Garden Court Community Gardens Clean Up

May 27, 2021

Cultivating community has always been a core part of our mission here at Spruce Street, and we are always looking for ways to get involved in the communities that our buildings belong to. In early May we had the opportunity to do just that at our newest property: Garden Court Plaza Apartments in West Philly. 

On May 8th, several Spruce Street Commons team members joined our neighbors to clean up the Garden Court Community Gardens. This initiative was part of the more significant “Love Your Park Week,” an annual event created by Love Your Park: a collaborative program managed by Fairmount Park Conservancy and Philadelphia Parks & Recreation.

While beautification was one of the cleanup goals, broader environmental factors were driving our efforts that many aren’t familiar with. To shine some light on the crucial impact that community gardens have on local ecosystems, we created this blog about the goals of the May 8th cleanup:

Keeping the Plant Community Local

The main goal of the clean-up effort was removing invasive plant species and replacing them with native species. Invasive plant species do not naturally grow in the area and arrive via animals, imported products, or people. Through rapid growth, some invasive species can wreak havoc on local ecosystems, monopolizing the resources of native plants and animals and impacting the lives of local plants and animals.

In comparison, native plants are local to the area and an essential part of the local ecosystem and food web. Native plants also use less water, support pollinators, and even help find climate change.

Laying the Groundwork for a Pollinator Pathway

A significant benefit of planting native species is their role in the ecosystem as pollinators. Due to habitat loss and the wide use of pesticides, pollinating creatures such as bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds are in crisis. As pollination is crucial to our food supply, many environmental and community leaders have established pollinator corridors and pathways to support these critical birds and insects.

Pollinator corridors connect pesticide and herbicide-free gardens where pollinators can take refuge amongst the native plants that help them thrive. The Northeast Pollinator Pathway is the largest network of these gardens in our region, and West Philly recently became the second community to join the efforts in Pennsylvania. With the addition of pollinator-friendly gardens like the Garden Court Community Garden, we hope that the West Philly Pollinator Pathway becomes another robust network for positive environmental change in our city, state, and region.

The Intersection of Environmentalism and Design

Supporting native plants and pollinators doesn’t have to come at an aesthetic cost. The Northeast Pollinator Pathway site includes resources and examples of native plant garden design. The West Philly Native Plant and Pollinators Facebook group provides local, eco-conscious gardeners with a community to share design tips and inspiration with their neighbors. With their unique designs, resilient nature, and ability to bloom for three seasons, native plants can be an excellent asset for the design-minded gardener.

Locally, Spruce Hollow Designs is a leader in native plant-driven garden design. Co-owner and lead designer Christopher Sohnly combines his knowledge of landscape architecture with information from horticulturists and to “incorporate native plants into existing landscapes and create low-maintenance, pollinator-friendly resilient designs.”

Sohnly’s work with area homes and businesses shows the versatility and beauty of native plants-rich, pollinator-friendly gardens. Whether it's a clean-cut lawn with shrubbery, a traditional garden, an eclectic, diverse lawn alternative, the desired outcome can be achieved while keeping native plants and pollinators in mind.

We hope you enjoyed learning more about our park clean-up day and the impact that native plants can have on our ecosystem. While we were familiar with the topic, we weren’t aware of local efforts to combat invasive plants and create the West Philly Pathway until learning more about it at the Love Your Park Event. This is just one of the many reasons why community involvement is so vital to our culture. Working alongside community members is the best way to learn about local issues and help be part of the solution. We are excited to continue to do just that here in Philly.