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before and after

Before & After: South Street Philadelphia Pop-Up Garden

by Annie Werbler

When the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society asked designer Karen Regan of Tallulah&Bird to create a pop-up warm weather garden on a vacant South Street lot, she imagined how the public gathering space would feel if it had developed organically over time. The temporary installation for special events, as well as sampling food and drinks from local vendors, is only open from June until October of this year. Regan began the design process in the dead of last winter to prepare for a quick 24-day installation during the month of May. With help from Jeff Regan of Regan Construction (also her husband), she was able to reuse found treasures like barn wood, old factory parts, and vintage receptacles from flea markets in new ways.

As the garden’s infrastructure developed, Karen played in the dirt, carefully deciding where each plant would go, and potting up vessels to create a bohemian atmosphere. She devised a series of smaller, more intimate environments within the site’s large open expanse, which include a central trellised pavilion, covered cabanas, a private cottage, wine bar, and long picnic table seating under quaint market lights. While utilizing interior layout principles in some of these outdoor living spaces for maximum comfort, the exterior rooms are constantly changed by living, growing plants. In this way, returning visitors are encouraged to discover new details or engage with different zones at each visit. As for the style of her latest project, Karen describes the concept as petit a petit l’oiseau fait son nid, or, “little by little the bird builds its nest.” It’s her dream of a secret garden for everyone in the heart of the city. —Annie

“After” photography by Julia Lehman

Before & After: South Street Philadelphia Pop-Up Garden, on Design*Sponge
1/19
At this year's Pennsylvania Horticultural Society South Street pop-up garden, a central pavilion structure is built from reclaimed wooden barn beams, and various colorful succulents are planted in vintage bread pans.
Before & After: South Street Philadelphia Pop-Up Garden, on Design*Sponge
2/19
The pavilion's evening glow creates a different experience of the garden.
Before & After: South Street Philadelphia Pop-Up Garden, on Design*Sponge
3/19
An overview of the the garden site, with the pavilion to the left, market tables in the center, and private cottage at right with a wine bar attached.
Before & After: South Street Philadelphia Pop-Up Garden, on Design*Sponge
4/19
On the other side of the site, the cabanas offer a more intimate setting for small groups. The giant planters are antique fountains.
Before & After: South Street Philadelphia Pop-Up Garden, on Design*Sponge
5/19
The cabanas at night. In the foreground, coffee tables made from massive tree trunks with tops painted to coordinate with the zone's Adirondack chairs.
Before & After: South Street Philadelphia Pop-Up Garden, on Design*Sponge
6/19
View toward the cozy cottage from inside the cabanas.
Before & After: South Street Philadelphia Pop-Up Garden, on Design*Sponge
7/19
The walls of the private cottage were constructed of worn flea market crates.
Before & After: South Street Philadelphia Pop-Up Garden, on Design*Sponge
8/19
The twinkling cottage at night.
Before & After: South Street Philadelphia Pop-Up Garden, on Design*Sponge
9/19
While waiting for their turn in the cottage, guests often sit on the antique chair Karen painted.
Before & After: South Street Philadelphia Pop-Up Garden, on Design*Sponge
10/19
The cottage is the most coveted spot in the garden due to the relative privacy it offers and the charmingly crumbled feel of its decor.
Before & After: South Street Philadelphia Pop-Up Garden, on Design*Sponge
11/19
To the side of the cottage, a vintage baby tub makes a lovely planter.
Before & After: South Street Philadelphia Pop-Up Garden, on Design*Sponge
12/19
A view from within the cottage toward the cabanas across the lot.
Before & After: South Street Philadelphia Pop-Up Garden, on Design*Sponge
13/19
The wine bar to the right of the cottage. Karen found the flea market lights in the South of France, and paired them with dramatic oversized bulbs.
Before & After: South Street Philadelphia Pop-Up Garden, on Design*Sponge
14/19
To the left of the cottage is the market light seating. The tables are 20 feet long and made from reclaimed barn beams.
Before & After: South Street Philadelphia Pop-Up Garden, on Design*Sponge
15/19
Guests enjoying the long market tables.
Before & After: South Street Philadelphia Pop-Up Garden, on Design*Sponge
16/19
The tables at night under string lights, with a pop of pink from an illuminated mulberry tree in the distance.
Before & After: South Street Philadelphia Pop-Up Garden, on Design*Sponge
17/19
The pavilion from its opposite entrance. The gomphrena fireworks plants are raised in an old French copper sink.
Before & After: South Street Philadelphia Pop-Up Garden, on Design*Sponge
18/19
View of the main pavilion from the garden entrance in the evening.
Before & After: South Street Philadelphia Pop-Up Garden, on Design*Sponge
19/19
Some flea market finds before their installation.

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Comments

  • Thank you for showcasing some of the AMAZING work being done in Philly to reclaim spaces for public use. Philly’s beer gardens are, year after year, becoming one of the best parts of summer in this city. Aside from the obvious — they’re beautiful, well-designed outdoor spaces to enjoy a frosty beverage — they’re also bringing business into communities and serving as meeting places for people from all walks.

    • Hi Bethany,

      The neighborhood does love the gardens! I had so many of the local businesses stop by and thank us! Agree – all of the gardens are awesome!

      Karen

  • I love that you are featuring one of our pop-up gardens – she did a great job! We love having these fun places to meet friends and enjoy a summer evening. They are just another reason to love living in Philadelphia.

  • it’s a gorgeous space. my husband (scorpion plumbing) did all the plumbing work. philly is a phenomenal city. come visit!

    • It really is great for the residents to have a place to go. I am glad that PHS and others are committed to this mission!

      Karen

  • What an amazing transformation! What wonderful design! So many usable spaces! Love the recycled and flea market finds!
    You must gain a huge amount of satisfaction from designing and overseeing a project like this Karen.

    • Cathy,

      I do gain tremendous satisfaction and pleasure from my work. I am often asked how I am able to work so many hours, and my answer is always the same, I forget that it is work!

      Karen

  • this should NOT be temporary, but open to the neighborhood ~ what a lovely gift that would be to build community!

    • These are temporary because the lots are owned by others and are generally for sale. This lot is sold and will be developed. There are many other vacant lots that will be considered for next year. Perhaps there will eventually be some permanent spots! It will be sad to break it down.

      Karen

  • This is gorgeous! So glad to see this happening in Philly… more please! Any chance of extending this beyond October? What happens with this space when the pop up pops down?

    • The lease goes until the last day in September. We may do a few events.

      Karen

  • This is an outstanding article about brilliant work, on so many levels. I would love to see this. And I’m sure residents will miss it when it is dismantled. Thanks for bringing this some attention.

  • This is awesome. I moved to Philly 12 years ago, and my first summer there I searched endlessly for an outdoor beer garden. Shockingly, there was not a one. This project goes well beyond what I ever could have hoped for, and is an exquisite addition to South Street. Kudos!

    • Thank you Mary. I am so happy that Philly has all these amazing spots! What a great city we live in!

      Karen

  • This is just wonderful!Can you imagine every neighborhood of every city having these outdoor community gathering spaces!

  • This is unbelievably gorgeous! Why is it temporary?? So inspiring to see what can happen when talented people are given the opportunity to create!

  • It’s temporary because we have winter in Philadelphia! From late spring until fall we have these all over this great city!

    • Also, because the lots are leased and often on the market for highest and best use.

      Karen

    • Ann,

      This same principle could improve almost any city. I hope Detroit will follow suit!

      Karen