Twenty first century Philadelphia straddles its historical past and the future in a way that could only happen in America’s horticultural heart. William Penn originally envisioned the city as a utopian ‘Greene Country Towne’ and the legacy of that spirit exists today. For the casual garden traveler there is still much to be found, both old and new, in the city, as well as its outlying areas. The oldest parts of Philadelphia are architecturally interesting with glimpses of private gardens and its 18th century past.
Mural at Olive and Brown streets.Mural at Callowhill and 19th streets.
One of Philadelphia’s most unique characteristics has been created over the past thirty years via the Mural Arts. In every neighborhood, there are monumental and dramatic murals painted on sides of buildings that make the city an open air art festival free to all.
Spring Gardens Community Garden
Since 1995, this city block just north of the art museum at 18th and North Streets has been home to Spring Gardens Community Garden, a neighborhood transforming community garden. It is one of many throughout the city.
What’s a weekend without a little shopping? We visited several distinct garden retailers, each with their own take on garden lifestyle. Terrain, the best known of the three, is just outside of the city in Glen Mills, and offers a full range of plants, products and garden services.
Iconography and typography at The Magic Gardens.
Spend any time around South Street and you will notice them. There are mosaics on building facades, down alleys, under window boxes and on rooftops. Artist Isaiah Zagar started creating them in the 1960s. In 1994, on a vacant lot near his studio, Zagar began constructing a massive three dimensional, 3000 square foot mosaic environment on several levels.
PECO Green Roof
Viaductgreene elevated railway. Photo courtesy of Viaductgreene.
Philadelphia’s industrial past and garden future can be explored through a walking tour of a proposed three mile long railway park called Viaductgreene. Currently a wild, abandoned, and unused series of city and privately owned railroad tracks, it spans three miles of Philadelphia’s core.