Flowers to return to the Avenue — lampposts included

Posted 5/4/23

Flower lovers, rejoice. Germantown Avenue is about to burst into bloom again, and it won’t just be at street level.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Flowers to return to the Avenue — lampposts included


Flower lovers, rejoice. Germantown Avenue is about to burst into bloom again, and it won’t just be at street level. Starting this month, gorgeous blossoms will be returning to the Avenue’s lampposts after a one-year absence.

For the 22nd year, The Chestnut Hill Garden District Fund — the nonprofit organization dedicated to the beautification of the Chestnut Hill shopping district — is mobilizing an army of volunteer gardeners and staff gardening experts in May to plant thousands of colorful annuals representing about 50 varieties along a one-mile stretch of Germantown Avenue and sections of Bethlehem Pike and Evergreen Avenue.

The Fund’s big spring push culminates in the organization’s biggest event of the year, the Annual Spring Planting, which will take place on the morning of Thursday, May 11, starting at 9 a.m. 

This year, as always, The Fund’s volunteers and staff gardeners will be planting flowers in window boxes, in streetside whiskey barrels, around welcome signs, and in three of the small parks at the base of the Hill: Cliff Park, Memorial Park, and Peace Park. What observant pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers also will see this year is the reappearance of flowers in hanging baskets attached to 70 new lampposts on Germantown Avenue in Chestnut Hill.

A staple on the Avenue for two decades, the spring planting of flowers on lampposts was paused for a year when the City of Philadelphia started replacing the Avenue’s decaying old lampposts in 2022. The new lampposts are finally in place, and after a successful fundraising campaign to replace the aging hanging baskets that were attached to the old lampposts, The Fund has put up new baskets on the new lampposts, and the beloved tradition of glorious flower plantings overhead is set to return.

“Part of what makes our plantings so distinctive is how they surround visitors with flowers. When you walk on Germantown Avenue, you’re immersed in color. There are flowers below you in barrels, to the side of you in window boxes, and above you in hanging baskets,” said Emily Daeschler, president of the Chestnut Hill Garden District Fund.

“We thank all of the donors whose generosity helped make the purchase of new hanging baskets possible,” Daeschler added. “It’s always gratifying to see how invested people are in this wonderful neighborhood.”

As beautiful as the new lampposts are, their arrival also brings new challenges — and additional strain on The Fund’s budget. The new lampposts erected by the City are made of aluminum, Daeschler explained, making them softer and more susceptible to damage than the lampposts they replaced. Because of that, the baskets will no longer be lowered to plant and maintain the flowers as in the past. Instead, the flowers in hanging baskets will have to be tended by ladder, a task requiring professional experience and additional staff to help The Fund’s veteran streetscape gardener, Judd Friedman. On top of that, Daeschler said, there are many more lamppost hanging baskets to plant and maintain. In 2021, flowers were planted in hanging baskets on just over 40 lampposts. Now there are 70 lampposts on Germantown Avenue with hanging baskets.

“We’re up for the challenge,” Daeschler said. “We know how much our community loves these flowers.”

The palette of this year’s plantings emphasizes yellows, blues, and whites, a color scheme that pays tribute to the shades loved by The Fund’s late founder, Dottie Sheffield, who died in 2021. A stone memorial to Sheffield was erected last year at the base of the yellow magnolia tree in Cliff Park that was planted in her honor in 2014.

The Fund is seeking volunteers to participate in the Annual Spring Planting on May 11, Daeschler said, “It’s so much fun to get your hands dirty and connect with neighbors who share a love of gardening and this community.”

Interested in volunteering? Contact Kate O’Neill, director of operations at the Chestnut Hill Business Association, at The Chestnut Hill Garden District Fund also is seeking  a part-time professional gardener; applicants should use the same email address.