Philadelphia Flower Show

3 minute read
Mother Nature plays the Convention Center
(and guess who loses?)


This year the Philadelphia Convention Center marketed itself as the place where the "petal meets the metal", hosting the Auto Show and the Flower Show a month apart. Petal meets metal is right. The experience of walking through a beautiful flower garden with steel rafters instead of sunshine above, and stuffy vents instead of a fresh breeze, is slightly bizarre. Adding to the harsh contrast are automobile promotions and gardening equipment marketing booths interspersed amongst the exhibits. The commercialized atmosphere alters the horticultural enjoyment experience from a relaxing, soothing escape to that of a bustling shopping mall at peak season.

Throngs of senior citizens, photographers, and employees, coupled with loud jazz music made this year’s Flower Show anything but relaxing. The flower arrangements themselves were anything but relaxing, too.

Throw in a saxophone

This year's theme was "Jazz it Up!" Brass bands, saxophone-piano-drum trios, and other ensembles livened up the mood. This was no ordinary granny garden. The exhibits were designed to match jazz's spirit of syncopation and improvisation. One booth featured a garden fence tossed on top of a gate by a crazy wind. Traditional arrangements exploded with extra bursts of energy in the form of protruding blades of shrub. A collection of saxophones and trombones was turned into a water fountain, while other water features danced to the beat of the music.

Some displays turned flowers into musicians, dancers, amorous club-goers, and bartenders. Others wove their arrangements expressively with instruments into rhythmic and jazzy patterns bursting with the energy of a groovy beat.

To be sure, other arrangements, while beautiful, had nothing to do with jazz. But they stuck in a double bass or a sax in order to fit the theme. The main feature, built around the live music stage, was a New Orleans French Quarter balcony overflowing with colorful plants.

A ten-centimeter miniature

Set-ups varied from elaborate garden and landscaping constructions to miniature pieces. One of the most poignant booths featured two dandelion seed heads: one ready to be blown, the other also still unblown, but painted black. It lay horizontally like a shadow at its twin's feet, representing wishes unfulfilled. This was framed by a ten-centimeter-square box. Other miniatures featured intricate dollhouse-like scenes made of flowers. There were pictures made of flowers, even clothing and furniture. Prize-winning specimens of classic tulips and orchids were displayed, as were exotic hybrids and bonsai trees.

There was also, of course, plenty of shopping available. One could buy bouquets, seeds, gardening tools— everything flower-related. Education booths taught aspiring gardeners with pamphlets and scheduled educational programs.

The Flower Show is now over, but you can catch it next year. Meanwhile, spring itself is finally here, and you can catch it in full bloom at Longwood Gardens: flowers in their best natural setting.

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