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Brooklyn’s Best Window Boxes Celebrated in Annual Greenest Block Competition

The annual competition was delayed last year due to the pandemic, but this year organizers persevered with an adapted focus: the window box.

It might not have been the traditional scope, but local gardeners gave the Greenest Block in Brooklyn competition their all with creative displays in the "small but mighty" window box.

Postponing the annual gardening competition this year was not an option, organizer Brooklyn Botanic Garden said, especially after having the cancel last year's event.

But due to the pandemic, social distancing admissions had to be made and the event was downsized from its regular block-long affair to focus on a more intimate gardening experience.

"Using the small but mighty window box, Brooklyn's gardeners reshaped a 'socially distant' contest into one that was incredibly intimate," Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) said in a statement.

"Many tried their hand at window box gardening for the first time, others brought it to the next level with resourceful and sustainable practices."

Nichola Cox of Sullivan Ludlam Stoddard Neighborhood Association in Crown Heights said the contest was especially important after the year we've experienced. "We want to celebrate the beauty of life and nature, using the window box competition as an excuse to get outside and channel our creative energy."

This year's top prize for a residential window box was a tie between Althea Joseph, representing Preserving Lincoln's Abundant Natural Treasures (P.L.A.N.T.s), and Carol Wilson, representing 300 East 25th Street Block Association.

Southside Homeowners Association in Williamsburg was awarded Special Commendation: Best Storytelling, marking its return to the contest after several years. Block captain Pricilla Ghaznavi submitted a series of portraits that celebrated the people of the block along with their plantings, including longtime Greenest Block gardener Gina Barros.

Gina Barros. Photo: Courtesy of Southside Homeowners Association.

BBG said, by far, the most competitive category was Best Senior's Window Box, with about two dozen nominations good enough to advance to the final round.

"Our judges found special inspiration in two gardeners who inspired them to create this unique award.

"For Allen Judge, a septuagenarian in Bedford-Stuyvesant, window boxes keep the memories of his brother and sister — both green thumbs — alive. And Colleen Cox at age 104 continues to inspire the subsequent four generations of her family that now garden on their block in Crown Heights."

Cynthia Cumming's window box. Photo: Courtesy of 200 Decatur Street/Stuyvesant Avenue Block Association.

The top prize in the category went to Cynthia Cummings of 200 Decatur Street/Stuyvesant Avenue Block Association, Bedford-Stuyvesant. The judges said the creative use of the window box hung on a tree guard made the most of the tree bed space without competing with or harming the tree.

The Most Window Boxes Nominated on a Single Block award went to Preserving Lincoln's Abundant Natural Treasures (P.L.A.N.T.s), Crown Heights -- the reigning 2019 Greenest Block in Brooklyn.

The Lincoln Place group, between New York and Nostrand Avenues, led the pack with the most individual window boxes nominated — 64 in total — "yet the consistent quality and diversity of the plantings was simply breathtaking," BBG said.

"The block must also be congratulated for their innovative use of workshops and signage to educate neighbors about how to propagate and share plants and their general resourceful use of plant material. The block has been rightfully dubbed "Lincoln Place Plant University."

Jenn Chen, of the Lincoln Road R&B Block Association on Lincoln Road between Bedford and Rogers Avenues, took home the top prize for sustainability with window boxes made with the help of children from her block. "They use a subirrigation technique learned at an online Greenest Block workshop this spring," Chen said.

Other categories of prize winners included best commercial window box, best children's window box, best window box in a community garden, best edible plant window box, and more. To see a full list of prize winners, click here.