7 DAY SPOTLIGHT: Tiny Terra Ferma

Dec 19, 2014 0 comments
7 DAY SPOTLIGHT: Tiny Terra Ferma
Annie and Jeff met in the neighborhood while planting trees. After helping with volunteer planting initiatives and collaborating on a couple of projects, they enjoyed working together on a large job which helped them capitalize and launch Tiny Terra Ferma. The business name for them, they translate it not literal, but to mean “a little tiny piece of firm ground”. It fits with their theme of creating ecological spaces with native plants in small urban landscapes. Annie has a Master of Arts in Landscape Design from the Conway School of Landscape Design and Jeff has a background in studying horticulture at Temple and a Bachelors of Arts from Evergreen State College. Together, Annie’s expertise in ecological design and planting and Jeff’s work with native plants while living in Washington, make them a dynamic duo.
Tiny Terra Ferma has a great holiday program called Keep Christmas Alive. If you buy your Christmas tree at Tiny Terra Ferma, you can donate it after the holiday and it will be replanted right in your community through this program. You can even replant the tree yourself by joining them for their community planting day on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Tiny Terra Ferma offers a variety of native Pennsylvania trees including White Pines, Hemlocks and Junipers and prices range from $25-$90 depending on the size of the tree. Tree’s aren’t the only greens included in the program, purchase any other native winter plants including Red Twig Dogwood, Winter Berry Holly’s, or Wintergreen, donate them and they’ll be replanted too! They also carry Boxwood Wreaths which you may have seen adorning some of Main Streets’ stores. “We get the boxwood wreaths from my uncle and cousin from the Virginia Boxwood Company in Charlottesville,” Jeff says. “They have a sustainable business model, they prune boxwood's all over the Blue Ridge Mountains including historical places like James Madison’s Montpelier and then they make the clippings into beautiful wreaths.”
In addition to their Keep Christmas Alive campaign, they offer so many other great elements in their shop. “We are looking for things that inspire and empower people and get them into planting their own plants and foods,” says Annie. “We also look for quality tools and items that work well in small urban spaces.” Besides plants and planting tools, Annie and Jeff also feature gifts and other items that are personal to them, including galvanized sap buckets and Kingdom Mountain Farm Organic Maple Syrup, which both come from Annie’s childhood neighbors where she grew up in Northern Vermont. “We sell a lot of the books we use and are inspired by,” Jeff says. “One of our favorites, The Living Landscape is a new standard in the industry and helped push forward the movement of native plants in urban settings.”

Outside of Manayunk, Annie and Jeff have spread their business all over the city and are making a name for themselves in the industry. “Annie and I have developed our own interpretive design where we take a company’s mission and translate it to create an original design,” Jeff says. More recently they worked on a project for Yards Brewery where they grew hops up the wall of one of Yard’s garage doors and filled planters with wheat and barley. “We do a lot of edible landscapes,” Annie says. “It makes it really accessible for their clients and it helps them literally put their ingredients on the wall.” They were also commissioned by a member of the Phillies to take his large suburban property and bring it back to life by eliminating a lot of lawn and replacing it with more usable space for both the family and wildlife. “We tried to create an interactive landscape for his kids by putting in a little veggie garden and blueberries,” Annie says. “Blueberries are multi-functional, they have seasonal interest, they are a point of engagement for the family, they provide food and they are good for wildlife.”
Besides doing landscape design throughout the city, Annie and Jeff work to create green space for city dwellers in their own Manayunk backyard. “We both live right up the street,” Jeff says. “How many landscape design companies get to walk to a project?” When it comes to designing in Manayunk backyards, most homeowners struggle with privacy, shade and water runoff. Annie and Jeff work to find solutions to these problems while also reestablishing ecosystems with high design. “We are highly aware that we are providing a habitat for insects and birds,” Annie says. “If you build it, they will come. The day you put in plants butterflies and birds will show up, we will leave for lunch and come back and they’ve found it.” They aren’t just doing traditional landscape design, their designs incorporate plant biodiversity, natural cooling, and wood protection and are functional in the small square footage of Manayunk properties. “Every square inch is important,” Jeff says. “We use a collection of plants that are smaller or grow more narrow like Armstrong Red Maples which only grow 7-10 feet wide and 30 feet tall, much smaller than the straight species.”
For Annie and Jeff, Tiny Terra Ferma is more than just a store, it’s a design space and more importantly a community space. This past spring they held a workshop series called The Garden Primer, which focused on empowering people to garden in their own backyards. Besides workshops, Annie and Jeff hold fundraising events in their studio space for local non-profits. Pies for POP was a fundraiser they held for the Philadelphia Orchid Project, an organization who plants edible orchids around the city in schools, community gardens, and public places and teaches the community about food security. Their space has also been used for Manayunk-Roxborough Food Co-Op events, another organization Annie and Jeff are passionate about. In the New Year they would like to hold more design focused workshops and are looking forward to working more with the Rodale Institute. At this year’s Philadelphia Flower Show, Annie and Jeff will also be featured in the Gardeners Studio, where they were asked to give a talk about their design work.
Manayunk is where Annie and Jeff live and where they met, so opening up Tiny Terra Ferma in Manayunk was an easy choice for them. “It all goes back to wanting a more functional and usable Main Street where there are everyday goods,” Jeff says. “Where you can buy groceries and plants.” For Annie, it was also important to have Tiny Terra Firma in the city to supply to urban city dwellers and not just suburban dwellers. “We sell plants and tools that are more relevant for small urban spaces,” Annie says. Since they opened on Main Street they immediately began working with local businesses like the Manayunk Brewing Company and on local projects like the parklet that was installed outside Volo Coffeehouse. “The parklet was fun to do,” Jeff says. “We put in grasses to break the space up and create height and privacy. It also allowed us to tie in the plantings on Main Street with the plantings along the canal.”

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