuy Town in blue). Hostas, which are large and leafy tropical looking plants, will be popping up throughout the property, especially in the Loop Roads.
Grass was planted in April, and some growth is already visible. Other ground coverings are scheduled to be planted this month.
What there will likely be an absence of though is periwinkle and other plants that proved to be too delicate to thrive after a difficult winter, let alone two in a row. Periwinkle was one of five top ground coverings recently introduced throughout the property, out of a total of 35 ground coverings.
Also to disappear from the grounds are skip laurels.
“A few skip laurels took a beating in the wind,” noted Hartsell. Surprisingly, more hardy plants proved to be the tulips and daffodils. Even after some recent harsh weather, “the tulips and daffodils survived,” said Hartsell. “They looked sad for one day, leaning over but they did bounce back when the sun went on them.”
While the renovation process gets ramped up in the spring, it’s also handled whenever the growing season permits (spring to fall). During that time, the landscaping crew replaces plant material as part of overall maintenance. Twice a year there’s aerating, fertilizing and over seeding, which helps keep the grass healthy.