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How Do You Fight Poverty? With the World's Biggest Flower Show

Philadelphia's annual extravaganza helps an unlikely band of Rust Belt pioneers slowly turn the city's rubble green.
Philadelphia Flower Show National Parks
Photographer: Matt Rourke/AP Photo
Corrected

The Strawberry Mansion section of North Philadelphia, named for a summer house built for a federal judge in the early days of the Republic, was once home to the city’s wealthiest families. Today, 48 percent of the area's households earn less than $15,000 a year, and the median home value is about $58,000. 

Even in a city with more than 40,000 vacant lots, Strawberry Mansion stands out for its moonscape of blighted parcels. “It’s just poverty, really,” said Keith Green, an associate director of landscape management at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, as he surveyed the rubble of a demolished building on a recent tour.