Green roofs and walls, urban agriculture, planting trees, and large swathes of native plantings are what most gardeners discuss when the topic of gardening in urban areas arises.
What often goes unnoticed is small space gardening – window boxes, containers, and entryways.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s a celebration of color with a variety of plants that intermingle or shades of green that create a calm and stately presence.
These tiny areas of plants – what I call micro-gardening – bring beauty, community, and peace to a city like Philadelphia.
Micro-gardening transforms Philadelphia into an urban jewel. A tapestry of texture and color.
The Micro-Gardening Journey
Appreciate your own journey as a gardener
I wasn’t always an evangelical urban micro- gardener. I’ve journeyed through several phases of gardening to reach this juncture.
When I moved to Philadelphia at age 17 after having lived in Montreal, I only knew that it was where our Founding Fathers signed The Declaration of Independence and Constitution.
As my mother and I drove down the East River Drive from the airport, I saw the majestic Art Museum perched on the edge of the winding Schuylkill River, with lush grass, shade trees, sculptures, and seating areas abutting it. At that moment, I knew that Philadelphia and I were going to become great friends.
I returned to Philadelphia after college. Within a few years I married, had small children and a house in the suburbs. It was then that gardening took root in my soul. For the next 20 years, I was passionate about garden design, perennials, and sprawling landscapes.
Working at Doe Run, originally the garden of Sir John Thouron and now of Richard Hayne, founder and CEO of Urban Outfitter and all of its subsidiaries (including Anthropologie and Terrain), I had the privilege of not just working in the garden but being there. Walking about, observing, touching, smelling and feeling its undulating glory.
I discovered Chanticleer Garden when it was still a personal residence. For 2 decades, I have observed its radical changes – from a private estate to one of the all time great pleasure gardens. I marvel at the genius of the place and all who have played a part in creating it – and continue to do so. And I am forever grateful to Chris Woods for jump starting my love affair with perennials and a renegade sensibility.
Moving To The City Changed My Perception of Gardening
It wasn’t until I sold my house in the suburbs and decided to spend much of the year renting a rooftop apartment in the center of Tel Aviv that the magnificence of plants and landscape of the city lit a fire deep inside of me. Especially micro-gardening.
On a recent trip to Philadelphia, I walked from one of the most prestigious areas in the city- Rittenhouse Square – down to South Philly (think Rocky and the Italian Market) to get a stronger sense of what’s happening today with ‘micro gardening’ in the City of Brotherly Love.
Well designed window boxes, containers, and small space gardening soften the hard surfaces of a neighborhood. They bring greenery and color into bare areas. And even the smallest of gardens – one container perhaps- can help an individual feel a sense of peace and happiness.
A large cement container on the sidewalk of a busy side street turns a hard cement surface into a riot of color.
A restaurant adorns its entryway with a festoon of flowers and greenery.
By the way – on my way to visit a friend in Philly one morning, I couldn’t resist stopping into one of my favorite South Philly diners – Morningstar Cafe.
They have some of the most delicious muffins in the city. After much deliberation, I chose the lemon poppy seed. I sat down at the counter, and along with a cold glass of milk, I sliced the muffin and with deliberation, I enjoyed every morsel of it.
Outstanding urban micro-gardening and muffins in one city – what more can you ask for?
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN. Do you live near or in a city that’s filled with micro-gardening? And do you practice micro-gardening (no matter where you live) ?