Community greening: Abington and Bryn Athyn gardens receive recognition

By Matt Schickling
Wire Staff Writer

MATT SCHICKLING / WIRE PHOTOS Two gardens in Bryn Athyn and Abington were awarded a blue ribbon in the 2014 Gardening  and Greening Contest held by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. Above, Linda Ritter, volunteer gardener for Abington Township, was awarded a blue ribbon for her garden at the Levy Medical Center.

Two local gardens were awarded blue ribbons in the 2014 Gardening and Greening Contest held by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

Linda Ritter, volunteer gardener for Abington Township, submitted her garden located at the Levy Medical Center within the Abington Memorial Hospital grounds.

Ritter, a Jenkintown resident, ran her own design plant for fifteen years after graduating from Temple University with a degree in landscaping design. When she retired, she wanted to give back to her community by maintaining public grounds around the township.

“I was noticing how many gardens around Abington Township were put in and nobody cared for them. I volunteered because nobody else did,” she laughed.

Ritter called the township, and soon after, the hospital. Two years ago, her now-blooming garden was becoming a wasteland.

“It was a garden of weeds and tree stumps and I thought it needed some major attention,” she said.

The garden blooms throughout the year. In the winter, Ritter will maintain perennials, shrubs and daffodils. When spring rolls around again, she will plan even more vibrancy.

“I go for all colors together,” Ritter said. “It’s so uplifting to know it raises the spirits of anyone who sees it.”

Another blue-ribbon-winning garden in Bryn Athyn serves a different purpose without sacrificing aesthetics. Well, it’s actually two gardens. Located on the campus of Bryn Athyn College, the gardens are used as “outdoor classrooms” for students at the college and for high school students at Academy of the New Church.

A college garden is cared for by Micah Alden, a student coordinator.

One is maintained by the high schoolers under the guidance Danielle Odhner, a Bryn Athyn local, who also does gardening at the Bryn Athyn Cathedral. The college garden is cared for by students and Micah Alden, a student coordinator who works at various capacities for the college. Access to both gardens is granted to high school and college students.

“We cross-pollinate a bit,” Odhner joked.

The gardens are used mainly as a food source and to teach agriculture to the students, which Odhner sees as “the missing link in education.” The Academy of the New Church garden even hosts several chickens and colonies of bees.

“The educational component is really important, both to educate the students and the community about their food and where it comes from,” Alden said.

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Produce grown in the garden is sold at the Bounty Farmers Market, held just between the two gardens at 3002 Cairnwood Drive. Saturday was the last market of the season, but it will return in spring.

“Now the farm-to-table thing is so trendy, but we’ve been doing this for years,” Odhner said.

Still, she and Alden are happy for the recognition, though they still don’t know who nominated the gardens.

“It’s totally collaborative. It’s very hard to see where one starts and the other begins,” she said.