Category: Green

No One Puts the Northeast in the Corner!

Photo by Laura Kicey

Photo by Laura Kicey

It’s a bummer when your own part of town gets the cold shoulder from its neighboring sections. Honestly, I love all of Philly. If I could write one giant love note praising every single aspect, ugly and beautiful, I would. But when it comes to Northeast Philadelphia, where I grew up, it often seems to [...]

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So Thoreau: 6BR Home Within the Schuylkill Valley Nature Center

spring lane porch

Nature! Trees! The jackhammer of woodpeckers. The burnish of fireflies. The postprandial belch of bullfrogs. It’s all at hand around this beautiful home–4,700 square feet of living space that’s not only close to nature, it’s embededded in Nature with a captial N. Built in 1850, the six-bedroom, four-bathroom home shares land is within the Schuylkill Valley Nature Center, though its two acres are separated from Nature Center visitors by a private road. Inside the three-story house, historical details have been preserved, from woodwork to wood floors. But it’s the environment that really makes the home special.

The land, the ambience, is charming and peaceful–the kind of place where the current owners, who have been in the house for 27 years, sit in the kitchen and watch birds flit to their feeder. And not just the feeder: A local horticulturalist created a mini arboretum on the property with young and mature trees and plants that bloom–and attract birds–year-’round. Aside from the natural music, the quiet of the place is profound.

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Community Garden Profile: American Street’s Huerta del Pueblo


The community garden on American Street between Somerset and Cambria is a project of Congreso de Latinos Unidos, a social service organization in North Philly. The garden is called “La Huerta del Pueblo,” which means, loosely translated, community garden. It was established a year ago on city-owned land, and has gone from being a trash-strewn eyesore to blooming with flowers and food crops.

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Afternoon Obsession: Europe’s Sexy Adaptive Reuse of the Middle Ages


As a mixed-media enthusiast, from scrap art paintings to live-action and animated films, I appreciate creative symbiosis. In architecture and design, an amalgamation of old and new, or the right blending of styles, can create an aesthetically stimulating and functionally appealing space.

Such fusions work particularly well in Europe, where architects have access to structures dating back to the Middle Ages. Architizer highlights several renovation projects from Spain to Romania that transform 200- to 700-year-old palaces, barns and towers into residences, libraries or museums that acknowledge the past while welcoming the future. They’re also environmentally friendly.

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Garden Profile: Artist’s Cherry Tree in a Back Yard in Northern Liberties

Northern Liberties backyard garden

Photo: Virginia Claire McGuire

Artist Julie Stone Waring bought her house in Northern Liberties almost 15 years ago, and her garden has changed a lot over the years. At first, the yard was full sun, with a big fruiting cherry tree and grapes growing along a wall. But that has changed in the years since.

“Developers have decided to build on every inch of Northern Liberties,” Waring said. “My yard has turned into a shady yard with a few sunny spots.”

Most recently, developers built a three-story house immediately behind her yard, further limiting her sun exposure. She especially misses the evening light in the garden.

“Since I don’t have as much sun, I have been growing fewer vegetables and more flowers,” she said.

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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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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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Property’s Morning Obsession: Art Installation at Fort Mifflin That Will Blow Your Mind

hidden city festial fort miff line

One of the tree houses built by Neiditz and Webber at Fort Mifflin for the Hidden City Festival. Or was it there before? Photo: Liz Spikol

You’re walking through the woods, along a path that snakes along the Delaware River. Alongside the path are broken, mysterious structures–ruins of buildings, wood and metal industrial tools that are hard to identify, tree houses with ladders that beg you to climb them. See a canvas rope embedded in sand, follow its length, and discover a wooden bridge that traverses the tidal waters of the Delaware–filled with all the things that have washed up on these shores. Can you guess what they are? A tube of lip gloss. A rubber duck. The hull of a boat. And bottles–dozens, maybe hundreds of plastic bottles.

This installation piece rewards curiosity. For hikers who always stay along a marked trail, the gauntlet is thrown: The only way to assuredly discover each and every one of Ben Neidetz and Zach Webber’s surprises is to let your imagination–and that of your kids, if you’ve got some–take flight.

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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* tulips *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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Eagles’ 2013 Offseason: Jeff Lurie and Co. Hit North Philly With Paintbrushes

jeff lurie at playground

Jeff Lurie at the Playground Build.

Yesterday the Eagles–players, coaches, cheerleaders, etc.–went to the William D. Kelley School to make a sort of crappy asphalt wasteland (no offense intended) into a happy playground graced by a colorful mural. Lots of kids were on hand to greet the players and have their shirts autographed, and then everyone settled in to do some work, much of which involved painting a wall that was designed in conjunction with the Mural Arts Program. Jeff Lurie seemed especially peppy while painting, perhaps due to his recent nuptials. More →