Popps Packing

A relaxation space for the community, designed by artists.


$2,500 to $5,500


Volunteer + Professional









Lot Type
Mixed Greens
Special Lot Condition
Project Name
Back Forty Perennial and Rain Garden Project

Popps Packing

A relaxation space for the community, designed by artists.


Popps Packing


$2,500 to $5,500

Project Timeline

04/2017 - 06/2017

Project Leader(s):

Faina Lerman, Graem Whyte


Volunteer + Professional

Who Else Was Involved:

Neighbors, family, friends, volunteers, paid interns, artists-in-residence

Lot Design:

Ring Around the GardenOrganic Bowl

Lot Type

Mixed Greens

Lot Size

Single Lot

Lot Address

1984 McPherson St, Detroit MI 48212

Describe the overall process for transforming your lot.

We cleared a massive amount of trees and debris from two vacant and overgrown lots, transforming them into a beautiful garden retreat and resting space for neighbors to enjoy. We created an amazing Japanese-garden-inspired ornamental garden with mini mountain mounds and pathways in less than two months.

Did you customize your lot design? If so, how?

Yes, we are artists so of course we had to put our own twist on it. We did a great deal of research on Japanese gardens and rain garden designs that we used as inspiration for the project. Graem Whyte, the project manager, created the design template using SketchUp, a rendering program, and then modified it as needed based on the unique features of our lot.

Is your current project part of a larger plan, goal, or initiative within your community?


Purpose of the Project:

Beautification, stormwater management

Lessons Learned
Land Acquisition

We owned the lot

Skill Building

We rented a boom lift (cherry picker) because we had to remove maybe half a dozen sizable trees that were near power lines. We learned a lot about trees, specifically native trees.

Community Engagement

This was a learning process for all involved. The first week of August 2017 we did workshops with youth in the community around land use and creating environments in unused spaces. We plan to host future workshops on stormwater collection systems and plant identification as part of the next phase of the Back Forty project.


No additional fundraising was done.


What was challenging about this process, and how did you adapt?

This project required a lot of site prep, including tree, concrete, clay removal, and a lot of manual labor (over 200 hours). The extremely dry and hot weather we experienced for most of June was difficult and slowed the process down. We worked early in the morning to "beat the heat" and into the evening, taking long chunks of the afternoon off to cool down and rest. Little rain during this time also required extra hands to make sure everything was watered. Many neighbors pitched in to help water.

What is the maintenance plan for this project after its first year?

Water, water, water! Weeding, weeding, weeding. We will watch how the plants and trees take and will wait until the fall to replace any that may not have survived and to plant additional trees. We have a very active community presence around the garden so we are confident that weeding and maintenance will be natural. We will also teach the kids in the community about the good weeds versus the bad weeds, and require them to pitch in with maintenance if they want to use the space. It's important that our community sees this as their space and tends to it along with us.