Author: Virginia C McGuire

Backyard Chickens in Philly: Renegade Poultry Farmer Speaks Out

chicken coop

Photo: Virginia C. McGuire

Chickens are illegal in Philadelphia on parcels of land smaller than three acres. But as Philly Mag reported back in 2010, an urban chicken movement is gaining momentum in Philadelphia. It’s very possible that some of your neighbors are keeping a few discreet laying hens in the back yard. We spoke with a chicken owner in Germantown about her flock.

Meghan lives in West Germantown with her husband, two kids, a salt water fish tank, and a black labrador. She also has seven chickens living in a coop in her front yard.

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For Sale: Five Homes Within Walking Distance of Fitler Square

2224 rittenhouse

Fitler Square is an intimate park of about half an acre at 23rd and Pine. The quiet, tree-lined streets that surround it have pretty homes and are free from honking horns and hurried pedestrian traffic. The Fitler Square neighborhood, according to the Fitler Square Improvement Association, is bounded by Locust Street and South Street, and extends from 21st Street to the Schuylkill River. As such, the neighborhood is the perfect location for those who want calm and quiet but also like easy access to bustle. Below, Property contributor Virginia Claire McGuire has chosen five homes in or around this lovely neighborhood.

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House of the Day: 4BR Home With Ridiculously Exquisite Period Details for Less Than $350,000

germantown victorian

We expect this single-family brick Victorian in West Germantown to get snapped up quickly. It’s got off-street parking, an enormous back yard, and a ton of original detail. The living room fireplace is made of slate, and the house is a reasonable four bedrooms and two baths. There’s a wrap-around porch in front, and a shady patio in the back. We’d like to commend the listing agent on her smart use of photographs. If we had a spare $350,000, we’d buy this house just based on the close-up shot of the hardware on these original pocket doors.

The location, too, is kind of dreamy. It’s half a block from Cloverly Park in a neighborhood full of creative professionals, avid gardeners and young families. There are two community gardens within a few blocks of this house, and it’s close to Manayunk, East Falls, and Mt. Airy. There are two regional rail stops close by–Queen Lane and Chelten, and plenty of bus routes.

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Mind-Boggling West Philly Container Garden

Photo: Virginia C. McGuire

Photo: Virginia C. McGuire

Plant lovers in West Philly have probably noticed this house at 47th and Baltimore because it has one of the most exuberant rooftop gardens I’ve ever seen. Gardener Fred Wolfe has been building his plant collection on this corner for more than 40 years. He started gardening at 4703 and 4705 Baltimore Avenue, but in 1983 he moved to his current home at 4701 Baltimore.

Wolfe’s garden is spread over several different areas. What he calls his sidewalk garden is a combination of perennials and annuals planted in containers. This garden has cannas, red-twig dogwood, hardy hibiscus, magnolias and black-eyed susans.

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From the Garden: Beautiful, Unruly Irises Are Now in Bloom

pink iris

Photo: Virginia C. McGuire

Irises are my very favorite flower. They’re beautiful in a weird, unruly way, like orchids. They come in many colors and sizes, from big grapefruit-sized blooms to tiny plum-sized blossoms. And unlike many flowering perennials (*cough*┬átulips *cough cough* daffodils), their greenery doesn’t look like total garbage when they stop blooming.

Iris leaves are long and spiky, and their shapes make a nice contrast to other kinds of foliage in the garden. So even though I look forward to my irises blooming, I’m not heartbroken when they stop blooming and leave me with months’ worth of greenery.

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Public Gardens: Morris Arboretum

morris arboretum

Turtle Pond at Morris Arboretum. Photo by Virginia C. McGuire

Judging by my Facebook timeline, half of Philadelphia went to the Shore this past weekend. The other half was at Morris Arboretum.

Before I started gardening, I preferred hiking in the woods to taking a stroll through a manicured arboretum. Now I love seeing what professional gardeners and arborists have managed to grow in the Delaware Valley. I go to Morris Arboretum to get ideas. When I get bored with my plants–how many purple hellebores do you need, really?–I like to check out the sheer variety at Morris.

I also like that the place is well cared for but it’s not all necessarily perfectly groomed. The rose garden is laid out in a formal pattern but the beds are a bit of hodge-podge, with many other plants growing in among the roses. There are gazebos and pergolas and posh-looking water features, but there are also scruffy herb gardens and butterfly gardens, and even a woodland walk along a bend of the Wissahickon Creek that runs through the grounds.

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Homeowning Nightmare: “My House Is Infested With Raccoons”

Photo of raccoon by via Wikimedia Commons

Photo of raccoon by via Wikimedia Commons

We first started hearing animals in the walls shortly after we bought our 1920s twin in Germantown in 2009. No problem, we thought. The inspection before we bought it had revealed holes in the soffits, which run around the edge of the roof underneath the rain gutters. We called a roofer and had them fixed.

That took care of the animal sounds for a while, but soon they started up again. Twice more we called the roofer. Twice more he came out, put up his ladder and banged around up there, closing gaps in the siding. We hired someone to trim our trees aggressively so squirrels can’t easily jump onto the roof of the house. And still the animals kept coming back.

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Garden Profile: The Old Tennis Court Farm

Photo of lettuce by Virginia C. McGuire

Photo of lettuce by Virginia C. McGuire

It’s only the fourth season for this community garden in Germantown, and already 51 plots have been hacked out of the asphalt of a row of old tennis courts adjacent to Cloverly Park. The courts were once used by students at Germantown Friends School, and the land is held in trust for the school and Germantown Monthly Meeting, a Quaker group.

Catherine Adams co-chairs the committee that runs the garden. She has been involved in the garden from the beginning. “I became involved in the garden as soon as I heard of the project without any hesitation,” she said. She has hauled buckets of water, tended plants, and screened chunks of asphalt out of the soil. Adams lives two blocks from the garden in a former industrial building with almost no outdoor space, so she’s glad to have a place to grow vegetables.

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What’s Blooming Now in Philadelphia Gardens? Columbine Flowers

Photo: Virginia C. McGuire

Photo: Virginia C. McGuire

If you garden in Philadelphia, you’re probably a connoisseur of shade plants. We have big old trees hanging over narrow streets. We have tall row houses and looming apartment buildings that block sunlight. And many of us have small, dark backyards. It’s easy to get a hundred gorgeous shades of green packed into one garden, but the options are more limited for flowering shade plants.

You can’t go wrong with bleeding hearts and hellebores, but I have a special weakness for columbines. There are dozens of varieties, and in many cases the colors are exquisite–deep purples, pale yellows, dark reds and pearly blues. The flowers look like something from an alien landscape, and the buds look like tentacled sea creatures.

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Avenue of the Arts Pop-Up Garden Opens Next Week, Sangria Included [RENDERING]

Pop_Up_Rendering FEATURED

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) will open another of its pop-up gardens next week across from the Kimmel Center on Broad Street. This year’s garden is a collaborative effort, with input from University of the Arts, Avram Hornik of Four Corners Management, and the landscape design firm Groundswell Design Group, which won an award for its work on Morgan’s Pier. The above rendering is its proposed design for the new the PHS pop-up garden.

The temporary garden will function as an outdoor cafe with craft beer, sangria and food by chef George Sabatino, who’s also in charge of the food at Morgan’s Pier (which opens next week just north of the Ben Franklin Bridge).

PHS uses its pop-up gardens to educate Philadelphia residents about its projects, including City Harvest, which provides fresh food from the city’s community gardens to 1,000 families in need every week. It also makes use of vacant space–last year, the pop-up was in the empty lot on Rittenhouse Square where the old Eric Twin movie theater used to be.

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