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Silas Creek Beautification Project brings more dogwoods in phase 2
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Silas Creek Beautification Project brings more dogwoods in phase 2

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Our daily commutes give us the opportunity to study the surroundings we drive, walk or bike past on a regular basis. As we rush to get from point A to point B, though, there are many times we zip through without consciously absorbing the sights. But other times, we are more aware of the landscapes we pass, taking the time to appreciate the trees and plants that grow along city streets and highways.

Lately, many commuters may have noticed the northern section of Winston-Salem’s Silas Creek Parkway has become a little greener. This section of Silas Creek Parkway is a heavily-trafficked thoroughfare, one that sees upwards of 60,000 to 70,000 vehicles each day. Winding its way between Salem Parkway (US-421/ Bus. 40) and Wake Forest Road, this 4-mile stretch of road is a daily sight for many residents, students and visitors of Winston-Salem.

This section of road is the target of an ambitious beautification project, prompted by a motivated local gardener, Helen Kennedy. Kennedy is the chairwoman of the Silas Creek Beautification Project, which aims to give arboreal interest to the medians, shoulders and exit ramps of northern Silas Creek. Kennedy saw the need to improve the sights along this stretch of road, which she observed were bare and often littered.

Back in the spring of 2017, Kennedy started a conversation among the local garden club community about her vision for improving the landscape of Silas Creek Parkway. Not only did Kennedy recognize the need for beautification, but she also had an idea of what to plant and how to make it happen.

Kennedy first proposed the idea to the Forest Garden Club, of which she is a charter member. The idea spread to the Garden Club Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, which is comprised of 21 local garden clubs. Over the course of the next few years, fundraising, grants and generous contributions helped turn Kennedy’s vision into a reality. The phased project has been funded by Forest Garden Club, the Garden Club Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, the Evergreen Garden Club, and several private contributors.

The Silas Creek Beautification Project became a collaborative venture between the Garden Club Council, affiliated clubs and the City of Winston-Salem. The selected planting areas were planned in phases, to make the project more manageable. In addition, the planting areas and the plant material had to be approved by local and state entities.

“The City of Winston-Salem and the North Carolina Department of Transportation must approve any planting along a state road, and Silas Creek Parkway is a state road,” said Susannah Greco, first vice president of the Garden Club Council. “This has been planned intentionally so that all of the permits are met and visibility is available at the corners. It has all been planned for by the city and by the state.”

The project was broken down into five phases, the first of which was completed in late fall of 2020. This first phase was a planting of 26 pink Kousa dogwood trees (Cornus kousa) in the grassy median between Yorkshire Road and Pennington Road. This short stretch of road parallels the Silas Creek Trail Greenway at Shaffner Park.

Phase two and three were planted last week, and phase four and five are not yet scheduled. The phase two planting is directly past phase one, and stretches from Pennington Road to Crittendon Court. The phase three planting is in the median between Salem Parkway and Goodyear Road.

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The City of Winston-Salem’s Vegetation Management Department is responsible for the procurement, planting and maintenance of the trees. Keith Finch, Vegetation Management Director for the City of Winston-Salem explained what type of dogwoods were chosen.

“The first median was planted with pink Kousa dogwoods,” Finch said. “For the next two phases, we used common Kousa dogwoods and ‘Milky Way’ Kousa dogwoods — white blooming trees. The next phase we plant with trees will be white blooming Kousa, as well. The last median before the exit to Wake Forest University, heading north — that will be planted with shrubs, so as not interfere with the overhead signals.”

Kennedy has tirelessly worked with the city, garden clubs and the Garden Club Council to see the project through. Through writing grants, coordinating a large fundraising garage sale and explaining her vision to local groups, Kennedy is finally starting to see the puzzle pieces fall into place.

“I think we’ve got a great project, and I think we’ll have enough people to see this thing all the way through,” Kennedy said.

Looking forward, Kennedy hopes to see more improvement to Silas Creek Parkway’s roadside landscape. She envisions blooming shrubs to flank the dogwoods and colorful, cascading flowers to adorn the overpasses. Once these five phases of planting are complete, she knows there will still be room for improvement.

“Mrs. Kennedy has a wonderful way of planting a seed, bringing everyone along with her and letting it grow,” Greco said. “Though she has a vision and she’s firm in her vision, she lets everyone else contribute.”

“It’s just been a joy to be part of this project. It’s a joy to partner with the City of Winston-Salem. It is a joy to go to a meeting and have someone have a new suggestion. It has been a wonderful partnership and a real great way to see the community and the city work together.”

As Silas Creek Parkway serves as a main vein into many areas of Winston-Salem, it means a lot that drivers have a little scenic beauty to accompany their trip.

“I would hope the planting of these new trees will provide an aesthetically pleasing and calming gateway into the city for those driving down Silas Creek Parkway,” Finch said. “These are beautiful trees while in bloom and help show our sincere interest in beautifying our city and creating an environment we can all be proud of.”

To contribute to the Silas Creek Beautification Project, email the Garden Club Council at gardenclubcouncil@gmail.com.

Amy Dixon is an assistant horticulturist at Reynolda Gardens of Wake Forest University. Gardening questions or story ideas can be sent to her at www.facebook.com/WSJAmyDixon or news@wsjournal.com, with “gardening” in the subject line. Or write to Amy Dixon in care of Features, Winston-Salem Journal, 418 N. Marshall St., Winston-Salem, NC 27101.

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