A Day in the Life of Spruce Street Harbor Park Mastermind David Fierabend

The landscape architect of the moment on inspiration, french fries and secret gardens.

Chances are, you’ve spent some quality summer hours at Spruce Street Harbor Park (and if you haven’t, well, go). It’s tough not to be impressed by the atmosphere there — the food trucks and hammocks, sure, but also the plantings, perfectly weathered decor and general aesthetic of the place. That’s all thanks to green thumb David Fierabend, the owner of Groundswell Design Group and star landscape architect. So who better to dish on inspiration? We got Fierabend to share his favorite haunts in the city, how he gets inspired, and just how many plants are in the park (15,000)!


These are a few of Fierabend’s favorite things. | Photography by Courtney Apple.

“I’m up and out by 6 a.m. I usually kick off the day with a French roast from One Shot Coffee in Northern Liberties, my first of many. I stop at probably five different coffee shops a day. // Everyone’s always hungry in our office, which is an old storefront in Northern Liberties. When we can get in without a wait, we grab lunch at [3] Honey’s Sit ’N Eat on 4th and Brown. They have my favorite french fries in the city. // I have a collection of over 300 [5] garden and design books, and I love paging through them for inspiration. I add at least five to the collection every week.

On a (very rare) day off, you’ll find me on the barges at Spruce Street Harbor Park, sitting at the second picnic table between Chifa and the beer container, taking in all our hard work—and maybe having a cocktail, too. My ideal relaxation is a nice walk to Liberty Lands Park with my four-legged family. I have four rescue dogs. They’re basically my children.

My style is very eclectic. I especially like the cottons at [2] United By Blue in Old City, as well as Jack Wills on 16th and Walnut. // I love my [6] hand-forged pruning shears. They were handmade in France and were given to me as a gift. I keep them in my car and use them only on special pruning occasions. // The best-kept secret garden in Philadelphia is at [4] Old Swedes’ Church in Queen Village. It’s a gorgeous building architecturally, with a lot of history and a beautiful garden, too.

For a drink or to hang out, the best outdoor spot is Talula’s Garden, hands down. Try the Beekeeper cocktail. Bardot in Northern Liberties is another favorite hangout of mine. // We have hundreds of [1] sketches pinned up all over our office walls. It’s a map of where we’ve been and where we are.”