Civic Beautification in Philadelphia
The Neighborhood Garden Association of Philadelphia was started in 1953 by Mrs. James Bush-Brown, retired Director of the School of Horticulture for Women at Ambler, Pennsylvania, with the purpose of beautifying through window boxes and gardens, the blighted areas of the city. The first year seven garden blocks with four hundred boxes participated. By 1959, the project included 272 blocks and numerous gardens in vacant lots and around individual homes.
When a group decides to improve the appearance of a block, it forms a block unit, enlisting the services of the occupants of the houses. The members make their own boxes, set them up, and fill them with soil. Then the block is assigned to a suburban garden club, whose members supply the block with plants and instruct the owners on planting and care. Blocks hold weekly meetings in members' homes, and there is a monthly get-together in a community center.
The Philadelphia project is valuable because it helps to clean up untidy city blocks and makes them attractive with plants. It also teaches community cooperation among the occupants of tenements and apartments. Because of its success, other cities have sent delegates to study the methods. The Tonawanda Project near Buffalo, New York, and the beautification contests of the Beacon Hill Garden Club and the Beacon Hill Civic Association, as well as the Federation of South End Settlements, of Boston have been inspired by the Philadelphia project.
Visitors to Boston in recent years have noted the row of planters along the Tremont Street Mall on the Boston Common in the heart of the downtown shopping area. In all there are twenty-seven rectangular brick planters, each eighteen and one half feet long, six feet wide, and twenty inches high with a single outlet for watering. Between them are twenty-five circular brick planters, six feet in diameter and twenty inches high. Each circular bed holds a white flowering crab-apple with a ground cover of evergreen creeping euonymus. The rectangular planters are edged with low Japanese yew, sheared to twelve inches, and some of the beds have patterns of clipped boxwood in the manner of a knot garden. In spring, the beds are gay with 10,000 bulbs of early-flowering tulips, Vermilion Brilliant, Pelican, Rising Sun, and General de Wet. These are replaced with summer-flowering plants-geraniums, begonias, petunias, ageratums,
and marigolds. Mr. John Kane, the Superintendent of the Greenhouses of the Boston Park Department, maintains the beds with two full-time gardeners.