Price’s partnership with Germantown United and local businesses brings community stewardship to neighborhood public gardens.

Candice Price in front of the public gardens at Maplewood Mall. (GIH | Maleka Fruean)

Candice Price’s gardening journey is long and filled with as many plants as she’s worked with.

Price has owned Candice Price Garden Design since the late ‘90s. She’s lived in Germantown her whole life, and she and her mother still live on Wayne Avenue and Winona Street. 

Her start in gardening was actually a reaction to getting angry. She was living alone in her three-story family home on Wayne and Winona with her then-newborn son, and her property had become a jungle. The front, back, and side yards were completely overgrown, and she and the yard were agenda items on her block meeting list every month. Finally, Price got tired of it.

“When my son was about a year old and able to sit down by himself on the yard next to me… me, him, and the dog would get out in the front yard, and I would just start ripping stuff, and I became obsessed with getting it to the point where no one could ever say those things about me ever again.”

Price continued, “And then I started loving it because, by trial and error, I was learning how to nurture these little creatures.”

It became an obsession–a healing–when Price needed it the most. She taught herself through the daily practice of gardening, reading books, and learning through trial and error. Sometimes, she would be out in her garden for six hours a day. And she began an independent business of gardening, mostly maintenance and eventually design. It began with her neighbors asking her to help with their yards and gardens as they saw how hers began to take shape. Word of mouth spread through her Quaker meeting community and her clients. 

One of her neighbors, an avid gardener, suggested she enter her garden in the now-discontinued City Gardens contest with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) in 2004. The first year she entered, she won second prize. In 2008, she won first prize in her category. 

After the City Gardens contest, work started picking up, and Price was getting business from neighbors in Germantown, Mt. Airy, and all over Northwest Philly from word of mouth. The years passed, and gardening maintenance and design work fluctuated with the area’s economic trends. Price’s health also started leading to problems with her doing manual labor, and she had to take a break from the gardening business. 

During the break, Price and her mother started Price’s Persnickety Protein Delivery, a delivery service specializing in grass-fed and sustainably raised meat, dairy, and produce from local farms in the Lancaster area. She also created an Airbnb on one floor of her family home. Both small businesses have waned in recent years, and Price had already missed being outside and gardening for her job.

After a weight loss surgery and feeling good out in the garden again, she got a job on a crew for a local landscape services business. There, she learned a lot of things, including how to work on a team. She also got a chance to work on public pocket parks in Mt. Airy as part of a Mt. Airy CDC project. 

“It was out in public with the community–my community,” said Price. “People were getting the benefits of my gift without having to pay for it. There were so many people  that couldn’t afford me in their yard, if they even had one, and they would come and they would sit in my gardens and they would tell me, “I come by here every day now because it’s so beautiful on my morning walk.” 

And that’s how Germantown United CDC (GU) saw her work, leading the CDC to ask her if she would be interested in doing public gardens work in Germantown, specifically for their new redevelopment projects at the Chelten Street bus stop at the corner of Greene Street and in the public gardens at Maplewood Mall. 

The basic garden design and foundation had already been put in place, but by 2022, no one was maintaining the gardens in the designs. Emaleigh Doley, executive director for GU, had a vision that Price could be the master gardener but that Germantown neighbors could be part of the stewardship of the gardens. 

Price was hired to maintain the gardens, which started with major weeding and cleaning, and to create a group of volunteers who could also help with the gardens. There would also be regular programming and events that would include community engagement and fun that would also help take care of the gardens. 

Daffodils planted by Candice and volunteers at Maplewood Mall. (GIH | Maleka Fruean)

“I got so much joy out of the community element,” Price said. 

Price started building relationships with folks who would hang out by the Chelten and Greene bus stop, where they would stop and talk to her while she was working. “That gave me a whole other level of joy,” says Price. 

Price posted a call on social media for volunteers, telling folks that she would teach them even if they had no gardening experience. They could use what they learned in their yards or share it with their neighbors. Out of that, the Germantown Garden Guild (GGG) was born, consisting of neighbors coming out to garden and learn together. 

Volunteers, sometimes from the GGG and sometimes other folks, helped her with events like cutting down salvia, where they needed a lot of hands, and Price taught people how to prune perennials correctly. Many people came out because they wanted to learn. Last year, they put daffodils in the garden next to Greene and Armat Streets. 

Price also did some redesigns in the gardens, where some spots were getting waterlogged from a continual path of rainfall. She added plants that would survive better in a rain garden. She sees how different it is to design public garden spaces versus private spaces. Plants need to be extremely hardy and withstand a lot more wear and tear. 

Price is looking forward to another year of community gardening and hopes to get the GGG reactivated. She’s been partnering with many of the Maplewood Mall business owners on community programs and events like building terrariums. She loves the partnerships being formed. 

Her vision this year is an idea from the GGG: a walking tour of home gardens in the Germantown area. If they can find funding, she would also love to see Christmas lights up on the trees in Maplewood Mall. Right now, she is enjoying the daffodils as they are blooming. 

The next community event with Candice Price Garden Design in collaboration with Maplewood Mall Collective, Germantown United CDC, and the Germantown Garden Guild is a Love Your Park Cleanup Day on Saturday, May 11, 2024, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., meeting at the top of Maplewood Mall on Greene and Armat Streets.