Forgotten Corner in the Public Garden is Set for a Plant Overhaul

By Beth Treffeisen

The corner of the Boston Public Garden that is behind the William Ellery Channing Statue near the Arlington T stop, is the last missing piece of the Friends of the Public Garden ongoing project to restore the Boylston Street side of the Public Garden.

What is home to a mulch pit and some green shrubbery now will soon be brought back to life with new trees, shrubbery and flowering herbaceous plants.

The Friends of the Public Garden presented these upgrades during a Boston Landmarks meeting held this past Tuesday, April 25. The Commission approved the application as submitted.

The proposal included removal of mature yew shrubs and aralia bushes, installation of more extensive planting palette to complement previous phases and to facilitate view sheds.

It also includes minor adjustments to the paving edges and removal of the cobblestone pathway and installation of an asphalt path.

Tobias Wolf the landscape architect behind the design said that the cobblestone that leads up to the memorial is kind of a mystery.

“The cobble path that dead-ends at the monument does so in a sort of uncomfortable way,” said Wolf. “It is also not ADA complainant.”

Behind the monument used to be a subway station entrance, which is why the shrub beds are very deep there. It is also the reason why they don’t want to mess around too much with the cobblestone path, which they believed used to go to the subway station.

Historically, he said the edge of the Public Garden wasn’t fenced in but open to the public to freely walk through. The garden was fenced in when automobiles started to become popular.

Since it used to be more visible, Wolf said, they hope to use foliage that people can see through and into the park.

“We hope this gives better definition to the entrances in a place that is generally a low traffic entrance,” said Wolf.

The monument this corner of the garden sits behind is a 1903 memorial to William Ellery Channing. He ministered to the congregation at the Arlington Street Church from 1803 until his death in 1842. At the time the church was located on Federal Street and named accordingly, according to the Boston Arts Commission.

Holding a Bible and donning his ecclesiastical robes, Channing’s likeness here is poised to begin another of his famous sermons.

The words inscribed on the statue’s granite base are excerpted from his 1928 oration “Likeness to God,” which stresses the innate divinity of all humans.

Friends of the Public Garden have been working on this overall project for several years and this will be the last phase of five to overhaul the Boylston Street side of the Boston Public Garden.

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