Winning Garden Focuses on Native Plants and Unique Open Spaces

By Seth Daniel

The mailbox at 2 Auburn Sq. isn’t the typical mailbox.

In fact, it’s more of a flower garden, but yet a functional one.

Then again, the front yard also isn’t the typical yard, having bird cages with foliage, native plants and plenty of nice things to enjoy in the out of doors.

The wonderful space going up the Hill at the end of Russell Street is courtesy of Amanda Blicharz, who recently won third place for the small yard category in the Mayor’s Garden Contest. Blicharz appeared on Boston Common last week, Aug. 16, to accept her award from the Parks Department and celebrate a hard-earned win.

However, her green thumb, she said, was one of necessity and trial and error – rather than a long-cultivated talent.

“The yard is a shared space between five units,” she said. “My husband and I moved in about five years ago. The people who used to take care of the yard lived in our unit. They moved out; we moved in and no one was really taking care of it. So, I decided to start working on it. I didn’t know what I was doing at all when I started, but I really got into it.”

Blicharz has focused on making normal things beautiful, such as the mailbox, and using native plants in the yard that are meant to grow here. She said after doing a little research, she realized most of what she first planted wasn’t meant to grow in Massachusetts.

“I didn’t have any idea what to plant at first, so I went to Home Depot and bought some things,” she said. “I decided to do a little research on it and that’s when I learned not everything sold in Massachusetts is supposed to be here. Some things I had planted were invasive, and I had to tear them out.”

She visited a nursery called Garden in the Woods in Framingham to secure her native plants, and to learn more about how to grow them. Soon enough, she had a very nice landscaped yard.

One of the next big projects she hopes to accomplish is to become a Certified Pollinator Habitat – which deals with being a place that is welcoming to honey bees and native bees.

“You have to have a certain number of native species, and I’m working on that,” she said. “I have milk weed, which is a requirement. You also have to have shelter and water.”

Last year, she entered the contest on a whim and surprised herself in becoming a finalist. She didn’t place, though, but decided to enter again this year. It was obviously a better result with the third place win in the citywide competition.

“It’s really exciting to have won, especially being so new to it,” she said. “It validates all the effort. At the same time, I do it for myself so if I never won, I would still be happy.”

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