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Phipps Sustainable Garden Award Winners for 2020
Oct 15

Phipps Sustainable Garden Award Winners for 2020

By Juliette Olshock

This spring we were excited to announce our first ever Sustainable Garden Awards. This program was created to inspire western Pennsylvania residents to design and maintain gardens that are both environmentally friendly and beautiful. In addition we want to highlight residential gardens (and the gardeners) that exemplify the principles of sustainable landcare

This summer we received over 60 entries and are happy to announce the winners from the following categories: Native Plantings and Wildlife Gardens, Gardens that Manage Rainwater, Micro-Gardens, Abundant Edible Gardens and Gardens for Personal Retreat.

Native Plantings and Wildlife Gardens

Sally Foster

Sally developed two garden beds along hillside of her apartment in O’Hara Township. The gardens are filled with over 30 native plants and assorted annuals and perennials. She managed her garden organically, incorporating many sustainable gardening strategies such as utilizing compost for soil fertility and replacing her steep lawn with native plants. Her garden, with flowering plants from early spring through late fall, is home to many birds and butterflies. We love that Sally was able to transform a drab hillside into a vibrant landscape for people and wildlife to enjoy.

Gardens that Manage Rainwater (and Look Good Doing It!)

Patricia Schildkamp

Patricia developed her garden in Unity Township in 2017 to manage over flow waters from rain and an underwater spring that moved across her lawn and collected near her house. The rain garden is a way to capture and slow the water moving across her property and put it to good use growing pretty plants. Patricia removed the grass, amended the soil, and dug a swale (or wide depression) to help contain the water. She planted her new garden with native rushes and irises as well as swamp milkweed, Culver’s root and cardinal flower. Along the berm she planted New York ironweed, mountain mint, and bee balm. The garden is managed organically and requires little maintenance as the plants fill in and attract birds and pollinators.


Stefanie Zito

This micro-garden by Stefanie Zito shows what is possible in a small space. Stefanie’s Bloomfield garden brings life into a concrete square of space. She grows both flowers and food for her family and pollinator friends. We love the vertical garden with pockets full of greens that Stefanie made from old curtains. Many of the container gardens are made from reused or repurposed materials. Stefanie grows her vegetables from seeds and enriches her containers with compost made on-site. With some creativity and attention to detail, Stefanie has created a mini oasis for her home in the city.

Abundant Edible Gardens

Jordan Tony and Silvan Goddin

Jordan and Silvan have created an edible wonderland in their hillside garden in Swissvale. The garden provides the vast majority of the fruits and vegetable that they eat throughout the year. They have raised vegetable beds and most of their perennial trees and shrubs produce edible fruits (peaches, pears, apple, persimmon, blueberries, raspberries and fig). They are also focused on growing native edible plants. So far they have pawpaw, ramps, may apple and American plums. In addition to fruit and vegetables, they grow a variety of mushrooms, including shitakes, oysters, wine caps and lion’s main. Jordan and Silvan rely on soil test results to help manage their gardens organically, adding compost and other amendments as needed.

Gardens for Personal Retreat

Helen and Ed Palascak

Helen and Ed have been managing their Mt. Lebanon garden for over twenty years. There’s always something that needs to be done, from planting and pruning to composting and redesigning, but they always find time to rest and relax among their several seating areas. Helen and Ed take time to enjoy and reflect on the plants that were gifted by friends and family. A pathway winds through the garden past a goldfish pond, a moss-covered waterfall and plants to admire all season long. Over story trees, decorative fences and shrubs envelop visitors and add to the sense of sanctuary further fostered by the song of birds, wind chimes and flowing water.  

Photos © Shane Dunlap, Nate Smallwood, Louis B. Ruediger, Kristina Serafini, Phipps staff


Congratulations to all the winners.  They were very beautiful and inspiring gardens.

By Alicia Garrison on Oct 21, 2020

Each of these are inspirational gardens.

By Lexa Mays-Poulakos on Oct 21, 2020

I am so happy you shared your gardens and landscapes with us!  All of the love and devotion it takes is evident in your spaces!  In these weird times, this was a bright spot in my day, and a serious motivator to do more with my surroundings!  Well done everyone!

By Kelly Elder on Oct 22, 2020

These gardens are a celebration of the human connection to nature’s curative wonders. How marvelous that you featured a variety of themes in your selection where folks partake of nature’s bounty in different ways. They are all spaces of hope, peace, and productivity. I am privileged to be a friend of the Palascaks and know that their garden is a beauteous mirror of who they are as people. They are givers, and the profusion of carefully tended plants in their garden inspires reverence and deep joy. Thank you Phipps! Stay green!

By Shabnam Mirchandani on Oct 22, 2020

This is lovely! And I get to visit old friends, Sally Foster and Ed and Helen Palascak’s gardens who are truly so creative in their approaches to bringing in good design.  Stephanie Zito’s curtains pockets with greens, Patricia Schildkamp’s rainwater gardens crazy, perfect way to have the landscape in all seasons and the edible gardens of Jordan Tony and Silvan Goddins- all so beautiful and practical at the same time.
Thanks to you all for giving us a chance to see Pittsburgh area gardens at their very best!  nancyb

By nancy b smith on Oct 22, 2020

I have enjoyed several wonderful visits with Helen and Ed in their engaging, evolving garden. Kudos to everyone who is passionate and dedicated to literally making the world a better place.

By Jacque Rowden on Oct 22, 2020