Monday, November 24

Stormwater in Action at the Queen Lane Bumpouts in East Falls

I stopped by the Queen Lane Bumpouts last Monday to check on the plants and it was raining pretty steadily for the first time since I started monitoring them for the East Falls Development Corporation.  I got to see the water fill up the structure's first bay, spill over the dividing wall and drop out in the second bay. I was surprised how little water was exiting out the end and headed to the storm drain.


It's amazing that the trees and plants can withstand the high water to completely dry conditions at other times.  The next day, Karen Melton, the volunteer I work with in the Soak It Up! Adoption program, had her husband check them out (she was away) and reported that they were dry and all of that water had infiltrated back into the ground. Amazing!

Wednesday, October 1

Print Contest! Halloween Prints, Cape Cod and Open Studio

I'm having an Open Studio event next
Sunday, Oct. 12 from 12-4 pm 

I've been thinking about what prints and cards
to have at the sale and of course I have many
for the Halloween season, including images of
the Eastern State Penitentiary

The cemeteries of Ashville, SC

and Charleston, SC

New nature images from Cape Cod, Mass.

Philly friendly images

Bikes of Philly

and nature prints from all over

What do you suggest?
Take a look through my etsy shop and
leave a comment with the images or themes
you would like to see at the Manayunk sale
and one lucky winner will be selected to
receive a free print at the sale 
(or by mail if you can't make it)

Monday, September 15

What Our Trash Says About Us: Queen Lane Stormwater Bumpouts

Budweiser Can in the Soil

Queen Lane Bumpouts in East Falls

New York Ironweed, Joe Pye Weed and Goldenrod

This past week I started a new job monitoring stormwater 
structures in East Falls and collecting trash and photographs 
for the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD). Queen 
Lane has six bumpouts along the edge of the Queen Lane 
Reservoir. They vary in length and plantings and were installed 
in 2011, when they were a first for Philadelphia. They continue to 
inform how new bumpouts are designed and planted and 
provide lessons in how people feel about the structures and 
what helps them succeed.

Wrapper in the Planting Bed

Pulling trash out of the structures, I'm surprised first by how
little trash there is.  Most of the beds are full of plants that
are flowering and oak trees with acorns and the bases of some
are covered in grasses.  The trash I do find I collect in a bag
to determine the volume of trash.  I met with a neighbor today
who said when they were recently planted, they were full of trash.
But now as the plants have grown in and they flourish, less trash
gets tossed into them.


The trash I do find, though, is telling.  Alcohol cans, a Budweiser
and a Yuengling can tossed in on the sidewalk side and a
bottle of Crown Royal tucked under some grasses, remind
me how close we are to local Universities, just down the block. 
Cigarette butts and wrappers, Virginia Slims, Newports 
and Marlboros, some fresh and clustered in one bed and 
others old and tangled in piles of leaf debris near drains, 
remind me how smokers forget butts are trash and one 
becomes many when you add everyone else's cigarette trash.

Bag of Iceberg Lettuce

Wrappers from candy are also common.  Dum Dums, 
Peanut Chews, Big Slice Pops, Extreme Airheads,
chocolate covered pretzels, Tastycake, Freezer Pops, 
I'm guessing some kids walk this route on
their way to and from school.

Dunkin Donuts Coffee Cup, Cream and Sugar

Fast food trash is also common, even though fast food
restaurants are not close by.  A Wendy's french fries cup
would have to travel almost a mile to a mile and a half
depending on which Wendy's they came from.  

A McDonald receipt had to come from at least a
mile away.  The Dunkin Donuts cup could have come
from one of many gas station Dunkins across the
area. And the Wawa orange juice mush have traveled
at least 4.5 miles away and probably traveled further.

You can see some of the trash makes its way
into the beds via wind (plastic bag) or water
(cigarette butts) or wandering trash on trash day
(how the lettuce made it over there, I don't know),
but much of the trash is that Philly tradition of
drop it and it disappears.  It's like it never existed,
that's where trash goes, right? It just goes down the
drain, no need to worry about it.  It's so small
it doesn't matter. When I was little I threw wrappers
on the ground and my friends and I were
creeped out by the neighbor who picked up
trash. Ewww, he touched it! Trash is dirty.

It wasn't until I started working for environmental
organizations that I really started noticing
all the trash in nature and taking responsibility
for it.  When we hike,  we pick it up and take it
out.  When I taught nutrition, I never had to 
buy sample drink containers, I just needed
to walk by a school and I could collect plenty
of sodas, fake juices, sugar teas and chip bags.

They didn't disappear.  They're right there. 
In a pile,by the gutter, in the trolley tracks.  
They might wash into the drain,
but then they end up in the creek and river.
I see them when I walk near the banks by 
Boat House Row or Bartram's Garden.
The ducks are swimming in the trash and
it's backing up the waterways and outflows.

I'm glad the trash in the bumpouts is minimal and that
the nicer they look, the less trash they get in them.
I hope the amount of trash can get even smaller
and it starts with educating people who walk by.

Sunday, August 31

Craft Supply Swap: Handmade Philly TODAY!

Handmade Philly
August 31
12-2 pm

at the

Photo by Johanna Austin

Iron Factory
118 Fontain St
3rd Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19122
in Kensington
near the Berks Stop on the El

Suggested Donation

Thursday, July 17

Grumblethorpe Garden: Photographs Through the Years


In my most recent research into the garden at Grumblethorpe House 
in Germantown, I found more images, including the one at top of a woman
in Victorian dress walking in the side yard.  Closest to her is the Overcup Oak,
 described by a visitor to the garden in 1904, that was taken down 
in the late 1990's due to poor tree health.  Behind the fence stands the 
gingko to the left and the beech to the right, both which you can come 
visit today in the garden.  The chicken wire surrounding the new tree 
in the foreground may be the dogwood which is also still in the garden.

In my online searching I found a collection of photographs taken by 
Alfred Hand in 1920-21 that is part of the Library Company of Philadelphia's
 collection They show the garden and the house  including the old porch 
overhang (now removed), the carpenter's shop, the observatory
and smokehouse (before they were destroyed) and
the property wall before much of it collapsed. 

You can also see some of the trees and the grape vine and
wisteria vine over the arbor that are still there.

I'm putting together an exhibit of images of the garden and
the stories of the Wister Family characters and their
gardening and farming 
experiences from their journals and sketches.  

These are some designs in progress for posters to be displayed
in the garden to share some of the history with visitors today.
There will be a few more including some focusing on
the farm and the bee keeping activities that include funny
comments from the Wister family, which included
multi-talented poets, musicians, botanists, artists, winemakers,
merchants, astronomers, farmers, scientists and gardeners.

Sunday, December 15

Latest Project: Delaware Ave along the River, Berks Park

 Visions include work by OLIN on Master Plan for the Delaware, 
the Winn Casino proposal and Interface's Master Plan for Northern Liberties

Thursday, May 23

Grumblethorpe Mysteries: Historic Home and Garden in Germantown


Historic Grumblethorpe on Germantown Ave. built in 1744 (photo source:

Herb Garden (in April) off of the kitchen with sundial 

I began my internship with Grumblethorpe in April with the task of bringing some order to the herb garden, designing a pollinator garden for the students who come to learn about caterpillars and butterflies, 
and to add signs and design a brochure for visitors.  

It has evolved into a mystery solving expedition for me: 

What plants were grown here by the Wister family historically? 
and how to exemplify the fantastic exploration and scientific  
curiosity with weather, rare plants, minerals, bees, forests, and astronomy 
that was a part of the Wister homestead?

 A vegetable and formal bed beyond, with the ancient Ginko tree on the left

 Formal bed with boxwood-border bed and pergola gates

 The observatory Charles Wister built

After reading Suzanne Wister Eastwick's compilation of the family garden records, 
the mystery only deepened with descriptions of family ties to Academy of 
Natural Sciences collections, the first person recollections of the wild garden filled 
with collected orchid and fern species from the Wissahickon, 
the "Beemaster" with 25 hives who brought a swarm 9 miles to the house in a wheelbarrow, 
the amateur astronomer who built an observatory to watch eclipses and the transit of Mercury, 
as well as the interest in meteorology, designing of iron rain gauges and clock-making.

Chickens looking for a bite to eat

 Side path around original stone wall

Sunday, March 31

Public Gardens Public Horticulture Year Two

It's been a very busy semester, and I added a new Saturday class to my roster: Public Horticulture 
which has brought me to some of the most beautiful gardens in the Philadelphia area.

We visited Jenkins Arboretum, a quick drive up the road
from Chesterbrook in Berwyn, PA to tour the grounds and
listen to Doug Tallamy discuss insects and their plants:

Sunday, November 18

Earth Heroes You Never Heard Of

I just stumbled upon this website with little bios of not-so-famous folks who are making a difference in the world and books I have missed that sound like amazing reads!
I was searching for and Andy Goldsworthy book called A Collaboration with Nature and found Whole Earth Provision Co.'s post about his birthday, the paintings of Church and several ecologist/writers/activists I haven't heard of before, but who I want to learn more about.

Monday, October 22

Resources for Eco Designs

Doing some research for a wetland/woodland design and I found these great websites with fun designs for waterways, stormwater management, and creative reuse of materials:

Friday, September 28

Come Out Tomorrow Fall Arts Fest

Getting packed up for the Art Fest! It's going to be HUGE!
Chili Cook Off, Live Bands, 200 art vendors, dancing,
lounges, ETSY, it's going to be amazing!

And no rain!