Visiting the 2011 Philadelphia International Flower Show
Dispatch from mom! Our assistant editor's mom sent us snapshots and observations from the 2011 Philadelphia Flower Show, which runs through this Sunday, March 13. Here's a look at one visitor's favorite displays and plants from this year's show.
Sarah Mustin Stockwell is a landscape designer and florist in Keene, New Hampshire, and a long-time reader and subscriber to GARDEN DESIGN. She also happens to be the mother of saveur.com's assistant editor, Anna Stockwell. When we heard from Anna that her mother attended the Philadelphia International Flower Show every year, we asked her to write a dispatch from this year's event, sharing with us some of her favorite moments.
The 2011 Philadelphia International Flower Show runs through March 13.
An Annual Tradition
For me, the snowy New Hampshire winter ends with my annual trip to the Philadelphia Flower Show. I’m originally from Philadelphia and my family has attended for decades, and I love continuing the tradition.
Every year the show provides me with a shocking immersion in the glories of spring. Of course, it's a staged and flamboyant exaggeration of the more timid shoots and buds that we normally think of as spring, but when I get home I am no longer fooled by my frozen garden. I know that spring is around the corner.
I am always impressed with the staff from the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society for all of the work they do. There is so much that goes into putting on this annual show and I'm proud to be a supporter of the show, knowing that funds raised from the flower show benefit so many wonderful programs, like Philadelphia Green.
This year’s theme was “Springtime in Paris” and visitors entered the show through the arching metal framework of the bottom of the Eiffel Tower.
Proud as a Peacock
The exhibits at the show conjure up a Parisian fantasy world put together with plants, trees, flowers, and props, like this peacock.
Is there anything realistic about these creations? No, but it’s fun, it’s excessive, it’s silly, and sometimes, it’s stunning.
Plants as Theater
The flower show is theater, not garden design. Still, I search for the unusual plant, the unusual combination, or the interesting transition from living to garden space—an idea to take home to my own gardens.
This year, I found inspiration in a rather quiet exhibit featuring espaliered fruit trees. Each of the espaliered trees show a different pruning technique, and the most impressive is a group of several trees grafted together to form a live wall along the back of the garden.
The feeling of this garden is quite pleasant—it's orderly in its rectangular construction, yet it still has a bit of chaos, with plantings that spill into one another.
Lettuce, beets, and marigolds
I also loved this rich carpet of lettuce, beets, and marigolds, and how the flower show gardeners designed the transitions from one area to the next by blurring decorative and edible plants.
In the back, I find a hellebore dangling its deep purple bells over a carpet of tiarella, a small treasure for the plant hunter. Though few of us could afford the incredible outdoor kitchen tucked into the patio area, the gardens at the back of the show still feel accessible—I spotted the common marigold sprouting among the fancier flowers.
Best in Show
The origins of the flower show are rooted in the horticultural history of Philadelphia and tucked among the fantastic displays are opportunities for serious plant lovers to find amazing new plants.
So it is with a certain relief that I go to my favorite part of the show: the horticulture section. Here, benches and benches of potted plants are on display. Each plant in the competition area is hoping to take home a blue ribbon, carefully primped and groomed by a plant aficionado.
There are orchids, cactus, begonias, and more. If you love plants, this is where you will see something you have never seen before, where you will want to take pictures and scribble names, and where you'll want to brush up on your Latin.
Various horticultural societies—including the boxwood society, the bonsai society, the orchid society, and the rock garden society—have small, but elaborate exhibits and these are great places to pick up some tips about raising particular types of plants or gardening methods.
By the end of the show, I am truly exhausted, and finally, it is time to go shopping at the marketplace!
Booths stretch along the edges of the enormous convention hall, and it seems that everyone wants to take home something. Most years, I buy one more orchid for my collection, and I can't resist this year. I buy my orchid and I bring it home, where it is a colorful reminder of spring during these last days of winter.