Apiary Studio collaborated with Ian Smith Design Group on a new multifamily residential project along the Frankford Avenue commercial corridor in Fishtown, Philadelphia. We drew inspiration from a mashup of our favorite horticulture influences: the spontaneous urban meadows that characterize neighboring Kensington, the scruffy palette that emerges from plant communities growing in shingle beaches and gravel quarries, and the botanical playground that is the New Jersey Pine Barrens. What do these three sites have in common? Plants that thrive in lean soil comprised mostly of sand. Contrasting with the clean, dark ceramic-clad building, a corten steel planter surrounds the structure and provides an atmospheric curtain for the residents inside; and a lush bioswale captures and filters storm water runoff from the small parking lot in back.
We designed the garden, propagated a large share of the plants ourselves from seed, and have had the privilege of tending and editing it with ongoing maintenance. The gardens display wild exuberance and splashes of color punctuating carpets of green, starting in springtime with jewel-like Tulipa turkestanica and Euphorbia myrsinites; surreal amorphous patches of Crambe maratima, Glaucium flavum and Artemisia ludoviciana in summer, and the structural forms of Quercus ilicifolia, Schizachyrium scoparium and Rudbeckia maxima in fall.