THE MISSION of the not-for-profit Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) is to motivate people to improve the quality of life and create a sense of community through horticulture.
The Philadelphia Flower Show has been a major reason PHS is able to make a difference in Philadelphia. Proceeds from the show help fund numerous PHS programs, including Philadelphia Green. Begun in 1974 as a vegetable gardening project, tens of thousands of Philadelphia Green volunteers are involved with 3,000 greening projects each year.
Subaru of America, Inc. (SOA) was a Premier Sponsor of the Flower Show in 2001 and 2002. This years show, held March 3-10 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, attracted 265,000 horticulture enthusiasts to the 10 acres of displays. The 2003 show is scheduled for March 2-9. What is billed as the worlds largest indoor flower show dates back to 1829, two years after PHS was founded.
Lisa Stephano, PHS Director of Marketing and Public Relations, notes that because Subaru is known for being community-minded, SOA is a good fit with the goals of PHS. Were very fortunate to have them [Subaru] on board as a sponsor, she says.
In addition, Subaru dealers are instrumental in sponsoring two annual PHS events: the Azalea Garden Party in May and the Philadelphia Harvest Show in September.
The four-acre Azalea Garden is in Fairmount Park, one of the largest landscaped municipal parks in the world. Its located next to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Philadelphia Green has coordinated the landscaping and maintenance of the garden since 1989, and the Azalea Garden Party is a fund-raiser.
The 2001 Philadelphia Harvest Show, featuring activities for the whole family, attracted 5,500 visitors to the Horticulture Center in Fairmount Park. More than 200 individuals and 42 community groups entered their produce, flowers, baked goods, cordials and preserves in a competition.
Back in 1974, PHS realized it could make a difference through greening. Something as simple as planting window boxes or a garden could unite neighbors and give them the strength to take back their community.
Philadelphia is fortunate to have keen gardeners, according to Stephano. Theres an affinity for gardening in the region, she says, because many residents moved from the South, where they had been gardeners or farmers.
The program has been a resounding success. As of late February, Stephano notes, Philadelphia Green volunteers have cleaned more than 20,000 lots and removed 13,000 tons of trash.
The sustainability of the projects will rely heavily on how invested people are, says Stephano. She mentions a couple of big gardens that have survived the test of time, with people leaving the community and other people coming in. One notable success story is Aspen Farms at 49th and Aspen. The garden is the size of several house lots and the neighbors grow everything, Stephano says.
Philadelphia Green also works with residents of the New Kensington area of the city. Stephano says more than 1,500 lots have been cleared and greened, and theres now a garden center for the community.
Through the Garden Tenders program, Philadelphia Green staff members train people from the community to teach other volunteers. The eight-session course, from which thousands have graduated, provides organizational and horticultural information for groups interested in establishing community gardens.
Philadelphia Green has expanded from cleaning and greening vacant lots to major thoroughfares, Stephano says. The city is a tourism destination, and she explains that greening is one of the most immediate and welcoming things you can do to give people a sense of well-being.
Passing The Trowel To A New Generation
Philadelphia Green, as the largest community greening program in the country, serves as a model for other programs. The staff has worked with groups from numerous states and Canadian provinces to provide a base of knowledge.
You dont need to have a green thumb to get involved with a community greening project. As Stephano points out: Theres lots to do.
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