Tour of the Winterthur quarry garden (in the rain!)

Winterthur quarry garden horticulturist
Pouring rain did not deter a small group of visitors from touring the quarry garden at Winterthur, the former estate of Henry Frances DuPont. Beneath a broad umbrella and underscored by a staccato of raindrops, Jim Pirhalla, horticulturist in charge of the quarry garden, described how “HF” at the age of about 81 in 1961 decided to convert what had been a working quarry in earlier times into an ornamental garden. Stone was brought in and placed by crane to create a terrace effect against the quarry wall backdrop for pocket plantings. On our early May visit, rose-colored primula japonica in the quarry basin was blossoming profusely- peaking, Pirhalla said. He explained how water channels in the quarry bottom were created because a bog-like environment would not be suitable for such plants. The channels had to be dug out again in the 1990s after silting up. Some employees who had been with Winterthur a very long time related to Pirhalla that they had drunk quarry water in days long past. Fed by a natural spring and water funneling into the quarry from the fields, the channel water flows into Wilson run (known at Winterthur as “Clenny” run for the farmer who once worked the area) before joining the Brandywine Creek. The quarry is also an oasis for orioles, catbirds, robins, warblers, wrens and all sorts of birds, some migrating through, and even in winter, as the quarry area never freezes up; as Pirhalla related this, birdsong accompanied him. Watch video of quarry garden tour here.

More photos of Winterthur here.


Tabling at Brown's Shoprite for Earth Day

NN earth day tabling
On Earth Day 2021, a team from Philadelphia Neighborhood Networks, a grass roots political organization, hosted an informational table inside the Brown’s ShopRite on Fox Street in Philadelphia. Spokesperson Merle Savedow explained, “What we’re doing is try to raise the awareness of how to stop climate change and promote responsible sustainable living” Signs like “There is no planet B” adorned a tri-fold display and on the table were earth friendly products such as reusable sandwich wrappers. Grocery patrons appeared pleased to receive free reusable Shoprite shopping bags. Along with the bags, the activists offered shoppers a flyer with a checklist of earth friendly actions on one side and notice of a rally happening nearby later in the afternoon. The rally goal was to get SEPTA and the City of Philadelphia to shut down the polluting fracked natural gas plant in the Nicetown neighborhood and switch to renewable energy sources. Watch video and interview of environmental activists tabling at a neighborhood grocery here.


Urban youth equestrian program acquires pony cart for some fun

Lezlie hiner pony cart
Pony cart bikeTo save a rusted but sturdy pony driving cart from the dumpster, your correspondent and his spouse attached it to the back of our car and towed it home. A driving cart is meant for a leisure ride for two people drawn by a horse or pony. The retail value of a new one is upwards of $500. Luckily we were able to find it a new home. Lezlie Hiner is the founder of the acclaimed Work to Ride organization based at Chamonix Equestrian Center in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park. Work to Ride is an award winning horsemanship and polo program for urban youth. As long as they commit to the hard work of tending to the horses and doing stable chores such as mucking out stalls the kids can ride. Hiner plans to teach one of the program’s 33 horses how to drive the cart (after studying up herself) and doesn’t expect it to be too hard. She thinks it will be fun for the kids to take the cart out in Fairmount Park, once they get a seat attached, perhaps out along Kelly or West River Drive. She anticipates that all the kids will want a chance. Many years ago Hiner had a horse out at an old hog farm in Lafayette Hill, PA when polo-playing friends introduced her to the sport. The rest is history. After we loaded the cart into the bed of her pick-up truck, she tied it to the car’s frame with a slip knot, used in tethering horses. For your correspondent’s edification, she demonstrated it twice. “Got that?” At the time of publication, Work to Ride had posted a short video of the kids enjoying the cart- being pulled through the barn by one of them pedaling a bicycle! Watch interview here with founder of urban youth equestrian program about the pony cart.