Philadelphia to Host to Civic Horticulture Conference

This May, Philadelphia will play host to the Civic Horticulture Conference, a national symposium of scholars and practitioners in the fields of landscape architecture, green economics and urban design. Speakers and panelists from Philadelphia and across the globe will converge on the University of the Arts' Levitt Auditorium to discuss issues that straddle the axes of environment, economy and design.

The DC-based Cultural Landscape Foundation and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society will host the conference. The hosts are inviting the public to sign up to attend various talks on May 17 and tours scheduled for May 18-19.

Presenters will highlight past and ongoing plant-based design projects, trading ideas and edifying Southeastern Pennsylvanians about best-practices in civic horticulture worldwide. However, Philadelphia's unique landscape, history and politics will play central roles in the discussion. The launch event takes place in a PHS Pop-Up Garden on North Broad Street and many of the presenters are locals.  Tour stops range from community agricultural spaces to Beaux-Arts landscapes.  The Cultural Landscape Foundation's President Charles Birnbaum thinks the city is a perfect venue for discussing ongoing plant-driven design projects and initiatives.

"The thing that is extraordinary about Philadelphia is its three centuries of civic ambition," Birnbaum says, "this conferences reinforces the role that plants play in city making and city shaping.  There are few places to tell this story in context."

Alan Jaffe, communications director for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, believes the city's unique community of stakeholders adds to its allure as a host location.  "Some of the organizations here are models, nationally, for use of vacant land, creation of parks and creation of community gardens," Jaffe adds that "Philadelphia is also a mecca for horticulture.  We have Longwood Gardens, Winterthur and more.  And we have this outgrowth of people who want to do community gardening and agriculture, people who want to create healthier lifestyles."

In the two days following the May 17th conference, conference sponsors and presenters will lead tours of some of the city's significant landscape architecture.  The tours, called What’s Out There Weekend Philadelphia, are expected to highlight lesser known examples of landscape design alongside such prominent landmarks as the Parkway museums.  Unlike the conference, the tours are free.  Interested participants can register at The Cultural Landscape Foundation's website.

The Civic Horticulture Conference takes place May 17th at the University of the Arts' University of the Arts, Gershman Hall, Levitt Auditorium in Philadelphia.

Register to attend at

What's Out There Weekend Philadelphia takes place city-wide on May 18th and 19th.  Register for tours at


MICHAEL FICHMAN is a writer, record producer, DJ and former ecologist living in Philadelphia. He blogs at