Nestled between the iconic Cira Center Tower and 30th Street Station in downtown Philadelphia lies Drexel Square, a publicly-accessible park providing a unique, urban oasis for residents and students in the University City neighborhood.
Lined with 20 towering Redwoods as well as tables & park benches, the area serves as a popular gathering space for anyone looking to escape the concrete jungle and enjoy a meal, relax, or work outdoors. The park also features a 12,064 square-foot Elliptical Lawn with intersecting meridian lines that encourage visitors to lounge, work out, or connect with one another on the grass.
Built in 2018, the park was constructed by a general contractor with little horticultural acumen. As a result, many of the plant selections filling the park’s 9,116 square feet of raised planter beds were unsustainable and needed to be removed or transplanted.
The Elliptical Lawn sits atop ground floor classrooms owned by Drexel University. Because of this, the grass & soil only reach 8 inches deep; this poses various maintenance challenges such as water retention, turf burn, and blight susceptibility.
When our team assumed the maintenance contract, they recognized that many of the flowers lining the raised beds would be unsuccessful given their location and proximity to the Redwoods. In addition, it was determined that the plants were too close to the Dawn Redwoods would have an adverse effect on the health of the trees and should be removed. Our team proposed replacing these unsustainable selections with 800 perennials of different varieties that prefer direct sunlight and moist soil. Shrubs, perennials and groundcover within 7-8’ of the bases of the trees were removed to prioritize the health of the trees and overall viability of the planters.
Given the artistic design of the Elliptical Lawn, turf health is vital to the overall aesthetic of the park. While it can be challenging to mow, keeping each section well irrigated proved even more difficult because of the lawn’s shallow depth and intersecting concrete lines. As such, our team had to take an unconventional approach to utilizing the existing irrigation; we adjusted irrigation schedules to water more frequently but reduced cycle times to keep water in the root zone of the turf while not saturating and wasting water through the well-drained soil. In addition, we perform soil analyses on a regular cadence and use fungicides to combat the spread of bacteria.
The client opted for chemical-free weed control procedures in all the raised planters, meaning our team cannot use any type of pre or post emergent treatments in the landscaped areas. This poses challenges in the spring and summer when weeds begin growing in the planters and all undesirable plants must be controlled by hand. On the turf, our team implemented an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach using the least amount of chemical possible without sacrificing the quality of the lawn area. Due to these delicate conditions, we conduct regular monitoring about 3-4 times per week to ensure the health of the park.
LandCare was awarded a NALP Award of Excellence – Silver in 2020 for its work on Drexel Square. For photos and more, please visit the awards photo gallery here.