Mark’s Apartment Garden – FineGardening

Today we’re visiting with Mark Klempner in Philadelphia.

I have a bit of a special situation: I live in a rental apartment with a substantial private garden. I’m in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia. In 2016 I sold a large home with an even larger garden so as to have more time for other things. I lucked out, though, and found an apartment with a few hundred square feet of outdoor space.

I would have called this a barren wasteland, but having cared for a roughly 1/3-acre garden for years, I thought that improving this one seemed doable.

view of small patio and yard with rocks and mulch addedI started by removing what little growth there was—some English ivy and a small holly bush. Next, I brought in a truckload of topsoil and a lot of rocks for bed edges.

finished apartment yard with lots of plantingsSome friends a mile away had a huge amount of Wissahickon schist, a local stone, lying all over their backyard from a partial renovation of their home. They wanted to get rid of it. I made about a dozen trips in my compact car, driving slowly with what I felt was a safe load each time.

small backyard garden full of container plantingsThis being a near-total shade garden, I had to concentrate on appropriate plants, and of course could not grow many varieties that I was used to. For strong color I relied on impatiens, begonias, coleus, caladium, and others.

large banana plant in a blue containerFour potted banana plants really stand out too.

colorful flowers and foliage planted in containersSince I’m shaded by white pines with shallow roots, in areas without beds I use containers. I’ve bought quite a few ceramic pots, but I get more enjoyment from finding unusual containers, often in curbside trash or cheaply at yard sales.

metal sculpture amongst potted plantsCurbside hunting has also yielded a great amount of found objects that I place throughout the garden and enjoy more than the containers. Getting so much for so little money allows me to spend more at salvage shops for sculptural items such as armillaries and an antique lightning rod.

more container plantings in the gardenWe have an annual event here called the Mt. Airy Learning Tree Hidden Gardens Tour. My garden was on the tour in 2022 along with eight others. Over 400 visitors came through that day. I was told by a tour arranger that my garden generated more comments than all the others combined.

flowers and foliage floating in a bucket of waterA floating flower arrangement

view of small garden from aboveLooking down at the garden from above


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