Philadelphia’s Not-So-Secret Garden

PHS garden

Pop-ups appear in cities everywhere, but mostly selling European sneakers and street artwork. In Philadelphia, things are a bit more down to earth, literally. The Philadelphia Horticultural Society (PHS) recently teamed up with a variety of local businesses, star chefs, academics, artists and urban farmers to create the PHS Pops Up, a temporary garden carved out of a once-gritty vacant lot at the corner of Market and 20th streets.

The nearly 32,000 square-foot temporary oasis—unveiled on June 13th—is home to a seasonal mix of herbs, vegetables, flowers, and grains, all planted in a pattern inspired by Piet Mondrian’s geometric grid compositions. Arching over the entrance to the space is “écolibrium,” an exhibit of sustainable greenery erected by Temple University Ambler for this year’s Philadelphia International Flower Show. Visitors can check out the verdant spot every Wednesday and Thursday from noon to 2p.m., when the grounds will host tours, fitness classes (botanical bootcamp?), and workshops on topics like container gardening and edible landscapes.

planting at PHS gardenAnother way to get a taste of the PHS Pops Up: Book a table at some of the city’s best restaurants. Six famed Philadelphia chefs—Daniel Stern of R2L, Guillermo Tellez of Square 1682, Chris Scarduzio of Table 31, Michael Schulson of Sampan, Marcie Turney of Barbuzzo, and Lynn Rinaldi of Paradiso—will create special dishes using the produce currently taking seed in the garden, with proceeds being donated to City Harvest.

It’s a cool concept that gives back to the community and elevates Philly’s rapidly growing locavore food scene. If you don’t have time to sample all six of the restos and you only have time for one stop, we suggest Barbuzzo—the experience of dining there recently was so flavorful and brilliantly balanced that we can only describe it as food nirvana. Eco enthusiasts should plan a trip soon, as the PHS Pops Up will only be on display until October. At that point, it will be dismantled but bloom again next spring in a new location.

To learn more about PHS, visit

For tips on things to do and places to stay in Philadelphia, read offManhattan’s article, Beyond the Liberty Bell: Finding What’s New in an Old Town.

How to get there: Consult the Philadelphia Transportation guide in the Transportation Advisor section of offManhattan.