Summer 2002 Forward to a Friend

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. is a Premier Sponsor of the annual Philadelphia Flower Show.

Subaru of America, Inc. (SOA) was a Premier Sponsor of the Flower Show in 2001 and 2002. This year’s 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 world’s 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. “We’re 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. It’s 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.

Transforming Neighborhoods
Stephano points out that many urban centers have experienced erosion of neighborhoods. When Philadelphia began losing its manufacturing jobs, economic factors pulled people out of the city. Left behind were empty, decaying houses and more than 30,000 vacant lots, she says. The city had to grapple with what to do with this neglected land, which was discouraging people from staying in the area.

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.

A longtime project of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS), Philadelphia Green has revitalized the city’s vacant lots and neglected land through its energetic volunteers.

Philadelphia is fortunate to have keen gardeners, according to Stephano. There’s 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 there’s 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.”

Many Philadelphia Green volunteers involve children in the program through school groups. Among its many benefits, the program helps motivate children to care for their surroundings.

Passing The Trowel To A New Generation
Many volunteers say the most fulfilling part of their involvement with Philadelphia Green has been “how the program has done so much to motivate children to care for their surroundings,” says Stephano. When school groups participate, she says the children are “so excited when they can see the results of their work.”

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 don’t need to have a green thumb to get involved with a community greening project. As Stephano points out: “There’s lots to do.”

For more information
(215) 988-8800