If you’ve ever strolled along Grace Church Rd. in the spring, you’ve probably seen colorful swaths of tulips blooming at the edges of the expansive lawn at 1923. Meet the man behind the tulips: Phil Costello has been planting them here every year since 2011. His interest in tulips took root when he lived in London: From his office near Buckingham Palace, he observed the planting of thousands of tulips. He also traveled frequently to Holland, where the flowers have been prized since the 16th century.
Phil starts planting his tulips in late November or after the first frost. He designs and digs trenches and places each bulb individually, this year about 750. (His all-time high is 2,100 bulbs!) Then he covers them with four to six inches of soil. Recently he has hired neighbors David Maya-Shelton and Jayden and Austin Jackson to help in the labor-intensive activity.
A major challenge is foiling predators, responsible for ruining up to 25 percent of the tulip garden. Squirrels dig up bulbs, but don’t seem to eat them. “They taunt me,” Phil laughs, “and then they throw away the bulbs,” leaving them on neighbors’ porches and in their yards. He places chicken wire over the bulbs to deter the pesky rodents and removes it so the tulips can grow when the weather warms. Deer don’t dig up the bulbs, but they do eat the blooms. “It’s constant effort,” says Phil, “vigilance is required.” He jokes that the deer of Grace Church may have changed their eating patterns after he placed signs directing them to a nearby street for better food.
Phil recommends purchasing tulip bulbs from colorblends.com. He also welcomes visitors to his garden. This writer has the advantage of seeing the vibrant flower display from her kitchen window, but you can take in the view come springtime. We’ll look for you on our street.
The NWCA Community Design Committee formed in early 2021. Our original discussions focused on the location of a memorial bench, but our goal was and remains to take a broader look at the use of neighborhood green spaces. We are interested in placemaking within the shared publicly owned pieces of land that are part of the fabric of North Woodside.
There are areas within our neighborhood that are imbued with memory as places for community interactions. One of these is the triangle at the intersection of Luzerne Ave. and Glen Ross Rd. where the community tree sits. It has served for decades as the place where neighbors come together to celebrate winter holidays. In the summer of 2020 it was where our youth called neighbors to action. And popular food trucks popped up alongside it in 2021. Alas, those moments, when the community injects the space with energy, are brief and few. The minimally maintained triangle is forgettable at best, and not many neighbors are drawn there during other times of the year. This place could be so much more than it is! At the urging of an adjacent neighbor, the Community Design Committee has begun to address this opportunity.
The land that we are referring to as the Community Tree Triangle is owned by Montgomery County and maintained by the Department of Transportation (MCDOT). Community Design Committee members have already been in communication with our assigned project contact (our county arborist) and a MCDOT traffic engineer. These officials appear very willing to approve NWCA’s efforts to improve the site. We’ve learned that permits will not be required, but county review of a design and coordination of its implementation are. We will maintain regular communications with the various county entities to ensure that improvements can move forward.
With the approval of the NWCA Board, members of the Community Design Committee solicited proposals for a master plan from three local women-owned landscape design firms. We met with each firm at the triangle and shared the following guidelines for the design:
Replace the grass with plantings of native species sourced from environmentally conscious growers and suppliers to attract pollinators and provide food and cover for birds. Consider the educational opportunity these types of plantings could offer the community.
Maintain and possibly enhance the use of the area for the annual neighborhood holiday tree and menorah lighting events.
Consider features like stepstone pathways to invite the community to engage in the space.
Consider sight lines for traffic safety throughout the year.
Long-term maintenance should be minimal.
After careful review and input from the committee, the NWCA Board voted to approve the proposal from Strawberry Fields Design, LLC, to provide master plan landscape design services. Strawberry Fields was selected for its experience working with Montgomery County and on community projects of similar scope and scale and previous work in our neighborhood. Owner Kellie Cox is communicative, engaging, and knowledgeable. The board agreed to move forward with this investment in the design for a piece of land within our neighborhood because of the potential impacts on the community as a whole: visual, environmental, safety, and use.
Neighbors will be invited to engage in the design at key points in the process:
Prior to the landscape design work beginning, neighbors will be able to provide input via an online form and participate in a neighborhood meeting to chat with the designer, ask questions, and offer their ideas.
Once Strawberry Fields has developed a preliminary design plan, the Community Design Committee would share it with neighbors for further input at a meeting and/or via the neighborhood listserv and website.
It would also be shared with our county contacts for their review and input.
Strawberry Fields would take all the above input into consideration before finalizing a master plan.
The timeline for all of this will be sent out via the listserv in the coming months. We look forward to hearing what our neighbors would like to see happen with our shared space in the heart of our community!
The landscape master plan is a first step in making the Community Tree Triangle a more special place for our North Woodside community. Implementing that plan will require funding to turn drawings into plants and stepstones and flowers. At almost 2,200 square feet, this is a large area. The cost to achieve our goal is not yet known, but we can anticipate that it could be substantial. Rest assured that the Community Design Committee is already exploring ways to meet the challenge, such as grant opportunities, work parties, fundraising initiatives, and phasing the work to implement as funds become available.
Donations are always appreciated as an investment in our shared community design efforts. Interested neighbors may go to visit the NWCA donation page and follow instructions for contribution to the Neighborhood Beautification and Memorial Fund.