A garden has always been a sanctuary for me, a respite, a place to refuel. I love the art of applying interior design principles to create outdoor living spaces enhanced by the beauty of a flower, a delicate fern, a tree; all invitations for the honey bees and the butterflies. A true religion. Visual poetry.
When Tallulah&Bird was asked by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society to design the pop up garden on South Street in Philadelphia, the answer was a resounding yes, without asking any questions whatsoever. Immediate pictures of what the garden would look like and how it would function ignited in my minds eye. Implementing found treasures, adaptive reuse of barn wood and other items from factories and flea markets. Creating intimate environments, public gathering spaces, new moments to discover, visit after visit. A magical, secret garden of sorts, in the heart of the great city of brotherly love. I have been asked over and over again to describe the style of the garden. The design concept can best be described in a phrase; petit a petit l’oiseau fait son nid: Little by little the bird builds its nest. I wanted to romance the garden and though a temporary space only open until October, I wanted it to look developed over time, well worn and loved as if it had always been there. I wanted it to look Tallulah&Bird style!
Making it all happen was quite an undertaking! I did the design work in the dead of winter, the vacant lot mostly barren with only small vestiges of what was there before, but we had exactly three weeks and three days for building and installation! Luckily PHS saw what I see in Jeff Regan, of Regan Construction, my partner in all that I do and the mastermind of making my designs come to life. We worked night and day, but the adrenalin was so powerful and the excitement so palpable that I was not even tired. The infrastructure developed simultaneously while I played in the dirt, carefully deciding where each plant would be placed, and potting up all the vessels that would create the atmosphere I was looking for. Styling the spaces was happening right up until the moment that the turquoise doors opened and Erin and Paul of Barren Hill Brewery welcomed the guests with sangria, wine and craft beers.
I love everything about what we created, starting with why it was created in the first place. The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, PHS, is a jewel of our city. Known throughout the world for the Flower Show, but less known for how much passion the organization has for transforming the city, community service and creating programs that inspire and embrace each and every person that calls Philadelphia home. The Flower Show is landscape, floral and design theater, and generates much of the funds necessary for all of their programs. City Harvest feeds over 1500 families each week during the growing season and these kitchen gardens are so beautiful, so rooted in a place of organic goodness. The Plant One Million mission seeks to have at least one million new trees planted in Philadelphia by the year 2020. The cleaning and greening of vacant lots has beautified so many neighborhoods and boosts morale for the residents. There has never been a doubt in my mind that the spirit is lifted when ones surroundings are lovely and soothing. Drew Becher, sadly now the former President of PHS, made his stamp and took an already very special organization to an organization willing to take risks, think bigger, expect more of themselves and to evolve with the needs of the city. He invited a larger demographic to embrace the organization and to understand the social impact that PHS can make with the help of all of us involved. Drew is also why the city now has all of the fabulous Pop Up Gardens, attracting national press on why Philadelphia is a number one visitor destination! How deeply missed you will be Drew Becher.
I want to personally thank so many incredible people who helped me make this happen. First and foremost Jeff Regan, you earned your Sainthood a long time ago, but I really pushed people to their limit on this one, and you are brilliant, patient man. Tyler Regan, Talia Regan, Tanner Contois, Callum McEwen, Katie Westrum, George Faust, Chris Carlino, Frank Starapoli, Mate, Beau Whitman, Tareq Nucultur Ahmad, and Harry Shorday, you are the dream team. Thank you for making every day we worked at 15th and South a joy!
Drew Becher, my dear, dear friend. I can not thank you enough for having the faith in me to do this project. I will miss you completely but know the strength of this friendship will bind us forever.
PHS deserves an enormous thank you. Even the CFO, Dean Dortonne, came out to plant trees one day, and these are enormous Crape Myrtles! Sam Lemheney, Lisa Stephano, Devinne Melecki, Bridget Bonasch, Jeff Barg, Sally Gendler, and Connor Stanton, all care so deeply about the organization and the gardens and were all a help to me in their specialty. A special thanks to Leigh Ann Campbell, Nick Pytel, Jamie McFadden, Kelley Mansfield and Sam Keitch, you are awesome!
Hari, from Govinda’s Gourmet Vegetarian Restaurant, I loved your daily visits watching the garden develop. Your kind words and support were fuel to me. And then your brought us your amazing food! So generous and kind your are, sweet man.
Julia Lehman Photography, you have captured the magic so beautifully. You are a true artist and I love working with you! Crazy hours we had to do these shoots but so worth the results! We have so much more to do together!
A major thank you to Michala Costello, my real estate partner in ReganCostello of Kurfiss Sotheby’s International Realty. Your unwavering support and generous donation to the decor is greatly appreciated!
The garden is now in the ever so capable hands of operators Erin Wallace and Paul Trowbridge of Barren Hill Brewery. Thank you so much for caring about every detail as much as I do! I plan on spending many summer nights with you here!
Lastly, I am so glad the Dietz and Watson have vegetarian choices. Gourmet grilled cheese and and sangria for me!