By Marion McParland
With a hint of warmth on a sunny day, March is the month when nature begins to wake up from a long winter’s nap. Just as in nature, many of PHS programs also start to bloom as we prepare to open our beloved signature gardens and impactful programs that serve the community. Check out all the programs that PHS will open during March and April to engage and inspire gardeners, communities, and friends everywhere.
On March 15, this year's first PHS six-week workforce development training will begin. The second cohort will follow on April 12. PHS offers people who have been released from prison and with other barriers to employment the opportunity for paid, hands-on training and education in the horticulture and landscaping fields under the guidance of PHS's skilled staff. This extraordinary program has supported close to 200 people with job training and placed 160 of them in jobs since 2016.
The beloved PHS Pop Up Garden at South Street opens Thursday, April 1, followed in mid-May by the fun newcomer on the block, PHS Pop Up Garden at Manayunk. The gardens open with safety top-of-mind and will follow city health and safety guidelines. The flagship garden at South Street returns refreshed with a palette of cool-season annual plantings and updated decor. The PHS Pop Up Garden at Manayunk will welcome guests back with a new look for its second season focusing on native plants, mimicking a native woodland. New this year, visitors will have the opportunity to reserve a private space in these treasured gardens for small groups, allowing special occasions to be celebrated safely, surrounded by nature. Famed neighborhood restaurants, including Cantina Los Cabillitos and Khyber Pass Pub, will return to offer visitors their favorites-filled menu and new flavors at both locations.
Once the snow melts, PHS Meadowbrook Farm gardeners will be busy getting ready for opening day, Wednesday, April 14. John Rapini, Manager of Procurement, is sourcing 3,400 plants for the spring design, and 4,200 more annuals for the summer. Spring annuals in shades of pink, purple, and white, with pops of green from buttercrunch lettuce, will fill the gardens and welcome visitors. A kaleidoscope of colors — pink clouds of creeping phlox, yellow flowering Alyssum, and blue forget-me-nots — as well as dogwood trees and azaleas, will paint a magical setting in this beloved historic public garden just minutes from Center City that is free for all.
Around the city, you’ll see PHS’s Public Landscape team working at Logan Square, the Azalea Garden, the Rodin, and the Eastern State Penitentiary, as well as at PHS headquarters. These beautiful landscapes are always open, free, and filled with interesting, seasonal plants. PHS encourages passersby to stop for a moment, take a seat, and enjoy all that these iconic and inspiring landscapes have to offer. Look for familiar favorites as they begin to bloom, like varied witch-hazels along the Ben Franklin Parkway, ranging from striking yellow to subtle orange and red tones. “Don’t miss the tiny cyclamen popping up at the Azalea Garden, or the paperbush at the Rodin,” says Sam Keitch, PHS Project Manager.
The Community Gardens team is preparing to service its network of community gardens and interested gardeners this growing season with 56,000 seedlings sprouting. PHS’s seedling distribution to over 150 community gardens takes place on Saturday, April 3. Over the growing season, these seedlings will mature into tens of thousands of pounds of fresh produce for local communities to enjoy access to fresh, healthy food.
Another location managed by this team includes the new PHS McLean Urban Agriculture Tool Library at Glenwood Green Acres, opening its doors to PHS community gardeners in April. The new library houses over 500 tools such as shovels, wheelbarrows, power drills, and string trimmers, all available to gardens and production sites that are active in PHS's Community Gardens network free of charge.
Also this month, the new PHS Green Resource Center at Farm Park in Norristown is adding finishing touches as it gets ready to open in April. This teaching farm will encourage local residents to garden in its newly built community garden beds over two acres at the farm. Workforce development opportunities, in conjunction with the YWCA Tri-County Area, will provide vital training to more than 200 people interested in learning about work in the field of horticulture.
The Trees Team is looking forward to the Spring volunteer planting Tuesday, April 20 to Sunday, April 25. Tim Ifill, PHS Associate Director of Trees, expects to distribute between 900 and 1,000 trees or planting by Tree Tenders groups throughout the region. On Earth Day, Thursday, April 22, Tree Tenders will plant 600 trees in the counties and close to 400 in the city. “Our Tree Tenders groups throughout the region work hard all year, but spring is the time when those efforts are most visible,” says Ifill. “The hundreds of trees planted late last fall will begin leafing out and flowering for the first time, bringing beauty, fresh air, and a host of health benefits to their neighborhoods.”
Whatever your dreams are for this coming season — getting outside and connecting with friends, gardening, planting a tree, learning more about gardening, or spending quiet time in nature — PHS is here to guide and inspire you.