The primary purpose of the gardens is to showcase flowering plants that perform well in our climate and soils with minimal maintenance. The gardens include annual display beds of over 125 varieties of annuals. At the end of each season, the plants are evaluated based on their performance in the garden (see links below).
Each site also includes an herb garden and a pollinator garden. The pollinator garden is part of a statewide Master Gardener initiative to promote bee-friendly gardens and educate the public on the importance of pollinators.
No herbicides, insecticides or fungicides are used in the gardens; however, deer repellent is applied to the pollinator gardens as deer are a serious problem. A few annuals that were severely damaged right after planting were also sprayed to allow them a chance to get established. Plants that are damaged by deer for three consecutive years are not used again. The deer population forces us to try new plants every year, while keeping the tried and true.
The gardens are planted by the first week of June, and the spent annuals removed at the end of the season. Local nurseries generously provide annuals, mulch and fertilizer for the gardens. The gardens are designed for self-guided tours, so each plant is labeled with its botanical name, common name, cultural information, and the donor. There is a mailbox at each site where visitors can leave comments or questions, vote on their favorite annual, pick up a plant list and a calendar of Master Garden events, and even borrow a butterfly guide.
Allegheny County recently converted the planters in the Courthouse Courtyard into rain gardens.
The Demonstration Garden is sited in front of the Veterans Memorial; the semi-circular stone monument and old cannon provide a unique background for the flowers.
In the spring of 1998, the garden was started in a grassy field with a road on one side and sloping woodlands on the other.
Penn State Master Gardeners of Allegheny county invite all county residents to this annual open house at the demonstration gardens at North Park and South Park. Activities at this free annual "family friendly" event will include tours of the gardens, demonstrations, tastings, and kid friendly activities.