The city’s own urban oasis

The Phil­adelphia Hor­ti­cul­tur­al So­ci­ety cre­ated three Pop-Up Gar­dens around the city to of­fer res­pite from the hustle and bustle of city life.

The Pennsylvania Hor­ti­cul­tur­al So­ci­ety Pop-up park at 20th and Mar­ket, Wed­nes­day, Au­gust 3, 2011, in Phil­adelphia.

In Cen­ter City, a lot at 20th and Mar­ket streets that has sat va­cant for more than two dec­ades is now a green urb­an garden thanks to the Pennsylvania Hor­ti­cul­tur­al So­ci­ety.

And, for the rest of the sum­mer, the new 32,000-square-foot Pop-Up Garden — one of three PHS cre­ated earli­er this year — will host a wide vari­ety of fam­ily-friendly activ­it­ies. 

Tucked along the busy Mar­ket Street thor­ough­fare and hid­den in the shad­ows of tower­ing sky­scrapers on all sides, the park is an urb­an oas­is in Cen­ter City. 

In­side the PHS has in­stalled a vari­ety of to­pi­ary sculp­tures and “&ea­cute;colib­ri­um,” an ex­ample of sus­tain­able build­ing and garden­ing cre­ated by Temple Uni­versity Am­bler — both leftovers from this year’s Phil­adelphia In­ter­na­tion­al Flower Show — as well as pro­duc­tion gar­dens for herbs and ve­get­ables. 

“We wanted to take ele­ments of [the flower show] and put them out in the com­munity,” said PHS spokes­man Alan Jaffe as he walked through the park on a sunny Wed­nes­day morn­ing last week. “We wanted to give it an­oth­er life.” 

Along with this park, ele­ments of the flower show have been placed throughout Lo­gan Square — maybe you’ve no­ticed the fanci­ful ca­rou­sel an­im­als carved from hedges? — on the Ben Frank­lin Park­way at 18th Street, while the PHS headquar­ters at 20th and Arch streets has got­ten a Hawaii­an over­haul. 

To pre­pare for next year’s flower show, with its theme of “Hawaii: Is­lands of Aloha,” there are now three 20- to 25-foot tall palm trees at the PHS build­ing along with a vari­ety of exot­ic plants and flowers. 

“You can’t grow that here and it’s not that easy to move around,” said Jaffe, dis­cuss­ing how the PHS used crane trucks to move the palm trees, which came from Flor­ida, to the Cen­ter City build­ing. 

“It was really cool to see these palm trees driv­ing around town,” said Jaffe. 

Now un­til Oc­to­ber these pop-up gar­dens will be avail­able for the pub­lic to tour but throughout the sum­mer there are also events sched­uled that could help con­tin­ue chil­dren’s learn­ing while schools are out. 

The Frank­lin In­sti­tute has partnered with PHS to provide free weekly les­sons held every Wed­nes­day in the pop-up park at 20th and Mar­ket streets. 

As well as these les­sons, PHS provides tours of the garden on Wed­nes­days and Thursdays, where vis­it­ors can learn about the pro­duc­tion garden here as well as City Har­vest — a pro­gram that links 45 com­munity gar­dens across the city with 33 dif­fer­ent food cup­boards. 

The pro­gram cre­ated about 83,000 pounds of fresh loc­al pro­duce from 2006 to 2010. In a grow­ing sea­son, about 1,000 fam­il­ies in the city util­ize the ser­vices of City Har­vest. 

“We want to bring at­ten­tion to that,” said Jaffe. “And it’s a great op­por­tun­ity for kids to come see how pro­duc­tion beds work.”

In fact, six Cen­ter City res­taur­ants — R2L, Square 1682, Table 31, Sam­pan, Bar­buzzo, and Para­diso — have partnered with the PHS to util­ize the pro­duce grown at the 20th and Mar­ket garden. Jaffe said these eat­er­ies have already got­ten har­vests of pep­pers, arug­ula, basil and oth­er pro­duce. 

“We’ve had a great re­sponse to this place,” said Maitreyi Roy, PHS vice pres­id­ent for pro­grams, as she walked the garden last week. “We wanted to raise the pro­file for the need to grow loc­ally … It nev­er had a face be­fore in Cen­ter City.” 

Also, PHS hopes to tap an un­ex­pec­ted re­source to cre­ate its own labeled products in the fall. 

Jaffe said that shortly after open­ing the park at 20th and Mar­ket streets, a swarm of bees took up res­id­ence in the garden. 

“A swarm of bees just showed up in the garden. Bees are great for a garden,” he said. 

The PHS con­tac­ted a loc­al bee­keep­er at Urb­an Api­ar­ies, and now the Cen­ter City garden has three bee­hives that could be pro­du­cing honey PHS hopes to bottle and sell in the fu­ture. 

“We’re look­ing to pro­duce it soon,” he said. 

Last week, small groups of vis­it­ors toured the garden tak­ing in the win­dow to nature that has been placed smack-dab in the heart of the con­crete jungle of Phil­adelphia.

Smil­ing as she toured the garden, Colette Nicoletto — a New Jer­sey res­id­ent who works on the 41st floor of the nearby IBX build­ing — said the garden was a huge im­prove­ment over the grassy lot that had been here. 

In the past, she said, it could be­come something of a lit­ter-filled eye­sore.

“It was just trash and weeds. It was pretty gross,” Nicoletto said. “But now, it’s so nice to look at and walk around in.” ••  

Re­port­er Hay­den Mit­man can be reached at 215-354-3124 or hmit­  

You can reach at

comments powered by Disqus