Wandering: berries at summer seat
Summer has certainly sat down hard on Pittsburgh. My local weather forecast, delivered at 7am this morning by an overly chipper forecaster whose pregnant belly blotted out half of the weather map, is sitting at 66 degrees with 90% humidity. The upcoming week gets stickier, muggier, and hotter from there. Thankfully, summer brings other treats to ameliorate the lassitude of hazy, hot, and humid days. My short list? The baby wading pool at Avonworth park. Two-for-the-price-of-one ice cream cones at Bruesters. And now, a newcomer to the list, Reilly’s Garden Center at Summer Seat Farm in Ohio Township.
Tucked away on a winding country road between 279 North and 79 North, Reilly’s is a garden center to delight the senses. While Pittsburgh has no shortage of trustworthy gardening resources, and Reilly’s certainly hangs with the leaders in the pack of employee expertise, customer service, and selection of plants, Summer Seat Farm has a special feeling to it the moment you duck in the entrance of the garden center. With low ceilings and waving perennial fronds blossoming on all sides, the entrance feels like a secret grotto opening onto an even more secret and splendid garden of sun-worshipping plants, flowers, mosses, and vegetables. Discretely placed fountains tinkle a merry garden tune along the orderly paths. Employees are friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable, especially with organic gardening methods.
Customers keep coming back to Reilly’s Garden Center for the high quality plants and the customer loyalty program. With an informative newsletter that appears with seasonal frequency in my mailbox and a key chain card scraping between my house and car keys, I’m happy to say I’m a frequent customer. Each visit to the Garden Center brings me a few “Reilly’s Bucks” closer to my fall perennial planting—the rewards dollars are redeemable in August for free plants. (Or, in my case, if you offer the Reilly’s bucks to your 18-month-old daughter as car-ride amusement, you may get a crumpled, mangled mash of coupons to redeem in August.) Last summer, Reilly’s Garden Center made a house call in the form of one strapping high school employee with a shovel. Since my hands and arms were full of diapers, baby food, and laundry, I welcomed the help with planting a flowering dogwood tree in our front yard, a tree bought in honor of Little Friend’s birth. Loyalty coupons, planting advice, hardy products—Reilly’s Summer Seat Farm can be trusted to provide quality in every area.
Reilly’s has also garnered fame for its seasonal family activities. The pumpkin patch tours have gone down in local lore, as has the August Teddy Bear Picnic. My current love for Reilly’s has a lot to do with prickled hands and dirt-crusted knees: Berry Picking Season is upon us. This weekend, racing a bulkhead of gunmetal clouds to the rows of raspberry and blueberry bushes, Little Friend and I led the charge of a dedicated group of pickers: her grandparents (who have been known to pick 40 pounds of blueberries in an hour–a welcome skill when a storm threatens) and Big Friend (who excels at maneuvering raspberries away from Little Friend’s mouth and into the almost-empty pint baskets.) We ducked under blueberry bush netting to pluck purple globes. We brushed aside sandpapery leaves to snag red tear-drops. We smeared purple and red juice from the corners of our mouths. Thunder threatened with ominous growls, forcing a speedy exit, but with a scorcher of a week coming up, I’m sure Little Friend and I will be tucked among the rows of bushes again soon. One for the basket, two for the mouth. One for the basket, three for the mouth. Skip the basket, four for the mouth.
Reilly’s Garden Center at Summer Seat Farm is a treat for the solo gardener or the family of all ages. My one word of caution would be this: It’s hard to leave this garden/farm utopia without carting home at least one serendipitous treasure. Be prepared to be pleasantly surprised. On my latest trip, serendipity came in the form of two pints of golden raspberries and an intricately beautiful Columbine. Oh, and two Reilly bucks for the August fund. Summer can certainly take a seat if the season involves multiple trips to Reilly’s Summer Seat Farm.
Reilly’s Garden Center at Summer Seat Farm is located at 1120 Roosevelt Road | Pittsburgh, PA 15237 | 412-364-8270. Call the Garden Center for updates on berry picking season and to enjoy Mike Reilly’s honest, homey, and inviting dissertations of berry status and farm events. A visit to the farm’s website will give you the same helpful planting and gardening advice you can expect to receive in person at the Garden Center.