Blossoming in Manayunk

A pop-up bar that blooms come spring time
By: Alexandra Cohen
Photos by Neal Santos, Rob Cardillo, and JPG Photo & Video (

Walking down Main Street, you never know what surprises you may stumble upon. It could be a new and exciting restaurant that just opened up filled with locals and visitors catching up over drinks and appetizers. Imagine your curiosity drawing your eyes up while passing under the latest Instagrammable art installation hanging in an alleyway. You walk by the smaller street art and realize the detail and passion that cannot be appreciated through a moving car window. But, as you stray away from the loud chatter and exciting happenings on Main Street, and you make a quick turn onto Jamestown Avenue and you will find yourself stumbling into one of the most delightful surprises the city has to offer.

The urban oasis, formally known as the PHS Pop Up Garden at Manayunk, is a beer garden that not only offers delicious cocktails and food, but extends into a much more powerful mission for Manayunk. The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) took an unused area of the city and gave it a new sense of purpose. It has been developed into a place the community can meet up with one another or to take classes to engage and connect. It also acts as a resource for local families to have access to healthy and fresh food.

The plot of land at 106 Jamestown Avenue started off as a community spot from the beginning. Dozens of years ago, families and business owners would meet there to collect coal. The Reading Terminal Line Coal Trains would come through Manayunk, veer off the tracks to the train shed- that is still standing and used to house the bar, and dump the coal into the bins for collection. The coals would then be used to heat up the local family’s homes and different businesses within the communities.

When PHS and the property owner were introduced, they knew a beer garden would be a perfect addition to the community. But transforming an abandoned coal shed turned parking lot into a desirable garden- would take a little bit of planning. Cristina Tessaro, Associate Director of Activation at PHS, described the initial thoughts of the process.

“The design took a lot of influence off the historic train structure so it’s got a lot of industrial elements,” Cristina conveyed. “There are high beams that look like the railroad ties at the base of the privala. We used a lot of building materials – pallets, and donated wood. We took this industrial feeling and then added horticulture, obviously. Plants everywhere, the more the better!”

Embedded in the design feature is a fully functioning community garden. This garden is in connection with the PHS program – City Harvest. The program grows and donates seedlings to communities throughout Pennsylvania for their gardens with the promise to donate a portion of their produce to a local food pantry. The Manayunk garden donates all of their proceeds to North Light Community Center, a local non-profit that supports and strengthens the local community. Not only does this give the local pantry access to fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, but it also allows for a demonstration space for education programs for the community to be involved in. Residents are then able to produce the horticulture in their own homes.

Another important design feature that was included in the design is a pergola with rain barrels connected at the base. Manayunk is known to be a terrible flood zone that has affected the local area greatly. The garden wanted to be in partnership to help mitigate the storm water overflow to reduce the flooding. The rain barrels are used to capture and latch onto water, to then be able to water the plants at a later time. While this is beneficial for the community garden, PHS has a program that allows residents to do the same! The Rain Check Program installs a rain barrel at your home and gives access to opportunities to programs and workshops to ensure the barrel is being used to the fullest extent. This program helps residents both reduce their water consumption by not needing to use their hose and fresh water for gardening, and helps reduce the storm water that gravely affects the area.

The Rain Check Program is not the only design feature that PHS took to reduce the storm water within the community. Cristina discussed the plans of teaming up with their neighbors, The Animedic Veterinary Hospital, to tackle more plantings to help with the flooding in conjunction with the Tree Tenders Program. The team is planting five street trees, approved by the city and with the help of the local volunteers, along the front of their properties. This will bring more awareness, and hopefully trickle onto the other neighbors. The end goal is to promote the tree plantings and to eventually have more trees and blocks planted in the future throughout Manayunk.

On the topic of discussing what horticulture was going into the design of the garden; flood mitigation, sustainability, and community were the main focus. While it may be great to have a variety of brightly colored, tropical plants – it just is not the right fit for the garden in Manayunk.

“It’s just getting worse and worse every year with climate change, so we wanted to showcase native plantings, North American plantings, as a way to mitigate certain climate change,” Cristina said, “We planted North American natives with the idea that they will be there for the life of the garden and they will grow bigger and do more for the site and the environment, and be more and more impressive each year.”

Even though the plantings are the same every year, they will continuously grow and be more exciting and different every year, so that one will not get sick of the view. And knowing the plantings are sustainable benefits the environment even more. This also allows locals to be able to produce the same and grow the native plants in their own gardens. Some of the plantings that are growing in the garden include Dwarf Columbine, Autumn Fern, Woodland Phlox, Foamflower, and Golden Alexander.

On top of the beautiful scenery, the drinks and food are spectacular. With a variety of drinks infused with herbs and spices that are grown right there on premises. With a new and revised drink list, PHS took the theme of more tropical drinks to sip in the garden. Some local favorites are the Jamestown Fizz Cocktail or a Manayunk Mule Shotsicles. Additionally you can get a variety of frozen cocktails, tiki cocktails, draft beer, canned seltzers, and a variety of non-alcoholic beverages.

To go along with the refreshing drink options, the garden offers a delicious variety of food options. If you are just looking to snack on something – you may munch on some fresh popped popcorn or a Bavarian Pretzel. There is also a large variety of sandwiches; offering a Vegan Crab Cake Sandwich, Italiano Hoagie – and even more for both adults and children.

The PHS Pop Up Garden in Manayunk is something different to remove yourself from the bustling city. Whether you are there for a quick snack, enjoying an evening with friends, or attending a program, a portion of all the proceeds from every purchase helps the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society advance their mission throughout Philadelphia. By visiting the beautiful garden, you are supporting your community by allowing access to healthy, organic food, access to flood mitigation tactics, and promoting education in the horticulture world.