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Cooper-Siegel Community Library garden — the gift that keeps on giving

Jan Pakler | for The Herald
Entering the garden at the Cooper-Siegel Community Library is a rock that is dedicated to master gardener Fritz Metnick.

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Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, 9:02 p.m.

When Jim Mitnick gifted his wife, Fritz, with an outdoor garden at Cooper-Siegel Community Library in Fox Chapel, he gave something special to the entire community.

The garden itself was a no-brainer, with Fritz being a Master Gardener, long-involved with the garden club, and, a children's librarian.

“The real value is when I go by and see programs out there, when I see people enjoying nature,” Mitnick said.

Others have noticed the value, too.

The site, named the Fritz Mitnick Welcome Garden, was chosen for its design to receive a Community Greening Award from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

The award recognizes beautification efforts throughout the region based on plant variety, design, use of space and horticultural practices.

Carol Papas, president of the Fox Chapel Garden Club, worked with Greg Schaffer from Blawnox-based Greenprints to design the space, which sits adjacent to the library and is visible from Fox Chapel Road.

“Greg did the major overall design and I focused on the details,” Papas said. “I made sure the shrubs were those that Fritz enjoyed in her garden.”

Library Executive Director Stephanie Flom said Schaffer is no stranger to the property, having designed the Gateway Garden in front of the library as well.

The outdoor spaces flow nicely into one another, having shared the same designer, she said.

“The Welcome Garden is a living work of art that changes throughout the season,” Flom said. “It benefits the natural environment as well as the community who enjoys its beauty.”

The space is hemmed by perennials and bushes with open space in the middle to host library programs for young and old. It abuts the porch, where patrons like to relax with a good book.

Flom said she's thrilled that the garden was selected from among those across the state.

“The PHS award recognizes the high level of quality work that the garden club put into the garden,” she said. “We knew it was a beautiful garden, but now it is an award-winning one.

“It helps to set the standard for what a truly great work of living art, a truly great public garden, should be.”

Mitnick said his first thoughts for the garden didn't include honors or awards.

“To be honest, I just didn't like what they had planned for that space and I thought maybe we could do something to make it better,” he said.

Construction of the $7 million library in 2011 left little funds for proper landscaping.

“I wanted to give a gift that would have sustaining value to the public,” he said, “and the garden club acted as my co-conspirators. I'm big into public spaces for public good.

“This is something to enhance the library and the programs. It's a pleasant place where people can sit on rocking chairs and enjoy nature.”

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or at

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