An Urban Garden Oasis

A new garden popped up recently in a Philadelphia neighborhood, a showcase for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s community greening programs.

Philadelphia's Mayor Michael Nutter joins opening day ceremonies at the new PHS Pops Up garden from The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

Philadelphia's Mayor Michael Nutter joins opening day ceremonies at the new PHS Pops Up garden from The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

courtesy Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

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Philadelphia — A vacant lot in the center of the asphalt jungle has suddenly gone green. The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society recently introduced “PHS Pops Up” at 20th and Market Streets, a showcase for PHS’s community greening programs.

Thanks to the generosity of Brandywine Realty Trust and Independence Blue Cross with funding from the William Penn Foundation, PHS is cultivating a temporary oasis that will grow much more than vegetables, herbs, grains and flowers. The effort will garner support and awareness for PHS’s City Harvest program, which provides fresh produce for underserved residents. Joining the effort are six of Philadelphia’s well-known chefs – Daniel Stern of R2L, Guillermo Tellez of Square 1682, Chris Scarduzio of Table 31, Michael Schulson of Sampan, Marcie Turney of Barbuzzo, and Lynn Rinaldi of Paradiso – who will create special dishes using the garden’s bounty and donate proceeds back to City Harvest.

“This unique project brings together an amazing team of corporate partners, great chefs, landscape architects, academics, and urban farmers,” says PHS President Drew Becher. “Our goal is to engage residents and visitors in the beauty and impact of community gardens, and inspire them to support programs that build healthy communities.”

The garden brings together the nonprofit and corporate sectors for an extraordinary collaboration.

“We are delighted to participate in PHS’s inaugural pop-up garden,” says Gerard H. Sweeney, president and CEO of Brandywine Realty Trust. “This greening initiative is an important program that activates the urban landscape and creates a community gathering place within our central business district. We believe this is an excellent use of our site for this growing season as we prepare the land for future development.”

“Independence Blue Cross is excited to partner with PHS on this project that combines greening and improving the community’s health in a unique way,” says Daniel J. Hilferty, president and CEO of IBC. “The Pops Up Garden beautifies this Market Street corner and offers an original way for thousands of workers, residents, students and families to learn more about nutrition and a healthy lifestyle.”

The transformed landscape, covering nearly 32,000 square feet, includes an herb and vegetable production area; a variety of flower beds; a stand of blue spruce; whimsical topiaries, and patches of found art from the site’s excavation. A meadow of red clover, grasses, grains and corn are planned. Standouts among the plants will be winners of the PHS Gold Medal Award, which are specially chosen for their aesthetic appeal and hardy nature.

Visitors will be greeted at the main entrance on Market Street by a structure that recently appeared in the Philadelphia International Flower Show. “écolibrium,” an exhibit of sustainable building and gardening, was created by Temple University Ambler and combines classic French garden components and the art of Piet Mondrian with sustainable design. Mondrian’s geometric grid compositions inspired the pattern of the entire Pop Up landscape.

The garden is open to visitors every Wednesday and Thursday from noon to 2 p.m., when free, on-site programming will include horticultural workshops on container gardening, flower arranging, organic pest control and other topics. Tours, special events and family programs are also planned at the garden throughout the summer and early fall. A complete listing of activities is available at the society’s website.

The garden will be dismantled in late October, but will bloom again next spring in a new location.

Locally produced food is available year-round in the region. The Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation’s (GPTMC) Philly Homegrown™ program highlights local, fresh food resources in the Philadelphia foodshed. The public face of Philly Homegrown™ can be found at the website, a new and constantly growing microsite on the Philadelphia region’s official tourism website that enables visitors to plan their local food experience from start to finish.

“Each spring, our visitors and residents look forward to the Philadelphia International Flower Show,” says Meryl Levitz, president and CEO, GPTMC. “With PHS Pops Up, we now have another great reason for garden and food enthusiasts to visit Center City from summer into fall. Through our networks and partnerships, we are well positioned to cast a spotlight on the programming in the garden and on the restaurants serving locally grown foods. It’s the perfect fit for our Philly Homegrown™ program, and we’re proud to be a marketing partner.”

The 20th and Market garden is one in a series of PHS Pops Up sites this summer. In May, nine carousel animal sculptures that were featured in the Flower Show were installed around the gardens of the Swann Memorial Fountain on Logan Square. Meanwhile, the PHS headquarters at 20th and Arch Streets is in the midst of a transformation to celebrate the 2012 Flower Show theme, “Hawaii: Islands of Aloha.”

The PHS City Harvest program helps make locally grown produce more readily available in Philadelphia neighborhoods that lack easy access to fresh vegetables and herbs. With training from PHS staff, inmates of the Philadelphia Prison System grow seedlings that are transplanted into more than 45 community gardens throughout the city, as well as the garden at the Northeast prison facility. Inmates and volunteer gardeners grow the plants to maturity, and the produce is distributed to food cupboards, where clients receive the food and take part in nutrition and cooking workshops. City Harvest provides produce for more than 1,000 families each week during the growing season.

The related City Harvest Growers Alliance is a network of entrepreneurial food growers who sell produce within their communities to make healthy food more accessible throughout the city.

PHS also operates the Roots to Reentry job training and placement program, which provides landscaping experience, life-skills training and job placement assistance for ex-offenders who have participated in the prison component of City Harvest. R2R participants assisted in the installation of the PHS Pops Up garden and the carousel animals at Logan Square. To support City Harvest, get involved in community gardening, and for more information, please visit the website.

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, a nonprofit organization founded in 1827, motivates and inspires people to improve the quality of life and build healthier communities through horticulture. Membership dues, donations and ticket sales from the Philadelphia International Flower Show make PHS programs possible. Membership in PHS includes free tickets to the Flower Show and other benefits.