Northwest Philadelphia wins big in City Gardens contest

Northwest Philadelphia was well represented when the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) handed out awards for its 2012 City Gardens Contest. PHS held the awards ceremony and presentation as part of its Fall Garden Festival held Saturday at the Naval Yard.

Among the award recipients: The 6700 and 6800 blocks of Germantown Avenue in Mt. Airy, which won first place under PHS’ Garden Block category and Trolley Car Cafe in East Falls, which won first place under the Restaurant gardens category.

Mt. Airy’s Garden Block 

It is a first time win for Mt. Airy’s commercial corridor. Elise Rivers, owner of Community Acupuncture of Mt. Airy (CAMA) and board member of Mt. Airy’s Business Improvement District (BID) self-nominated her efforts to transform 6700 and 6800 Germantown Avenue from bleak to blooming. Rivers has spearheaded the project to beautify the blocks since 2008, when she bought the CAMA building and was invited to join BID. She began by planting a tree in the well outside her acupuncture office and restoring the exterior of the building. Rivers then began the long and sometimes difficult process of convincing neighbors to permit donated street planters and window boxes at their locations.

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Rivers admits that the blocks’ transformation is a result of strong relationships with community organizations. “Nothing happens without partnerships, ” she said. Rivers noted that Mt. Airy USA’s 2010 facade and streetscape improvements and BID’s greenery projects have been instrumental in creating a more vibrant neighborhood. She says her involvement with BID has provided a “container in which to grow my community spirit.”

Trolley Car

Trolley Car Cafe’s East Falls location won first place under PHS’ new Restaurant Garden category for its seasonal kitchen garden. The garden’s bounty is used in entrees on the diner’s menu as well as for educational purposes, such as kid-friendly classes like Create-Your-Own Kitchen Garden Pizza. Trolley Car Cafe owner, Ken Weinstein shared that for many children who take part in Trolley Car’s classes, it is a first experience in a vegetable garden. “We love to teach. We use all of our vegetables and herbs in our recipes and we have a lot of fun with it.” he remarked.

Other notable Northwest Philly winners

Acknowledged for their multi-year wins in PHS’ “Winner Circle” were Roxborough’s Friends of Gorgas Park and Germantown’s Awbury Arboretum Community Garden. This year, Friends of Gorgas Park placed first under the Large Community Parks category and Awbury Arboretum Community Garden won first place under the Large Community Vegetable Gardens category.

Ned Wolf Park in West Mt. Airy tied for first place under the Small Community Parks category.

East Falls saw two first place wins – SHARE Food Program’s Nice Roots Farm in East Falls placed first under the Mid-size Urban Farms category and Friends of Cloverly Park won first place for Mid-size Community Park.

About the contest

Since 1975, PHS has held its annual City Gardens contest as part of a mission to inspire Philadelphians to beautify their neighborhood and foster connection through horticulture. This year, there were 11 categories in the competition – Flower Garden, Vegetable Garden, Combination Garden, Container Garden, Children’s Garden, Park, Garden Block, Greenest Block in Town, Urban Farm, Work Place Garden and Restaurant Garden. Many of the categories are subdivided by size – large, mid-size, small – and whether it was a community or individual garden. The judging, done by PHS volunteers, took place between July 5 and August 8.

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