Sunday, March 3, 2013

Get a Jump on Springtime at the Philadelphia Flower Show

Since 1829, the Philadelphia Flower Show has been an antidote to the winter doldrums. This year, the largest indoor flower show in the world opened to the public on March 2 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia.

The main part of the show covers 10 acres. In addition, there are satellite exhibits — 33 acres worth in all.

Produced by the renowned Pennsylvania Horticultural Society with a different theme each year, the current show celebrates the landscapes and cultural icons of Great Britain. Visitors enter the exhibition through massive gates made of flowers surmounted by a floral crown. The centerpiece of the exhibition is a reproduction of Big Ben that serves as a screen every half hour for a light and sound show.

"London Fog," an exhibit at the Philadelphia Flower Show,
recalls London weather with umbrellas and clouds of mist.
Among the British-themed tableaux are a dining table set for the Mad Hatter's tea party, photographs of the royal family paired with hats made of flowers, ball gowns decorated with flowers, a picturesque potting shed and garden path and a cricket green. One exhibit, called "London Fog," is constructed of umbrellas and flowers suspended over a reflecting pool that sends up clouds of mist.

Clivia originated in the southern part of Africa.
(Photos: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)
In addition, there are hundreds of exhibitors who bring their prized plants to the show to be judged by experts from all over the world. There are spectacular epiphytes that grow on trees in the jungles of Argentina and Brazil, absorbing their nourishment from the air; there are succulents from South Africa, tables of orchids, cacti of all descriptions, enormous philodendrons with perfectly formed leaves, pots of tulips in a dazzling array of colors, cases of miniature bonsai trees that have been nurtured and trained for decades.

Botanical illustrators demonstrate their craft. A vertical garden of kale and collards exemplifies how urban gardeners can produce food in small spaces. Experts including Mark Lane, the Gardens Manager for the Royal Household, give free lectures daily on everything from green walls and green roofs, to ornamental gardens and edible landscapes, to tree and lawn care.

Gardening tools and decorative artifacts for the garden are for sale as are scarves, hand-embroidered pillows, bone china, teas, soaps, aprons, hats, and toys.

The show closes on March 10 but there's always next year. Plans are already in the works for "Articulture," which will explore the ways in which horticulture has influenced painters and sculptors and vice versa. For this show, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society will collaborate with some of Philadelphia's museums.

For tickets and more information, go to