One of the staples of summer in Philadelphia is the PHS Pop-Up Gardens program. Some background, first:
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WHO’S PHS? PHS stands for Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. The group focuses on using plants as a tool for urban renewal and connecting people with horticulture. They are also behind the annual Philadelphia Flower Show.
WHAT’S A POP-UP GARDEN? The pop-up gardens are rarely-used city spaces that have been transformed into urban oases. Horticultural design, landscape arrangement, and repurposed materials are used in a sustainable way to build the beautiful and distinct gardens that feature food, drinks, and entertainment.
WHERE ARE THEY? This year, there are two locations open seven days a week—one in Callowhill, and one at the Viaduct Rail Park.
This year, PHS Pop-Up Gardens are blooming and booming, with major magazine Food & Wine taking notice and dubbing the Viaduct Rail Park garden a “best new beer garden” of the summer. The talk of the town since the first garden sprang up in 2011, the new editions carry on the hype. So what’s got people talking for a sixth summer in a row?
Gorgeous verdant arrangements—such as colorful flowers and bushes, potted plants, and towering trees—take center stage. Mouth-watering menus, craft beers and drinks, and special entertainment performances also make the gardens pop. Check out what’s special at each beer garden:
For the third year, the pop-up on South Street sits on a lot next to Jamaican Jerk Hut in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood. Karen Regan designed the garden and has produced a magical retreat in the heart of the city. Aged woods, planters, and unique flea-market-esque curiosities like small chandeliers, framed mirrors and portraits highlight the bohemian space. Stringed lights hang overhead and spiral up a towering mulberry tree to illuminate the quirky and colorful oasis. Some of the plants include roses, wisteria, and pink crape myrtles.
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For eats and drinks, Khyber Pass Pub offers a list of cocktails and craft beers, as well as a menu that reflects the variety of cuisines in South Philadelphia. The namesake pulled pork BBQ sandwich is a must-try, with a tangy sauce and tender meat. The vegan meatball sandwich is also a favorite. Check out the PHS Victory Summer Wheat on tap, brewed by Victory Brewing Company exclusively for the gardens this season.
In addition to the great hangout and food, a few weekly events make the South Street spot a hit: Margarita Monday’s feature less expensive margaritas and half-price chips and salsa, Brewsday Tuesday highlights featured breweries and offers games and music, and GULPS on Wednesday offers $4 featured drafts. Check out the calendar for more events.
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New the the PHS Pop-Up scene is the Viaduct Rail Park location. The garden strives to merge the overhead rail structure with green urban space, and many of the themes and installations are inspired by railroad cars. That overhead rail is the old Reading Viaduct, which is now repurposed into an elevated park similar to the High Line in Manhattan. Landscape artist Walter Hood has incorporated native plants into the design, and archival images of the Reading Line are on display at the entrance.
Perhaps lower-key aesthetically than its South Street counterpart, the Viaduct does not lack in great drinks and food. Top Chef alum Jason Cichonski of ELA and Gaslight, as well as Chef Sylva of Dos Tacos and Maison, serve up a novel concept called the “Bun Box.” A variety of steamed buns with select ingredients (such as pork belly, osaka crab, and buffalo chicken) compose each order. To drink, sip on the sweet Summer Sangria or a refreshing Cucumber Vodka Lemonade.
On select Sundays, enjoy Reggae music while you relax in the garden, and on select Thursdays enjoy arts workshops and presentations. Check out the calendar for more events.