Colcom Foundation

Who says you should only get flowers on your birthday?

In 2008, Colcom Foundation, in collaboration with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy,  bought 420 street planters and hundreds of plants to give the gift of flowers to the city of Pittsburgh to commemorate the 250th birthday of this historic city and then just kept it going.

Walk down Grant Street, where the city’s pulse beats strongest, and you will see 425 planters and 400 hanging baskets transforming this concrete jungle into an oasis of color.

Here, the dragon wing begonia reigns supreme, its glossy leaves and clusters of red flowers standing resilient against the urban heat. Venture beyond the city’s core and the canvas shifts. In Kittanning, 60 hanging baskets sway to a different rhythm, and a rain garden is in the works.

Change is the heartbeat of this floral symphony. From the daffodils and pansies that herald spring’s arrival to the mums that grace the later months, each season unveils a new movement. In fall, as the city’s pulse quickens with anticipation, evergreens emerge, taking their place just before “Light-Up Night” in November.

For nearly two decades, the partnership between Colcom Foundation and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy has painted the city with flora, turning gray concrete into vibrant canvases.

Alongside the colors of the vibrant flowers, the collaboration’s greening initiatives extend across 20 counties and 130 gardens.

Each garden holds its own story, each locale an example of Colcom Foundation’s dedication to creating and maintaining unique pockets of natural wonder even in urban areas.

A team of 17 individuals tends to greenery and assists communities in securing essential funding and resources for continuous maintenance.

There are six distinct color schemes tailored to various segments of the city. This thoughtful approach guarantees that no two areas boast identical floral displays, adding an extra layer of individuality to each unique urban canvas.

The hanging baskets and containers in Pittsburgh’s streets are maintained through a systematic approach. A watering truck, operated by a team of staff, waters the plants every evening using wands. Each hanging basket receives water and fertilizer for about 40 seconds. This routine helps the flowers withstand the heat and dry spells.

Art DeMeo, the director of Community Greenspace Services for the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, says that the concentration of planters and baskets along Grant Street is due to its high foot traffic. The goal is to beautify the path people commonly walk in the city’s Golden Triangle.

The maintenance process ensures that the flowers remain healthy and vibrant, with attention paid to adjusting care based on weather conditions. The efforts of the Conservancy and the dedicated team contribute to the city’s appealing urban landscape.

The flowers adorning Pittsburgh’s streets are just one facet of the broader beautification and greening efforts carried out by Colcom Foundation and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. Among these projects is the Pittsburgh Redbud Project, a noteworthy initiative that began in 2016 with funding from Colcom Foundation.

This endeavor involves the planting of numerous flowering Eastern redbuds and other native trees and shrubs. The redbuds grace trails, hillsides, and open spaces across downtown Pittsburgh and the North Shore.

Colcom Foundation also took proactive steps in response to the alarming decline in tree canopy across Allegheny County.

A survey conducted by Tree Pittsburgh unveiled a significant loss of 10,000 acres of tree canopy between 2010 and 2015. To rejuvenate the urban landscape, Colcom Foundation provided a grant that facilitated the distribution of 4,000 free trees throughout 2019 and 2020 by Tree Pittsburgh.

This initiative aimed to restore much-needed shade and enhance the urban forest canopy in the communities most affected by the loss of tree cover.

At the heart of Colcom Foundation’s mission is the commitment to preserving and protecting the planet’s delicate ecosystems.

The Foundation is dedicated to the interconnectedness of all life forms and supports a diverse array of conservation projects.

By fostering collaborative endeavors and engaging local residents, Colcom Foundation is committed to helping individuals become stewards of their surroundings, engaging with decision-makers and actively working to influence outcomes at the local, regional and national levels.

Colcom Foundation plays a pivotal role in catalyzing generational change by championing preservation, conservation, and the transformation of our planet through initiatives such as safeguarding endangered species and advancing sustainable land and water management practices, working tirelessly to implement innovative solutions that address pressing ecological challenges.