Greening Germantown: W Rockland Street Neighbors “Grow This Block!”

On Saturday, June 2 in Germantown, W Rockland Street residents got together to Grow This Block! for the second year in a row. Each household had the opportunity to participate in this block-wide neighborhood planting experiment. View a full gallery of photos from the day on Flickr!

So many plants at Grow This Block! 2 – view more photos!

Little Kevon bringing plants out of our backyard through the tight alley

100s and 100s of annuals, perennials, shrubs, herbs, veggies, and fruit were planted during the event. 20 W Rockland Street households planted gardens this year and 7 nearby neighbors picked up flowers for their households. Some refreshed their gardens and redesigned their yards, others planted pots of herbs and flowers for their steps, and a few planted gardens for the very first time. Participants from the block included homeowners, as well as many new and longterm renters. At the first Grow This Block! in 2011, around 30 houses participated, but this is one case where less participants actually means greater success. Several residents that planted big gardens in 2011 already had their gardens going strong this year. We also moved off the block and welcomed three neighbors from the 4800 blocks of Greene Street and Germantown Avenue, which run perpendicular to W Rockland. Four other visitors and friends of neighbors also picked up plants for their homes. Amazingly, four former block residents who participated in last year’s event returned to visit and help out neighbors! Greening is contagious.

Grow This Block! is an example of what citizens can do when equipped with the tools that empower people to green and beautify their own neighborhoods. It’s a back to basics approach to improved quality of life. Everyone should have the opportunity to beautify his or her home – that can start with something as simple as a garden.

Two-time Grow This Block! participant, taking it to the next level with the garden plan this year! Photo by Inga Saffron

Herb digging in

The leafy green goods came from all over – we’re resourceful! Some of the plants were grown from seed by Ainé, who is the mastermind behind Grow This Block!, others were divided from gardens right on W Rockland earlier in the season. A large selection of decades-old perennials were unearthed from our mom’s magnificent gardens in Havertown (she sold the house in 2011, but we were sure to dig up the best plants first, of course). Most were purchased from Home Depot and Laurel Hill Gardens.

In the afternoon, the great Sally McCabe with the Philadelphia Horticultural Society led a planting workshop and Q&A with the Germantown gardeners. At the end of the longday, we had a BBQ and held a raffle for all participants. Winners took home planters with stands and the most coveted giant teacup planter filled with Impatiens.

The great Sally McCabe with the Philadelphia Horticultural Society led a planting workshop and Q&A

We can’t wait to see what W Rockland Street looks like later in the summer when gardens are in full bloom and plants are growing tall!



The day would not have been possible without the support of our friends, family, and partnership organizations.

  • Matt Wysong helped one household rip out old fencing, dig up their entire yard and plant a floral and vegetable garden. It was the biggest transformation of the day! Matt happens to be a city planner with the Philadelphia City Planning Commission. He travels with his own pickaxe and gets his hands dirty on the weekend, naturally.
  • Melissa Templeton baked some delicious cupcakes for the kids. She is a serious cupcake maker and organizer of Cupcake Smash, the popular Philadbundance fundraiser. Melissa has been an amazing supporter of all our big projects!
  • The City of Philadelphia delivered the dirt, literally. Manny Ramos, Program Coordinator and Thomas Conway, Deputy Managing Director, with the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services coordinated the delivery of two truckloads of rich compost soil and mulch. We’re looking forward to working with Manny and Tom on other projects this summer!
  • The Philadelphia Horticultural Society and Keep Philadelphia Beautiful both donated funds which helped offset the cost of plants and supplies. PHS also delivered another truckload of mushroom soil for our community garden beds and brought Sally McCabe to the block.
  • Our friends Eryn Casey and her daughter AvrySean Hart, and Regina Ivoskute, all worked together to transform a curb cut (or litter trap, depending on the day) into a small garden, and plant a sidewalk pot.
  • Our mom Ann helped plan the event and pick-up last minute supplies, and our dad Ronsister Alex and niece Mia came to show support. Our dad and Alex have already been wrangled into helping us finish the community garden we built. Dad even got a new drill for the occasion.
  • Thanks to all our other friends who came by to check out the scene and show support including Kara LaFleurMike and Jamila Carter, and Cornelia Swinson of Germantown Restoration CDC.

A big THANK YOU to everyone who planted, volunteered, and visited W Rockland Street!


Ainé with prize winner Minnie and Rockland Street kids

This entire yard was ripped up and transformed! Big thanks to Matt Wysong for helping our neighbors build floral and vege garden!

The completed garden, can’t wait to see the beans climb the fence!

The littlest planter at Grow This Block!

Another new garden! – view more photos!



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