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Garden Lifestyle

Victory Never Gets Old

The Victory Gardens, located in the Fenway area of Boston, provide a glimpse into gardens of the past, present, and future.

  • This birds-eye view of the Fenway Victory Gardens, taken from the 50th story of the Prudential Tower, shows how the gardens are nestled into the surrounding city. Fenway Park is located in the upper right corner.
    Photo/Illustration: John Pendleton
  • In the 1940s, Boston set aside almost 50 different areas as victory gardens, including this one located in the Back Bay Fens named after one of the gardens’ first organizers, Richard D. Parker.
    Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey
  • Many of the plots at the Fenway Victory Gardens look like the delightful allotments or garden retreats I’ve seen in Europe.
    Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey
  • The Special Needs garden features a smooth rock path wide enough for wheelchairs and a number of raised beds for easier planting.
    Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey
  • The Victory Garden plots wait to be planted with this season’s crops.
    Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey

I had the chance to enjoy a chilly week in Boston at the end of March and spent much of it tromping through empty gardens just waiting to be planted.

I was especially interested in seeing the historic site of the Fenway Victory Gardens, the last of the original public victory gardens from World War II. Even though I knew I wouldn’t see any vegetables or flowers growing this time of year, I still wanted to visit a place where Americans planted the war gardens I’ve heard so much about.

While our troops fought overseas, President Franklin Roosevelt encouraged gardeners across the country to grow their own food in response to food shortages and to support the war effort. (Visit Victory Garden to see film footage from original Victory Garden promotions.)

For a vegetable gardener like me, visiting the garden was worth a long hike in a cold wind. I was surprised to see there are still more than 500 garden plots located on seven acres. Each plot is about 15 x 25 feet and seems to reflect the personality of the gardener who tends it. It’s unlike any community garden I’ve seen.

I’m not sure how many of these plots will be planted with vegetables and herbs this spring. Many have small lawns surrounded by evergreen trees and shrubs. Some have beautiful wrought iron gates and others are chain link. Some have simple garden structures, but others have elaborate arbors. Paths of brick or stepping stones lead through many garden spaces.

In addition to the individual plots, there’s a Special Needs garden designed and built in 1999 by the Student Chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers at Northeastern University.

I’d love to see the gardens when everything is in full bloom. If you’ve been there in summer, please post some of your observations or photos here.

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