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The Philadelphia Flower Show - A National Treasure

There is an annual event in Philadelphia, and for all its notoriety, there is still an audience that hasn’t experienced its unique beauty and creativity. The event is the Philadelphia Flower Show presented by The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS).
It is the world’s largest indoor Flower Show, and the longest running event of its kind. Held currently at the Philadelphia Convention Center, it is a cultural gem for the area. Even with its publicity, and the length of time it was been in Philly, I still come across people who say that they haven’t been, and have no clue what the Flower Show is all about. It is time for all the flower virgins to blossom, and become enthusiasts for a great event. You don’t know what you are missing!

I want to clear up any misunderstandings about what the Flower Show holds for its visitors. I was a former flower naysayer, who thought that the annual Bloom Fest was a bunch of ancient, mainline garden ladies, gazing upon their prized bougainvillea, and awarding each other blue ribbons. 

I imagined it was the ladies who lunch, sipping tea while they discussed their favorite mulch and polished their “Garden Weasels.”  Attention folks - It isn’t just a bunch of potted flowers lined up on tables; it is a unique experience that involves great creativity, imagination and a team of talented people.

The show floor of the convention center becomes a lush landscape of flowers, plants, trees and other vegetation depending on that year’s particular theme. It is like a combination of Longwood Gardens, Disney World and Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory spun into a sensory overload of beautiful colors and wonderful smells. (A word to the wise – it is not recommended to eat the flowers here.)

Take yourself out of the gray, bleakness of winter, and enter the vibrant world of the Flower Show. Where else can you find yourself wandering under the Eiffel Tower to a flower market, gazing upon an exotic Hawaiian waterfall, watch a Dixieland band march through the French Quarter, or stroll down the red carpet through the grand entrance of a beautiful retro movie palace? Only at the Flower Show can you travel in such fragrant style. There is no luggage to pack and no passport required. All that is needed are your physical senses and comfortable shoes.

Every year, I find, it is like walking onto a movie set where a whole new design of colorful flowers, and beautiful plants can transport you from the urban sprawl to whatever theme the creative team at PHS has imagined.  There is something to be found for everyone – from the inventive landscapes, gardening demonstrations, cooking classes, hundreds of vendors selling everything from jewelry, artwork, lawn ornaments to Philly Soft Pretzels.  

Several of my favorite attractions at the show, other than the main showcase gardens, are the miniature displays, and the always-fascinating artwork created from flowers and plant material. You will be amazed at the number of budding artists in the area.

The miniatures are dollhouse-sized displays based on different themes, and are a crowd favorite. The detail and intricacy of the dioramas is always outstanding. I have seen everything from a French Bakery to a Hogwarts’ greenhouse. It is always fun to read the judge’s remarks, and to see who wins the ribbons.

Also the artwork that is created using petals, leaves and other natural materials is phenomenal. There are framed pictures that look like a painter has taken his brush and captured a still life or a landscape in brilliant color, but it is not paint. It is meticulously placed petals creating wonderful natural paintings. The patience and attention to detail, always makes me want to go back year after year to see the exhibit. 
There is judging for the landscape displays, and there is the area, known as the Horticourt, where individual gardeners can enter their prize plants for judging. It is a fascinating display of outstanding specimens, that you can’t believe someone has grown in their own backyard. This is where the petals get the medals. You can see orchids, succulents, ferns and amazing dish gardens, which will make all non-gardeners envious. 

I am not too proud to admit that I have Peony envy every time I wander through this display of carefully tended plants. Although, I have trouble keeping a cactus alive, and struggle to maintain an air plant, I can certainly appreciate the wonder of nature, and the dedication local gardeners take in growing these beauties.

There is always inspiration to be found, and great ideas on how to beautify your own surroundings.  You might even develop a green thumb, which I’ve heard can be pretty enjoyable. Even if just a seed is planted, which can help you look at your environment differently, it is worth the price of admission.

The show can get pretty hectic at times, and if you aren’t into crowds, there are better times to attend. Usually weekday afternoons between 3 PM and closing, you can enjoy more viewing space as the regular attendees start to wilt. There is also the option of an early morning private tour, which can be arranged through PHS.

 This year’s theme is “Explore America: 100 Years of the National Park Service.” I am looking forward to seeing the magnificent “Big Timber Lodge” entrance garden, which will begin the journey through landscapes representing our beautiful national parks. The lodge is an interpretation of distinctive national park architecture. Look for a 12-foot waterfall, giant redwoods and breathtaking landscape panoramas projected on overhead screens. Check your calendar, and plan on making the trip during March 5th through March 9th. The show runs for nine days, so you can’t say “I don’t have the time.” 

There is no excuse to procrastinate and think you will go some year.  Seize the moment, and feel the Flower Power. Become a “Botanical Bohemian” and discover your green side.  You will certainly be glad that you have planted roots to a new annual tradition.  Better a late bloomer, than to never bloom at all. I hope I have cultivated your curiosity, and sparked your interest. “See you at the Flower Show!”


  1. The perfect description! Looking forward to seeing it and you.

  2. OMG thanks for the reminder!! Maybe I'll try to go Sunday :) Love the National Park theme this year.

  3. This post is exactly how I feel about the Flower Show, Vince. You've described it so well. Thanks for this.


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