UArts Pop Up Garden reopens with newly added brews

The garden offers food, beer and a change of scenery.

Garden-goers can find picnic-style food for as low as $12. | Alex Udowenko TTN
Garden-goers can find picnic-style food for as low as $12. | Alex Udowenko TTN

Finding a green space in Philadelphia can be challenging – especially one that provides beer.

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society has established an outdoor community space in their annual Pop Up Garden, transforming a would-be vacant lot into a beautiful escape. Classes may have started, but hanging out in the Pop Up Garden has the ability to make it feel like the easy days of summer are not yet over.

Located on Broad Street between Spruce and Pine streets, the garden sits across from the Kimmel Center on the University of the Arts campus. Students from the university sometimes perform in the garden, providing free entertainment for visitors.

This will be the third year for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society garden, which opened May 29 and will close mid-October. However, this is the first year the garden has provided alcohol and food. Welcoming visitors at 5 p.m. on weekdays, the garden is a place to have happy hour while enjoying nature.

“The idea was to create a space for the community, to allow for gatherings and to highlight Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s work,” said Fran Lawn, the director of landscape management and training within the organization. “This year is different, as [it’s] the first year with a beer garden. We have reached to audiences we may not have engaged in the past. It has been very successful and has become a space that has multipurpose use, an interesting collaboration between a nonprofit and a restaurant.”

The relaxed vibe of the Pop Up Garden is enhanced by not only the earthy ground and tree canopy, but by the fairy lights hanging throughout, as well as  the picnic benches and umbrellas. With a drink and food truck parked in the lot, it feels like wandering into a campsite.

“I think I heard someone quote once that [the garden] ‘felt like Maine,’” Lawn said.

Groundswell Design Group created the look and feel of the space. They won both “Best Overall Project” and “Best Public Space with Public Access” for their work on the 2013 Pop Up Garden from the Slant International Landscape Design Competition.

Picnic style foods are available for $12 or less, as well as local craft beers and summery refreshments. The restaurant Four Corners has also paired up with the garden.

Some of the snacks to try on the menu include pie in a jar and chipotle short ribs. One bite of either can conjure up memories of summer barbecue and beach days, something not everyone is ready to give up quite yet.

First time visitors will be asked to become a member of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, although there is no entrance fee. A name and email address must be provided, along with ID. Once a guest has done that, they receive a card that allows access to the garden. Having the card allows guests to bring their friends into the garden.

Temple may have Beury Beach, and Rittenhouse Square is always a popular spot to relax in the grass, but the Pop Up Garden has something unique to offer besides craft beer and great food. What makes the space truly special is the variety of plants that can be found within the garden.

“We wanted to highlight some unique plants, tropicals, rare plants you usually don’t see,” Lawn said. “The trees are urban tolerant trees that we chose for unique seasonal interest and to create a nice wow factor.”

Sitting in the space can be relaxing, therapeutic and picturesque. Even though it’s located so close to City Hall, the garden offers a balance to the concrete and skyscrapers.

“I think it is a great idea and something I wish I had known about earlier,” said Sarah Schlosbon, senior English major. “It is great to be able to sit outside to drink and enjoy the warm weather before it gets too cold,”

Sinead Cummings can be reached at

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