A walk down Tasker Street from the subway to Urban Jungle on Passyunk Avenue takes one past two or three neighborhood Italian restaurants but nothing beats fresh tomatoes from your own garden. Kristin Mulvenna, the store and landscape manager at Urban Jungle, knows that South Philadelphians take pride in their gardens and their homegrown vegetables.
“A lot of people do vegetable gardening down here,” Mulvenna said. “People really love their tomatoes. We have some of the best cheese shops and you want your mozzarella and tomatoes every summer.”
The beginning of a winter season in Philadelphia doesn’t seem like the most fruitful time to open a new garden center but the people at Urban Jungle must have known what they were doing back in November of 2009. The following spring, Urban Jungle traded in the wintry evergreens and Christmas trees for more traditional plant life, presented in some nontraditional ways.
A few of the garden types that are suitable for urban living are vertical green walls, window boxes and raised beds, all of which can be done with the help of the Urban Jungle team.
As one of three independent gardening centers in the city (the others being City Planter in Northern Liberties and Greensgrow in Fishtown), Urban Jungle can customize a private green space dependent on the customers’ living situations and personal lives. In cities like Philadelphia, where most residents don’t have big yards or the time to care for them, vertical gardening is popular for its unique quality and its efficiency.
While not everyone is able to be so invested in a garden of their own, there are less demanding plant life and green space alternatives.
“It really comes down to person to person and what they want out of their garden,” Mulvenna said.
They sell air plants (pictured below), which are a low-maintenance option for people who want a little bit of green in their home without the work or mess.
Urban Jungle is set to open a location in Pennsport, where they will house the landscaping operations. The Passyunk store will be more focused on retail.
Philadelphians from all over the city come to Urban Jungle for gardening assistance, but the attitude and atmosphere of South Philadelphia in particular blends well with the goals of the business.
“This neighborhood never really died. It was never a bad neighborhood,” Mulvenna said. “Home ownership and pride in those homes never stopped here.”
– Text, video and images by Monica Miller.
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