Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 35
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
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Two New Gardens Add Some Green to Paul Robeson Center Surroundings

Dilshanie Perera

The Peter Lokhammer Remembrance Garden just outside the Arts Council’s new Paul Robeson Center for the Arts at the intersection of Green and Witherspoon Streets will see major renovations beginning next Friday.

With labor and most plants donated by Mastroianni Landscaping, Inc., the site will have myriad green and flowering plants installed over time, with major site work done over three to seven days, according to John Mastroianni, who heads the company.

Having grown up in an apartment just above what is now the Witherspoon Bread Company, Mr. Mastroianni remembers playing across the street at the Arts Council site when he was a child.

“My heart’s over there, and I like to get involved in community activities when I can. I thought the garden could use some landscaping, and that I could donate some time and effort toward it,” he remarked.

The project involves a collaboration between local experts. After talks with members of the Arts Council, Landscape Architect Stuart Crell, who works for Mastroianni Landscaping, teamed up with gardener and garden author Patricia Taylor in order to select plants and determine their best placement given the amount of sunlight afforded.

“It was a pleasure on my part to talk shop with somebody,” Mr. Crell said, adding that they developed the plant list and overall planting scheme together.

The hellebores, hostas, and, astilbes that will line the area will be donated by local garden clubs.

One of their goals was to have blooms from the plants “honor Michael Graves’s color scheme” Ms. Taylor said. “The idea was to get some color in the garden year-round, which is not easy given the shade and soil conditions,” she explained.

An analysis revealed that the soil quality in the area was less than ideal, so the plants had to be carefully chosen to match the surroundings. Additionally, Mr. Crell said that they plan to do renovations to improve the drainage in the area.

While some of the plants in the current Lokhammer Garden will be conserved and replanted, some will be removed to make space for the new landscaping.

“The fall was chosen as the proper time to put in the garden, since it’s without the stress of the summer heat,” Ms. Taylor explained.

As a memorial to Mr. Lokhammer, the garden will be “defined, but not enclosed,” according to Mr. Crell, and it will afford a quiet space for Arts Council patrons and passersby alike.

Adjacent to the Arts Council along Paul Robeson Place is another, newly landscaped public space in which grass, shrubbery, and benches have recently been installed.

It was deemed in a developer’s agreement that Palmer Square would transfer the deed of the lot to the Borough of Princeton once the final certificate of occupancy is granted at the Hulfish North residential development that is currently under construction, explained David Newton of Palmer Square Management.

“We decided to make it into a little park fairly early for the benefit of people walking by,” Mr. Newton noted, adding that friend and fellow Princeton resident Henry Arnold once said, “‘We shouldn’t be particularly afraid of density, but we should always make an interesting use of space,’ and that’s our view.”

A park or garden for the community “basically serves to improve the quality of life,” he said.

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