Saturday, August 3, 2013

Sharing Seminar Photo Album from 2010, 2011, and 2012

Here are some pictures from previous Sharing Seminars

We visited Sally's home to learn about rain barrels and structures to extend the growing season.

We finished the Sharing Seminar at Bartram's Garden with one of their educators. The Franklinia was in bloom! John Bartram found this species of tree on the banks of a river in what is now Georgia. He brought several home and experimented until he got them to grow. His son went back years later and could no longer find any so all Franklinia trees that we have today are descendants from his original collection that he grew right here in Philadelphia!

Our theme the second year had to do with Germantown from the past to the present. We visited historic houses that are used now as living museums with gardens playing a major role in their everyday life, and modern-day community gardens of Germantown and environs. 
We began with a quick tour of the Community Garden at the Mastery Pickett Middle School on Rittenhouse St. at Pulaski and the Old Tennis Court Farm Community Garden on Wissahickon Ave. Our historic home and garden for the day was the Wyck House on Germantown Avenue. The rose garden is known by rose lovers from around the world because of the varieties that are there from the 1800's but in addition there is a working small farm complete with chickens! A small group from a daycare center arrived while we were there to visit with them, clearly a favorite activity! There is also a small grove of Paw-Paw trees! We saw the fruit ripening up in the branches. We were told that the humans rarely get to sample them as the squirrels like them very much! Wyck is also a location for a weekly farmer's market  on Germantown Avenue with both produce grown on the property and tables from other growers and providers. 

We finished the day at the Hansberry Garden and Nature Center at the corner of Wayne and Hansberry and learned their interesting history as one of the oldest community gardens in Germantown. They have both individual raised beds that belong to community members and then some raised beds that are used for programming for the elementary children from the nearby Kelly Elementary School. They fund their facility with weekly flea markets/baked goods and plants sales through the growing seasons. 

On Day 2, we went up to the Andorra section of the city to visit with the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education's "Down on the Farm" camp program leader. The children work and play in a giant field planted with a variety of vegetables. The field had a fence to try and keep the deer out, but had a resident woodchuck that the children were kind of partial to so his home and front porch were in the center of the field in a row of corn!

In a nearby field, a Teens 4 Good program from Roxborough High School had a lush truck farm of produce growing. They sold their produce from a special display at the Shop-Rite on Ridge Avenue. We enjoyed visiting with the young people and learning about their techniques, such as applying a mist of clay and water to the squash plants to discourage pests.

On Day 3 we assembled at the Fairmount Park Horticultural Center. Doris Stahl, our Penn State Ag Extension Horticulture Agent walked with us to view numerous specialty gardens around the facility and then had us each make demonstration compost towers out of plastic one liter bottles.

After that we made a quick trip downtown to meet Sally McCabe at the first iteration of the PHS Pop-Up Garden. Located at 20ieth St. on Market, it was a mix of floral gardens and actual food production gardens, with some nice landscaping and water features to consider as well.  

On Day 4, we travelled to a historic location in North Philadelphia called Fair Hill Burial Ground. A full city block this Quaker cemetery had been ignored for many years. After a local resident of the area wrote to the Philadelphia Meeting requesting that help was needed, a group has revitalized the grounds. The trees are majestic and home to a nesting pair of Red-Tailed Hawks. The committee also hired a community gardener who with the help of the neighborhood children has planted a small truck farm of vegetables. We met Robyn Mello and had a lovely visit and tour of the neighborhood!
Our final site for this year's seminar was at Grumblethorpe, the "Big" Wister house on Germantown Avenue. Built before the Revolutionary War, it was commandeered by the British. The General was wounded and brought back from the battle to die there. you can still see the blood stain in the wood of the floor in the front room. The grounds of Grumblethorpe are ample enough to have a small formal garden area, a kitchen and medicinal herb garden, and then room for chickens, and a large truck garden. The Wister Elementary School is actually located on a side street behind the property and there is a back gate which allows for easy access for school programs. They have a summer program there for youth who also sell their produce at a farmer's market on the property once a week. We appreciated the shade of this old tree as we visited with their director and educator. 

We reduced our Sharing Seminar to three days this year, but still had many places to share! We began at the Mill Creek Urban Farm in West Philadelphia. Farmer Johanna gave us an introduction with the history of the site and the various components that they have added there over the years. We enjoyed the mosaic mural on the building that has their water and electricity (solar panels!). In the background of this image, you can pick out the cob oven that has its own little roof. The main roof on the building is actually a green roof which we were able to climb up to see.
Young people from the neighborhood work at the farm during the summer, and school groups come to the farm for lessons during the school year (there are several elementary and middle schools within easy walking distance from the farm).
From Mill Creek we headed to Longstreth Elementary School on Willow Avenue. Chuck Lafferty has gradually modified the mostly asphalt school yard with small trees, raised beds for neighborhood gardeners, a pond with water plants, and a peace garden with room for multiple classes to sit together for gatherings.

Sally McCabe from PHS and Green City Teachers met us there and served as our guide around the school yard features. Chuck is an Early Childhood Teacher who has taught Kindergarten for many years. He works summers at the Heinz National Wildlife Refuge down near the Philadelphia International Airport. His class developed and planted a small Pollinator Garden there at the refuge so that was our next stop! Refuge Director, Gary Stolz, met us and shared the Pollinator Garden with us. It was a lovely end to our first day, sniffing the flowers and foliage and admiring the first late summer purple Ironweed!

Day 2 began at the Overbrook Art and Environmental Center, on Girard Avenue. We were met there by the founder and director, Jerome Shabazz. He has masterfully amassed a collection of institutions and agencies to help him create and implement the center and programs developed with local school students from Overbrook High School.

The grounds contain native pollinator plants, porous paving in the parking area, a playground up on the hillside and a new high tunnel built upon some storage bins from an earlier life of the facility. The large brick building visible above will hopefully become an indoor community facility for farmer's markets and large gatherings to complement the smaller arts center already in use. From here we moved to the Frankford Friends School in Frankford. Our Master Gardener/Librarian friend from Maryland had brought some wonderful gardening resource materials for us and we needed an indoor (and Air Conditioned) space to work! We wanted to continue what Doris had started last year, by having a  project to make, and were inspired to try making salad trays that we had seen at the American Horticultural Symposium's 25th Annual Symposium on Gardens and Children in July.

The salad trays have both a strong wire base along with hardware cloth to keep the soil in but well drained. The wooden frame is small enough that it can be easily lifted and moved but deep enough to grow salad greens! We luckily had several folks adept with tools to help us all construct our individual salad trays!

 Day 3 found us on our way to Kroc Center, a relatively new Salvation Army facility in a formerly industrial section of Hunting Park Avenue. Along with a theater, health club, and playing fields, they decided to provide a large space for gardening and a roofed pavilion with an outdoor kitchen! Farmer Andy had just started to create the farm in late June of this year. We were very impressed with what he had already accomplished with help of neighborhood folks. 

We liked the children's signage and the innovative protective cover for the basil plants!

Our final site for this year's Seminar was another new garden, this time on the roof of the Children's Seashore House which is a medical facility connected to Children's Hospital in University City. 
It was fascinating to learn about all the challenges of getting this project approved at the hospital, and the beginnings of the research data being collected as the children use the garden. The raised beds are designed to be accessible for wheelchairs and also can be moved around to allow for more flexibility. Some of the patients are involved in physical rehab work while others find relief from pain while gardening. Families of the patients are also welcome on the roof top.  Children made miniature gardens using Wooly Pockets that are hung on the protective fencing. The gardener makes a label for the pocket too. In keeping with the Sea Garden theme, there are piped in sounds from the shore with sea birds and the calming rhythmic waves on the sand which added a magical atmosphere for this special place. It was a lovely ending for the year's Sharing Seminar!

Friday, August 2, 2013

August 13, 14, and 15 
It’s Sharing Seminar on Gardens, Teachers, Children and Youth time again! 

                                 Remember the Hansberry Garden and Nature Center on Wayne Avenue?  

Dear former participants, (or almost participants) and former presenters, 
We are putting the final touches to our plans for this year’s program. This year we will visit a high school, an elementary school, a community-based program and a family 
business! We will learn how to construct a light table for growing plants by making one together! A list of equipment and materials, and instructions will be provided so that you 
can make your own as well. 

The SCEE camp program, “Down on the Farm” with Camila Rivera?   (Love those 
coffee bean burlap bags for the path between the rows!)  

The Teens 4 Good farm in Andorra? 

Many elements remain the same. We will begin each of the three days in Fairmount Park at the Horticultural Center and car pool together to the sites. We will end back at the Center to picnic and share our reactions, questions, and plans. The 
program continues to be free of charge and flexible to the needs and schedules of participants. We welcome participants for all 3 days, or  just joining us at one site if that 
is what works for an individual. 

The Franklinia tree in bloom at Bartram’s Garden?  

Please consider joining us this year. We also ask that you share this information with anyone you think might be interested as well. 

or rain barrels and season extenders at Sally’s house?  

Thanks in advance, hoping to hear from you, we remain ... Fern and Penny

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Day 1 of AHS Children, Youth and Gardening Symposium
July 11. 2013
Insect census underway in the cool morning
Over 200 people are here, teachers from public and private schools, nature center and botanic garden educators, writers and artists, university professors, retired professionals and volunteers. We met a volunteer for the Denver Botanical Garden who grew up in Frankford and Mayfield and who still has relatives living on Ramona Street and a storyteller from Jonesborough, TN who grew up in Conshohocken!
Skunkbush Sumac
We were delighted to see Pam Hosimer, our new old friend/environmental educator from Maryland, who will join us for our three-day gathering in August.  And, of course, Jane Taylor, illustrious alum of Frankford Friends School, retired horticulturalist at Michigan State University and founder of the 4-H Children's Garden at MSU, now living in Maine, is here in all her energy and glory.  (Jane loves telling people I'm "her principal," as well as how much she adored the school!)
kitchen gardens

We had some time before the workshops began to tour part of the immense and absolutely beautiful Denver Botanical Garden, including a natural Ponderosa Pine trail, a woodland garden, a desert garden and, finally, the Japanese Garden.  What struck me about that particular garden is that, while the structure is definitely Asian, all the plant material is native.  Ponderosa Pines have been sculpted to look like trees from Japan, and all the bushes are trimmed annually to maintain a dome shape to remind the visitor of boulders.  There's a tea house and a new bonsai walk, all very peaceful and lovely.

pondorosa pine

Japanese garden with pond
Workshops today included one about Washington DC's new program to connect the 93 public schools that have gardening programs and to create a network of School Garden Coordinators, using municipal funds.  The Coordinators meet for professional development and mutual support once a month, and less-advantaged schools can apply for grants of approximately $10,000 per school, all paid for by a tax on carbonated drinks!  (Read this and weep, Philadelphia!)

Another workshop, led by the programming director for the Hersey Children's Garden, described their natural play space and the many programs they have for families, camp and school groups and "drop-ins" throughout the year.  Using interns and volunteers, the garden sees up to 8,000 children a month in the summer, giving them the opportunity to explore the natural environment. 
a formal area
Beth Cerannon, program director of the Bookworm Garden in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, shared a wide range of cheap arts and environmental activities, all directly related to books.  She sees approximately 6,000 children each year and has a program budget of just $1,000! 
After lunch, University of Colorado professor Louise Chawla provided an overview of the mounting research supporting the importance of children's having easy and regular access to "nearby nature."  Her emphasis was on how this access strengthens children's ability to overcome adversity, lower stress levels, maintain focus and become the future protectors of the earth.  As she said, "What's good for adults is good for children, and what's good for children is good for the planet."  A compilation of that research is available on the AHS website (

looking out (from the shade) into the fields

Even the rabbit was hot!

The day ended with a trip to Chadwick, Denver Botanical Gardens Farm, just outside of the city in the foothills of the Rockies.  It was not a day for a leisurely stroll around the gardens as the temperature hit 102 degrees, but we did have plenty of time to sit in the shade, listen to some bluegrass music and talk with people from all over the country who share our passion for gardening with kids.  What better way to end our first day!

Sunday, June 23, 2013


We've scheduled this year's Sharing Seminar

and hope you'll join us!

Tuesday, August 13th through Thursday, August 15th we'll meet from 8:30 to 1:00 to visit interesting Philly-area gardening programs, share our own ideas and build new skills.
Last year we visited Millcreek Farms in West Philadelphia, the new farm at the Kroc Center, a new environmental center in Overbrook and a wonderful outdoor classroom in a hospital!  We also had a workshop on gardening activities with children and built Salad tables.
We have exciting plans for this year!
For more information, please contact us:

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Day 2, Educators Gathering, August, 2011

We started at Down on the Farm Summer Camp at The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education ( with a tour with Camila Rivera-Tinsley, Environmental Educator for the Center.

The Farm Camp, for ages 7-9 years old, has a different theme each week, ranging from Plants: Parts and Products to The Scoop on Poop (great name, huh?).  A hands-on camp with lots of outdoor and arts-related activities, Down on the Farm has a two-acre farm plot and also uses the Center's grounds and a historic house for indoor activities.

Camila taught us how to make hives for native bees ( a very important thing to do now)- see Day 1 Post for instructions.

Two of the teen farmers working in the rows, spraying a clay mixture on cabbage
to deter non-beneficial bugs and slugs.

Teens4Good ( is a summer and after school program to nurture youth entrepreneurs.  Currently there are six Philadelphia gardens they maintain and then sell their produce at area farm stands and at the Shoprite in Roxborough.  Scott Brainard serves as the consultant farmer, and James Whitaker toured us and serves as the team leader at the Roxborough farm located on Schuylkill Center's property.  This looks like a real farm!  LOTS of work for these young people, all of whom were so proud of their produce.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Day 1 of our Gathering, continued

Our last stop on Day 1 was to this historic house in Germantown, Grumblethorpe, home of the Wister family during the Colonial era.  Today it's a museum and a working garden which offers programs for school groups.

There are classes for Kindergarten through 5th grade students which focus on nutrition, worms and bugs, "old and new world" veggies, architecture of the Colonial times and vegetables around the world; a Youth Volunteer Program, and a Farm Stand that sells vegetables and eggs grown at Grumblethorpe.  This past year a high tunnel was constructed so that plants could be started in the fall and winter for spring planting.

The garden at Grumblethorpe is both beautiful and practical and hosts bees and chickens as well as ornamental and vegetable gardens.  School classes learn while doing in the garden.

Area high school students are employed in the summer to help run the Farm Stand while middle school students grow what's sold.  In addition, baked goods from Grumblethorpe fruit are sold.

We were very impressed by the well thought out curriculum for elementary classes and the various opportunities Grumblehtorpe offers area teens!  The veggies are amazing too!