Eclectic Homes

Garbage to Garden: A Vacant Philly Lot Gets Some Green-Thumb Love

The owner of a brand new coffee shop in Philadelphia’s Point Breeze region hired designer and artist Becky Bourdeau to make an open urban garden space and inviting seating areas in a abandoned garbage-strewn plot out back. Presently a garden of tough but beautiful plants and open space, seating, room for a slow walk and an airy living wall make a spot that rewards the whole neighborhood. Here is how Bourdeau did it, complete with a listing of those low-maintenance plants she employed and realistic tips for producing a vertical garden of your own.

Project: Urban lot–turned–public garden
Location: Point Breeze area of Philadelphia
Budget: $20,000 (Doesn’t include debris removal and fencing)

Before Photo

Becky Bourdeau @ Potted

“One of the features of this area I especially love is the high degree of community interaction and involvement,” states Bourdeau, of this company The City Outside. “The street out in front is often an expansion of front porches, providing a communal place for those neighbors in row houses to socialize and join they wheel out the Weber kettle grill, two or three coolers, the children play tag and puppies doze in sunlight. It’s fantastic.”

She had the unique job of creating a spot where the café patrons could sit and revel in their own lattes, but she also wanted to make it crystal clear that everyone was welcome to utilize the garden. “I think in the worth of amazing surroundings and the plethora of unconscious and conscious ways they enrich our own lives,” she states. “Given what the space was and needing to be sensitive to the occupants, it was significant to me that the neighborhood people should love it, and to also feel as though we built and designed it with love”

Becky Bourdeau @ Potted

AFTER: The owner took good care of clearing the debris, garbage and Jersey barriers. Following the whole lot was scraped down to about 6 inches below grade. The setup team from Philadelphia’s Urban Jungle laid landscape fabric over the soil, then added 6 inches of pea gravel.

“Pea gravel is one of my favorite garden flooring materials, since it’s stylistically flexible, environmentally sensitive and relatively inexpensive,” Bourdeau states. “In this region the stone contains a lot of yellows and ochers, which lends a beautiful warm, weatherproof quality to the bridges and garden that the cool neutral of the cement benches as well as the warm wood of this fencing.”

Pea gravel is practical too. “It’s simple for dog walkers to clean up after their pets, allows rapid access to the irrigation lines under for troubleshooting and maintenance, and can be permeable,” she states. “Perhaps best of all, pea gravel is loose and crunchy below your feet, making it near impossible to walk fast. By forcing visitors to slow down physically, I’m hopeful that they do so mentally and emotionally too.”

As for getting people to sit a spell and revel in the garden, you will find just two minimalist concrete benches, and the café has added Adirondack chairs. “It’s a marvelously bright and comfortable place to sit with a book or simply visit with passersby,” she states.

Boudreau made a feeling of order, calm and calm with keeping objects symmetrical and broad, placing clusters of plants in the center and the corners of this space, and grouping inground plants in sets of threes to make visual rhythm.

She chose low-maintenance, drought-tolerant plants that can stand up to the urban conditions, such as “hands-on love by little kids, she says.” These include:

Zebra grasses: Placed in opposite corners for vertical form and enjoyable, they have striped yellow and green foliage.
Summer Wine Ninebark: In a row for contrasting purple bronze foliage and butterfly-attractive blossoms in early summer
Northern Bayberry: A row of showy powder-blue berries that attract birds
‘Bright Edge’ Yucca and Burgundy Voodoo Sedum: All these are plantedin the three 40-inch Campania cast-stone Zen bowls in the center.
Green Carpet Juniper: This tough-as-nails burial enthusiast was the right choice for the planter openings on the two benches from Campania.
Weeping Eastern White Pines: In the far end of the garden, Bourdeau planted these sculptural trees in oversized black pots.
Growing hydrangeas: All these are based in narrow rectangular fiberglass planters and scale up industrial steel mesh trellises.

Becky Bourdeau @ Potted

Bourdeau addressed the long expanse of fencing with vertical gardens that add soft functions of art to the garden. “We employed black Woolly Pockets attached directly to the fence and planted a variety of pocket-appropriate perennials and shrubs to make textural, seasonal and color interest,” she states.

Bourdeau advises considering your dwelling walls as window boxes when picking plants. “Little perennials and shrubs, annuals, even mini edibles, such as cherry tomatoes and strawberries, do very well in them. Much like window boxes, an individual ought to anticipate that perennials and shrubs will outgrow their pockets two to five years,” she states.

The urban- and pocket-tolerant plants she selected for this dwelling wall include:

Rozanne hardy geranium: All these provideblue flowers all summer long on trailing foliage that turns red red in autumn.
Lonicera Edmee Gold: To get a pop of evergreen chartreuse foliage on clean, trailing stems
Campanula ‘Cherry Bells’: For dusky purple blossom interest in summertime
Euonymus Moonshadow’: For bold, creamy golden and green variegated foliage that is not only evergreen but requires on a beautiful purple-pink blush through winter
Variegated liriope: For grassy textured comparison and black berries
Coral Bells ‘Palace Purple’: For magnificent mounds of purple leaves and airy sprays of Small flowers in spring and summertime
Bergenia ‘Winter Glow’: For rich, leathery broad leaves that turn red through winter

Becky Bourdeau @ Potted

Living partitions are so hot, but truthfully, how easy are they to plant and keep? As it happens, they need a lot of care due to the intense planting conditions.

“The unpleasant fact is that we are still in the infancy of creating living wall technologies, and as such, the majority of them begin looking great, but it’s common to see dieback of 20 percent or more of the initial plant material,” Bourdeau states. “Even if you don’t see dramatic losses, crops will need pruning, attentive watering, and also have a shorter than normal life span. In a nutshell, vertical gardens are high maintenance!”

Her advice for vertical gardening success is to acquire your expectations in sequence: “You have got to understand what you are working with, know what your crops will willingly put up and be ready for a lot of trial and error.”

If you are still ready to forge ahead, Bourdeau highly recommends that the wall-mounted, breathable pockets from Woolly Pocket and Root Pouch. “They’ve grommets for simple attachment to a sturdy surface and may be used as single planters or modularly to cover bigger areas,” she states.

She adds, “The comparatively large reservoir for soil is the actual secret — healthy root systems would be the secret to sexy plants, and because each is a self-contained planter, nutrients and water are kept more evenly from the surface of a living wall all the way into the bottom.” Which to Select? “Woolly Pockets have the advantage of being lined with a plastic interior layer, making them suitable to be used indoors with no additional backing material,” she states. “Root Pouches possess a tiny bit of extra breathability and drainage, because of no plastic liner”

Last, “unless you’ve only got one or two pockets, watering by hand is ridiculous,” she states. “Invest in a trickle irrigation setup. You’ll be so glad you did!”

More: 11 Inspiring Vertical Gardens

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