PHS City in Bloom Beautifies Center City

Angelina Maniero, a 7th-grade student at the Saint Francis Xavier School, spoke about her generation going green at this year’s “City in Bloom” event on May 22. Photo by Stephen Ladner.

By Marion McParland

PHS’s annual City in Bloom event celebrated its 22nd year yesterday with hundreds of volunteers cleaning, greening and planting thousands of annuals, perennials and shrubs throughout Center City. With the help of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and a group of corporate and student volunteers, more than 3,500 flowering annuals, perennials and shrubs were planted. Gardens were also cleared of debris and invasive plants. To view more photos from the event click here.

Volunteers from NRG Residential Solutions, Grant Thornton, PricewaterhouseCoopers, J.P. Morgan Chase and St. Francis Xavier School worked in the garden beds at City Hall, around the Swann Memorial Fountain on Logan Square, in JFK Plaza (LOVE Park), along the Parkway, and at Eastern State Penitentiary, 21st Street and Fairmount Avenue.

Speakers at this year’s “City in Bloom” included, from left to right: Mark Focht, First Deputy Commissioner, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation; Heather Farber, Senior Director of Marketing Communications, NRG Retail Northeast; Nancy Goldenberg, PHS Chief of Staff; Angelina Maniero, a 7th-grade student at Saint Francis Xavier School; and Jimmy Owens, PHS Vice President for Business Development. Photo by Stephen Ladner.

The event began at Sister Cities Park, 18th Street and the Parkway, where sponsors, partners and volunteers came together.  Jimmy Owens, PHS Vice President for Business Development, and Nancy Goldenberg, PHS Chief of Staff, welcomed the crowd and spoke about PHS City in Bloom.  They were joined by Mark Focht, First Deputy Commissioner, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation; Heather Farber, Senior Director of Marketing Communications, NRG Retail Northeast; and Angelina Maniero, a 7th-grade student at the Saint Francis Xavier School in Fairmount.

Angelina Maniero offered this inspiring message:

My name is Angelina Maniero; I am a seventh grade student at Saint Francis Xavier School. I am delighted to be given the honor of presenting a speech and representing my school on the matter of my generation going green for this “City in Bloom” event sponsored by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

I am proud to be part of this generation. I feel young people such as myself and my peers are a huge part of this world’s future. We have great ideas to offer the future; we have brilliant minds, creative spirits and passionate souls that are looking for new and innovative ways to better our world. With these abilities, I hope we can find new ways to preserve our environment and use our natural resources wisely.

To begin, our ecosystem works in a delicate way, meaning each member of this ecosystem is vital to keeping it working properly. Humans, especially today’s generation, have done many things to negatively affect this ecosystem. Air pollution is one of the major concerns that we are facing.

Thankfully, by planting different types of trees, shrubs and plants in addition to the use of window boxes and curbside containers throughout the city, we can help to undo the damage of air pollution. Plants take in carbon dioxide from the air that is polluted and expel clean oxygen that we need to breathe. This is just one of the many reasons going green is so important in today’s world.

Next, have you ever really thought about how much today’s world is centered on electronics? It is how we gain information, communicate, entertain ourselves, shop and even read. by doing this we miss all of the natural beauty of the earth.

Fortunately, groups like the Horticultural Society will make sure there is always greenery in the city. My generation’s responsibility is to take advantage of these green spaces by participating in outdoor sports, finding a quiet landscaped area to read or relax or even getting together with a group of friends and going walking instead of texting. These are just a few ways to “power off” and begin to admire earth’s natural beauty.

Finally, going green means not only minimizing time spent using things that pollute our environment or planting a tree, but also buying and using organic items. Most non-organic food is grown using pesticides. These pesticides prevent bugs from destroying plants and make it possible for farmers to grow and sell more of a crop; however, pesticides are extremely harmful to the environment.

Therefore, one way to minimize the harmful effects of pesticides is by growing your own food source. Joining a community project or growing fruits, vegetables, and herbs in your own backyard are great ways to get fresh, organic produce. When space becomes an issue, planting rooftop or windowsill gardens are an excellent alternative. These are fantastic ways to use your empty space to produce pesticide free food.

In conclusion, the importance of going green, whether to eliminate air pollution, make use of green spaces or going organic, is especially vital for my generation because if we do not create a better earth, how can we create a better tomorrow?

For more information on PHS City in Bloom, click here.


Students from Saint Francis Xavier School planted flowers at LOVE Park as part of “City in Bloom.” Photo by Stephen Ladner.





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PHeaSt Friday: Today’s the Day!

After all the anticipation it’s hard to believe that PHeaSt is today! Online tickets are no longer available, but you can make your purchase at the door (cash or credit card).

Now that the event is literally hours away, here are a few of the confirmed dishes that PHeaSt guests will enjoy. Try not to drool on your computer!

  • Hand-seared pork belly, roasted root vegetable sticks, and butternut squash foam
  • Zucchini bread pudding
  • Carrot sweet potato spiced cupcake with bourbon glaze
  • Smoked duck breast, caramelized pumpkin, pickled mustard seed
  • BBQ brisket with smoky glaze sweet potato whip
  • Grilled coriander shrimp with heirloom ginger/carrot puree and green papaya salad
  • Smoked trout salad with pickled butternut squash

And that’s just a portion of the list! If your appetite isn’t fully whetted, take a look at this FYI Philly clip featuring chef Andrew Wood of Russet and growers at SPHS Gardens.

So now you realize you simply have to attend, right? Well we are eager to welcome you! Directions and other details can be found at


Fabulous Food and Delicious Drinks Being Served in the Pop Up!

pop9aThe Pop Up Garden is turning into the place in Center City to meet friends, grab a bite, and sip a cool drink! We’re excited that the Garces Group is serving a special menu to garden visitors, with offerings that include a house-smoked turkey sandwich with red onion marmalade and avocado aioli on seven-grain bread and a chopped salad of romaine, arugula, cucumber, organic chicken, candied pecans, and cherry tomatoes with honey-lime dressing. And does anything say “summer” more than their South Philly dog: a Hebrew National hot dog with caramelized onions and Cheese Whiz on a potato roll?

The “grab and go” menu features manchego cheese and truffle lavender honey; pretzel bites with house-made mustard; smoked eggplant hummus with baby carrots and asparagus, and more. Grab a few friends and have a small plates tasting party!  As recently noted, “The beer garden offers local craft beer and cider including Yards Philly Pale, Victory Summer Love, and Philadelphia Brewing Company’s Commonwealth Cider. Yards root beer is available as a non-alcoholic option, or spike it with one of several flavored vodka selections.” Wine, frozen margaritas, infused water, strawberry lemonade, and iced tea are some of the other beverage options.

Just want to stop in after a show for something sweet? Desserts include pie in a jar (blueberry lemon, strawberry basil, and chocolate peanut butter) and ice cream sandwiches (dark chocolate cherry cookie with vanilla ice cream and chocolate chip walnut cookie with chocolate ice cream). I sought a dessert recommendation from a four-year-old Pop Up visitor who was contentedly eating an ice cream sandwich. When asked if he thought I should buy one he replied, “No! I want to save them for me!”

I had a pie in a jar instead.

The Everyday Flower Show: A Pure Design

Continuing our series of visits to PHS Philadelphia Flower Show exhibitors, I visited Michael Haschak at PURE Design.

Now in its eighth year, PURE Design is located at 22nd and Lombard Street in the Fitler Square section of Philadelphia. A contemporary flower shop, each arrangement is handmade according to the needs of the client. Every piece is designed with the eye of an artist and reflects PURE Design’s belief that flowers are just another artistic medium. Always creative, their work has been featured on numerous television and movie sets, as well as around Philadelphia at parties, photo shoots, and events–yet, their sleek signature look is the perfect complement to any home decor.

PURE Design was a first-time exhibitor at the 2013 PHS Philadelphia Flower Show, and wowed visitors with their sleek, all-white display that included just a nod to the Show’s British theme. During my visit to PURE, Michael showed me how to create their signature arrangement, one that can be customized with almost any combination of flowers. step aTo begin, he added a layer of river rock to the bottom of a container that was ten inches high, four inches deep, and eight inches tall. He coiled in some fresh curly willow and added water. The rocks and willow not only act as the mechanics for holding the stems of the arrangement, but they also add a natural aesthetic for which PURE is known.

The shape of the design is created using stems of pittosporum. Michael removed all of the foliage that would be in the water to help keep the water clean. He packed in plenty of the greenery, so that the leaves would support the flowers. The pittosporum leaves are somewhat open and flat, making them the perfect background to the feature flowers. “Our step bsignature arrangement is flower on flower–no fillers,” said Michael. “The green accentuates all of the other colors.”

Once the foundation has been created, Michael adds the flowers, working from the largest variety to the smallest. “Every order is different,” he said. ‘We don’t use a recipe and we strive for a lot of abstract designs. I hire artists who have their own visions, not your usual wire service designs.”

Michael incorporated nine stems of green hydrangea, stripping the bark from the lower part of the stems so that the flowers would take up plenty of water. Hydrangeas are known for their tendency tostep d collapse, and stripping the bark helps to prevent it from happening. The hydrangea were evenly spaced throughout the vase, keeping everything at the same level.

Seven stems of orange dahlias were then added, followed by “Red Kansas” peonies. He added another shape element to the design with seven yellow calla lilies. “Callas can be manipulated by running your hand gently up the stem,” Michael said as he demonstrated how to make each stem arch slightly. Finally, he added purple campanula in the few empty spaces that were left. At this point, the arrangement was very full and the stems had to be carefully step e1wiggled into the design.

The finished creation was lush, appropriate for a variety of settings, and easy enough for even the least-experienced home florist to recreate–now that we know the steps! The key is to start with the foliage, add one variety of flower at a time (from largest to smallest), and to keep everything at the same level. I’m thinking about trying it with white hydrangea, parrot tulips, pink roses, pale peach dahlias, and pink astilbe.

Thanks to Michael and everyone in the shop for sharing their expertise so that we can all have a PURE design. Can’t wait to see what you have planned for the 2014 PHS Philadelphia Flower Show!final


Let Little Imaginations Grow with Summertime Stories

Schoolchildren outsideThere’s so much to do this time of year, but we know it can sometimes be a challenge to keep little ones busy! PHS is featuring storytime programs in the air-conditioned McLean Library, located on the first floor at PHS headquarters, 100 North 20th Street in Philadelphia. Children ages 2 to 6 (with their adults) are invited to the library to learn about gardening and the natural world through books read by storyteller Hasha Salaman.

And new for summer 2013, join us outside for storytime at the recently refurbished Sister Cities Park along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 18th Street. When at the park, kids can also play in the bubbling fountains, sail a toy boat in the pond, or run barefoot in the grass under the shade trees.

Hour-long sessions at both locations will be held at 11 am on the dates below.

June 5 in the McLean Library
June 13 at Sister Cities Park
July 10 in the McLean Library
July 11 at Sister Cities Park
August 8 at Sister Cities Park
October 9 in the McLean Library
November 6 in the McLean Library
December 4 in the McLean Library
January 8 in the McLean Library

There’s no need to register and there is no fee! Just bring a blanket, maybe a snack (when visiting the park), and meet us for a delightful hour of engaging stories. For more information, contact Priscilla Becroft at or 215-988-8772.


Preserve Your Gorgeous Garden in Perfect Pictures

I’m a firm believer that we can all create beautiful images of our gardens, regardless of the type of camera we use. Sure, a bag full of lenses, filters, and expensive digital equipment plus a computer with the fanciest editing software will help, but you can also make pictures that look lovely straight out of the camera.

On June 12 at 5:30 pm, I will host a workshop in the PHS McLean Library to discuss how to photograph your gardens. After a brief introduction (and some wine and cheese!) and a slideshow of some of my favorite shots from my gardens and the PHS Philadelphia Flower Show, we’ll venture out to Logan Square to try some of my tips for better pictures. While I don’t want to give it all away in this post, here’s one tip I want you to try this weekend:

Change your perspective.

That’s it. Look at your garden differently by standing on a step stool, kneeling on the ground, or shooting from an upstairs window. By varying your perspective, you literally see your garden differently and your pictures will be more interesting. Imagine lying on your back, breaking the “rules” by shooting toward the early morning sun streaming in from behind your just-opening peonies. Now that’s an interesting picture! Sometimes it’s just being in the right place at the right time to see the perfect kind of light, drops of dew on a petal, or butterfly on a blossom. For example, as I sat on my porch one morning–camera in hand–the scene below happened. I didn’t want to make too much noise or movement, but was able to get a few quick shots of this unlikely pair at the platform feeder.

If you’d like to participate in my workshop, you can register here. Don’t forget to bring your camera along. The fee is $18 for members and $23 for nonmembers. I look forward to meeting you!