Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The 2013 Philadelphia Flower Show: Living Up to the Hype

Was “Brilliant!” truly brilliant? Yes, I do believe it was. There definitely was some creative interpretations of the British theme. Unfortunately, you won’t see any photos in this post. I get so annoyed by all the people standing in the way taking photos that I refuse to be one of those people. Besides, I would rather just look, enjoy, and absorb everything. I bring a notebook every year to jot down ideas, but no photo taking happening here. If you want to see some snaps, check out the Green Philly Blog or the Philadelphia Horticultural Society’s facebook page.

As you enter the show this year, you go through the giant royal gates and see a long allée of birch trees that leads to a huge Big Ben clock. Every so often the clock, which is a video screen, changes to a video that shows all sorts of pop culture icons/celebrities of England while playing the Beatles, Rolling Stones, etc. The flower show has gotten a little more “techy” the last couple of years with these kind of things.

Main exhibitors of special note: 

Schaffer Designs: Kudos to these floral designers for thinking outside the box with their Jack the Ripper theme. Normally floral designers like to do over-the-top, pretty things. These guys showed us just how creative and SPOOKY floral design can be. A wall of roses with a bed made out of thorns, hand sculptures protruding from a wall holding red thread with clematis climbing up it, dried red roses hanging from a ceiling, and more...all with dark, dramatic lighting and a man shouting out newspaper headlines about Jack the Ripper. Who knew flowers could be so creepy. Seriously, one of my favorite exhibits. Definitely check out this video of their exhibit. It doesn’t do it the same justice as seeing it in person, but gives a general idea of it.

EP Henry: A traditional landscape with stone arches, a fountain pool, and of course, EP Henry paving. The surprise here was if you looked closely at the statues framed by the arches, you would see that the one in the middle was not a statue at all, but a living person – skin and clothes all white – moving slowly from one pose to another. Must be a tough gig to look like a statue. She did a great job. I didn’t even realize she was a real person at first.

J. Downend Landscaping: A cricket theme with a cricket shed and statue of a cricket player in a nicely designed traditional garden setting. They have some photos on their facebook page.

Waldor Orchids: I liked the theme of the orchid hunter in the Amazon. Victorian England was obsessed with orchid collecting, so much so that it was referred to as Orchidelirium.

• The American Institute of Floral Designers (AIFD): Seriously fantastic interpretation of the crown jewels. A throne of roses with a crown made of flowers sitting on it, various jewels and crown jewels interpreted in flowers along with glass jewels, so realistic and so well done. AIFD does a great job every year, but I was really bowled over with their exhibit this year. They have some photos of the exhibit on their facebook page.

Smaller exhibitors of special note:

• The four exhibitors that did the Kitchen Garden competition were all very well done. I especially liked the “Enchanted Evening Elixirs” by the Elverson Garden Club.

• All four of the exhibitors that did the Entryways competition blew me away. They were so well done that I would’ve had a hard time picking first, second, and third place. The theme was Brit Lit and the literature represented was “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” (whimsical and dreamy) “Pride and Prejudice,” “Dracula,” (spooky with bat shapes for plant markers) and Beatrix Potter’s “Peter Rabbit” (with rabbit shaped plant markers, Peter Rabbit’s blue coat, and Mr. McGregor’s vegetable garden). Dracula was the winner.

• My mom knows some ladies in the Moorestown Garden Club, but that isn’t why I’m highlighting them. They did a fabulous job of interpreting Douglas Adam’s “A Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy,” with a stone wall with books mixed in, a purple alien foot print, the books as garden bed edging, and other little hints that you would only pick up on if you had read the book.

Petals Lane, Inc: Petals Lane did a superb job creating the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party setting from “Alice in Wonderland,” complete with a fanciful table setting, mushrooms made of fabric and mums, and sculptures of Alice, the rabbit, and the Mad Hatter. Check out the photos of the exhibit that they posted on their blog.

•  Delaware Valley Collage: DVC did a creative and well-thought-out exhibit about invasive plants using a Sherlock Holmes mystery theme. Their website describes it best: DelVal’s exhibit, “Sherlock Holmes: The Mystery of Dr. Black’s Garden,” allows participants to play detective. Participants have a chance to help Sherlock indentify species of invasive plants and insects that may surround their own homes. Part of the display is a tunnel or “garden of death” with black lights that participants can walk through.  The tunnel highlights different invasive species, which glow under the lights.

I always have to stop by to see the work of the Philadelphia Society of Botanical Illustrators. I was really impressed with the level of quality in almost all of the pieces this year. Judy Simon in particular had some great work, as well as many others. Here’s a link to the illustrations that were included in the show.

The area where they showcase individual plants loving cared for by eager entrants was redone this year to highlight these plants and show them in their best light. It is called Hamilton Horticourt, named after Mrs. Samuel M.V. Hamilton, who has been a flower show participant since 1984 and gave a $1 million gift to make the new display happen. It is well-lit and stages the individual plants beautifully.

Somewhat of a disappointment this year was Michael Petrie’s exhibit. Don’t tell him I said that because I’m a big fan. His focus was more on the copper sculptures and less on the floral elements/landscape. 

My mom, older sister, and I spent four hours at the flower show. That’s a lot of standing/walkind and can often lead to what I call “visual overload.” Really, there is only SO much one can look at in the space of so many hours. As always, I wish it wasn’t so expensive so that I could go back to see the few things we missed and frequent more of the vendors. We are always so exhausted by the time we get to the vendors that we don’t spend a lot of time there. Some vendors who got my business this year: Twig Terrariums and Hudson Valley Seed Library.

Bottom line: The 2013 Philadelphia Flower Show is “Brilliant!” and worth a visit. AND the money goes to a worthwhile organization, The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and their great programs.

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