Garden District Fund prepping for spring planting

by Hillel Hoffmann
Posted 3/31/22

For the 21st consecutive year, the volunteers and small staff of the Chestnut Hill Garden District Fund are sprinting toward their Annual Spring Planting.

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Garden District Fund prepping for spring planting


Tucked behind the Weavers Way Co-op’s Chestnut Hill store on an inconspicuous patch of lawn near the parking lot, Chestnut Hill’s expert gardeners are getting ready to make the community they love explode with color again.

For the 21st consecutive year, the volunteers and small staff of the Chestnut Hill Garden District Fund are sprinting toward their Annual Spring Planting. The nonprofit organization kicks off its mission of beautifying Germantown Avenue each May, enlisting volunteers to help. The large group assembles to plant annual flowers in three small parks near the base of the Hill, around the welcome signs that greet visitors, and in the window boxes and whiskey barrels that beautify the central business district, which includes a one-mile stretch of Germantown Avenue and parts of Bethlehem Pike and Evergreen Avenue in Chestnut Hill. 

The result is a shopping district that comes alive with the beauty of plants in the late spring, summer and fall, helping Chestnut Hill live up to the name it officially earned from the Mayor’s Office 25 years ago - Philadelphia’s Garden District.

“Nothing makes me more proud than seeing the beauty that our hardworking, committed volunteers and staff bring to Chestnut Hill every year,” said Emily Daeschler, president of the Fund. “I’m grateful for the expertise, design sense, and understanding of the natural world that our people bring to the neighborhood they love every spring. Thanks to them, it’s impossible to walk, cycle, or drive along Germantown Avenue without having your spirit lifted by flowers.”

This year’s Annual Spring Planting, which is the Fund’s biggest event of the year, is scheduled for Thursday, May 12. Early that morning, 50 volunteers are expected to start planting flowers up and down the Avenue in Chestnut Hill. It’s a frenetic time, and a huge task that typically takes several hours. 

Until then, however, most of the action will be taking place behind the scenes and mostly hidden from the public eye.

Starting April 1, shoppers and outdoor diners who use the Co-op’s back door will catch glimpses of a team led by Judd Friedman, the Fund’s streetscape gardener (often seen on the Avenue with his green and yellow John Deere utility vehicle); Daeschler; and Jennifer Jones Arms, a board member and chair of the Fund’s Spring Planting Committee. 

They’ll be setting up shop behind the Co-op to spruce up worn window boxes, unload delivery trucks full of flowers, and work out arrangements of flowers that are pleasing to the eye as they steadily prepare for the big day.

On a parallel track, two other board members and committee chairs, Paul Meyer and Susan Peck, will begin to plan and execute flower plantings in Cliff Park, Memorial Park, Peace Park, and around the Hill’s welcome signs.

Altogether, the group’s leaders expect to plant 3,000 annuals representing 51 varieties during this year’s Annual Spring Planting. 

This year’s palette will echo last year’s, which was highlighted by lavenders, purples, blues, and especially the canary yellow that has come to be synonymous with both the Fund and the Hill (you’ll see it in the blossoms of the marigolds planted in street-corner barrels). The color is a tribute to the late Dottie Sheffield, the visionary founder and first president of the Fund, who loved yellow and used flowers and other plants to bring it to the Avenue whenever possible.

After May 12, observant visitors may notice the absence of flowers planted in hanging baskets on lampposts, which are a Fund signature. 

That's because the city of Philadelphia is finally planning to replace the lampposts that have decayed so much that the ones that haven’t already collapsed are well beyond the point of repair. This summer they plan to start erecting new Victorian gaslight-style lampposts, similar to the ones in neighboring Mt. Airy.

And the Fund is raising money to purchase new hanging baskets and keep the beloved tradition alive.

“For people who like to get their hands in the dirt and then sit back and reap the rewards of their effort through the summer and into the fall,” said Fund board member Jennifer Jones Arms. “It's a great way to get involved in our community.”

If you love gardening and support the Garden District Fund’s mission of beautifying the Hill, please consider joining the Fund’s Annual Spring Planting on May 12. Contact Kate O’Neill at for more information.