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.
A mother and daughter, Bea Weidner and Emily Linso (not shown in this photo) took time to smell the roses in the bright and fragrant heritage rose garden at Wyck. A national landmark, Wyck, is the ancestral estate of the Wistar-Haines family located in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. Development Director Kristin Hagar (above at table) welcomed people to a "Celebration of the Roses" open house and explained that heritage roses are generally brighter and have a more potent fragrance than modern roses, but last a shorter time. She welcomes the public to nominate locations where a Wyck heritage rose might be planted for the public to enjoy. Video here.
At a residence in Mount Airy shoppers busily browsed and made purchases from the 500 plus plant collection at the much advertised "Divide and Conquer" plant sale on a beautiful Saturday. James Watts of Germantown holds and Ostrich fern. Molly Mamorian of New York looks over her sister's shoulder. Watch video here.
After 40 years in the police department Avon "Crazy Ed" Wilson now sells plants outside his home on Chew Ave in Germantown. He had seen enough murder and war in the last twenty of his police years working in CSI. Now, four years running, he's been doing "something nice" for the neighbors. He buys plants at Home Depot and Produce Junction and makes arrangements of them in pots. He will bargain with customers but not if they disparage his plants. Wilson's not out to make a profit because he has a pension but tries to break even nonetheless. With his steady customers he tells a running joke: "The thing about my plants - you can't eat 'em and you can't smoke 'em."
Fifty years ago, when John Antonucci’s grandfather, Frank, immigrated from Italy and established his masonry business in North Wales, Pa outside Philadelphia, there was just a stop sign outside at the now busy intersection of Stump Road and Route 309. Frank’s son Salvatore expanded the business and now Sal’s Nursery and Landscaping has nineteen acres of nursery which is mainly a source of plant material for the company’s landscaping operation. Customers can also walk in and buy plants at retail. Sal’s specializes in upscale projects like in-ground pool, pool houses and patio installations. And, unlike the big-box stores, it offers rare varieties and very large specimens so that customers who have lost shrubs or trees say, during the recent rough winter, can match and fill in the gaps in their landscapes. On a crisp spring day, John spoke proudly about the family operation and pointed out several beautiful plants like the cluster of dark red-leafed and flowering ninebarks. (Physocarpus opulifolius)
Your correspondent went to the Chestnut Hill Garden Fest in the morning when it was still drizzly and cold.
But the weather didn't stop the Morris men from dancing and hitting their sticks together and the muscians and Morris men, women, boys and girls from kicking up their heels
Melody Mora,Ten Thousand Villages store manager was outside the store pitching the Village's exclusive small batch fair trade coffee, "Level Ground" while inside associate Tiara Richardson treated customers to tastes and imparted background information.
Meanwhile, Keven Wang was busy at his "Asian Name Painting" stall deftly brushing water colors with small, handmade leather brushes.
Outside the new "Greenology" store, Fritzie, Ken Hay and Harvey Gurst, described the mechanics and construction of koi ponds for aquaponics, growing greens and vegetables.
I returned in the windy but sunny late afternoon to hear a winsome young woman singing "I can't wait". Further up the street the peoples were boogie-ing to "Happy" and "She's a Good Girl" by the City Rhythm Orchestra.
The “locally” grown strawberries that are now showing up at Chestnut Hill groceries can be yours for the picking at farms in Montgomery and Bucks Counties and in New Jersey in nearby Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties. A comprehensive guide can be found at as http://www.pickyourown.org Bill Roach’s family has a tradition of picking fruits and vegetables every year. They got a start this past holiday weekend at Rowand’s Farm in Glassboro, New Jersey. The large strawberry patch, laid out in neat long raised beds, were flush with heavy, red, ripe berries when we arrived but a short hour later families like ours had harvested all but the unripe pink and white berries. The Roaches move from farm to farm in the area and will also be picking cherries, blueberries, raspberries and more as those crops come in. Watch video here.
During a break from cultivating and weeding a raised bed of peas at the Weavers Way Henry Got Crops farm in Roxborough where he volunteers, your correspondent captured a slice of life on the farm.
The farm grows crops mainly for the 120 members of the CSA (“Community Supported Agriculture” organization) but also regularly sells product through the Weavers Way stores in Mount Airy and Chestnut Hill, at an onsite farm stand and downtown at Head House Square.
When I arrived, CSA Manager Nina Berryman was busily sketching out the day’s plan on a chalkboard in the farm shed. I followed Berryman around as she lamented some stunted carrots with experienced worker Minna Latortue, who had just graduated nursing school, examined the cold season greens in the hoop houses, made plans with Laura Mass Forsberg to plant potatoes later in the day then getting her started on a weeding task and finally doing what she calls the hardest part of the job, doing deskwork at a laptop computer communicating with CSA members and such.
I caught up with farm educator Tara Campbell as she waited for the first of four school groups to arrive and watched as she and educator Clare Hyre prepped students from Saul Agricultural High School (where the farm is located) and got them out working down the field.
And ebullient compost guy Scott Blunk showed off the composting operation as he directed a frontend loader to dump just-arrived vegetable waste into the ten thousand pound capacity grinder and activated it massive rotating tines. See small video of Blunk here
Your correspondent shot some footage of cows grazing peacefully but did not include it in the accompanying video because the dairy operation belongs to the Saul School and not Henry Got Crops. Your correspondent also looks forward to comparing notes and photos with Lanie Blackmer who later arrived to do a story for WHYY/Newsworks.
For the third year in a row, Joel Fath and Mira Adornetto of Philly Seed Exchange, set up their table top with seeds and small brown envelopes for packing and labeling seeds on a recent sunny, spring day outside the Weaver’s Way Coop in Mount Airy. According to the organization’s website, http://phillyseedexchange.org, “Philadelphia Seed Exchange is a collective of gardeners and farmers in southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey dedicated to preserving open-pollinated species and developing new plant species to meet the nutrition and caloric needs of our neighborhoods.” The Exchange hosts events like this in different neighborhoods and encourages people to both bring and take seeds although it is not necessary to contribute any seeds to take some. They ask only that participants grow out the plants from the seeds they take and harvest some of the seeds to bring back to the Exchange. One enthusiast who took a seat at the table was Nate Kleinman, who works on community garden projects in the region. He had brought a plastic grocery bag full of seeds including purple bush beans, bloody sorrel, and Nanticoke Indian squash, an heirloom variety of the Nanticoke Indians who lived in South Jersey and Delaware. Raina Ainslie, who had brought some lavender seeds, picked up a packet from Kleinman’s bag of Kyoto moss spores, meant for growing under a bonsai tree or terrarium which she will try out. Through the afternoon, people came and went, congregating around the table, sharing their knowledge as much as the great variety of vegetable, flower and tree seeds. Some contributed bean seedlings were eagerly grabbed up. From left to right: Kleinman, Ainslie, Adornetto. Watch video here.