Garden inspiration from the Philadelphia Flower Show

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — Come for the flowers, leave with the ideas.

The Philadelphia Flower Show is the largest and longest-running horticultural event in America (originating in 1829) and is a must-visit annual destination for many gardening enthusiasts in March. Attendees were encouraged to channel his or her inner flower child with this year's 1960s theme, "Flower Power: The Power of Flowers".

I was able to attend a three-hour sneak peek of this year's show, and I spent so much time taking in the displays and the FTD World Cup Competition that I never officially made it over to the retail section. (Which was immense!)

Needless to say, my focus was on the flowers. I felt so inspired and rejuvenated from attending this year's show. There are many design ideas and themes that you can introduce in your own garden (indoors or outdoors) this growing season.



Be bold with color

Many displays used bright colors to show off flowers, containers and garden structures. Here are some highlights.

Bright red arbors are used to grow peas in this sample raised bed garden by Stoney Bank Nurseries.

The Subaru area used bright crayon-colored containers to draw people in.
Strong colors anchored the centerpieces created by Flowers by David.

Spring bulbs were bright and bold, such as these purple tulips in the Burke Brothers Landscape display.
Several tulips were on display at the Jacques Amand International, Ltd. display garden.


Bring attention to pollinators

From the Hanging Meadow on display above the main entrance, a pledge to be a pollinator friendly, and mason bee houses tucked into a landscape, the show offered many reminders to be bee friendly.


A sprawling meadow comprised of colorful wildflowers — 18,000 floral and grass stems — suspended 25 feet in the air over 1,200 square feet of the show floor. 
Bee houses were tucked into the landscape design by McCullough's Landscape & Nursery.

Ideas to incorporate in your garden

A good flower show always gives you that "aha" moment where you realize you could try combining certain plants or take a design and adapt it for your garden. Here are some attainable takeaways and plant varieties that caught my eye.

Love this combo of Carex Buchananii 'Red Rooster' with Eryngium planum (Sea Holly) as seen in the Design Gallery  Garden entry by the Huntingdon Valley Garden Club.
'Mount Airy' Dwarf Fothergilla used in the sample rain garden display by the Philadelphia Water Department. 

Incorporate metal sculpture and fixtures in the garden, such as these pieces created by Greg Leavitt in the "Unplug and Play" landscape by Stoney Bank Nursery.


Add a romantic flair to the garden

Incorporate crystals, glass orbs, and even hanging vases to add an element of vertical drama.

Floral design by Arrange, Floral and Event Design.
Dramatic tables setting by Flowers by David. 
An interpretation of 'Spring' by the American Institute of Floral Designers descended baby's breath from above. 
The PHS Shop offered glass orbs for sale. 


Culture your love of houseplants 

The Flower Show brings thousands of plant lovers together who compete for the coveted blue ribbon in the Hamilton Horticourt. I also did manage to quickly visit the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) Shop, which offered trendy houseplants like pileas and adorable pottery for sale.

Houseplants long for admiration and a blue ribbon from the judges in Hamilton Horticourt.  

Adorable planters and healthy houseplants for sale at the PHS Shop.

Houseplants for all types of gardeners. 

Also on display were two unique clivias. Clivia miniata 'Sir John Thouron' was a gift to Longwood Gardens from the late Dorrance Hamilton ("the grande dame") of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society who passed away in 2017. A clivia of this size and with so many blooms is very rare and a treat to see.

Clivia miniata ' Sir John Touron'.
Attendees also had a chance to vote on the name of the new introduction from Longwood Gardens (below): the first clivia with its light green flowers. (The winning name was unveiled on the last day of the show, March 10  — 'Longwood Winter Green'.)

A new introduction from Longwood Gardens: 'Longwood Winter Green".

The 'wow' factor

You can't have a flower show without something fantastical. At the Philadelphia Flower Show, there were many displays that channeled creativity in a big way.  While these elements would be difficult to duplicate in home gardens, I would be remiss if I didn't include them.

Waldor Orchids' 'Kaleidoscope' display included a variety of orchids and tropical plants arranged on structures of various shapes and sizes. Their inspiration channeled a bit of higher thinking in having the plants represent the diversity of the human race. The literature asked attendees to notice how the perspective of the display changes depending on where you stand. They were hopeful it would encourage people "to consider each other's views as well as our own."

I couldn't get enough of this display, especially the center column which included mirrors and continuously rotated.

The displays were set in a pool of water which reflected the displays.




And, perhaps the most photographed display and selfie station of the show was “Woodstock.... A Renewal of Vows” by Robertson’s Flowers & Events. The area recreated a wedding scene from the '60s. (Groovy.)







Worth the trip 

I've heard from many gardeners in my area (Connecticut) and north of here who say visiting the Philadelphia Flower Show is something they want to do but just haven't managed to attend yet, mainly due to the drive.

I pondered the same transportation issue and decided instead to travel by Amtrak. I picked up the train in New Haven and departed at the 30th Street Station stop in Philadelphia. This left me with a 10 minute drive to the Pennsylvania Convention Center (thanks Uber!). This was definitely a less stressful way to travel and something to keep in mind in the future as another way to visit the show.





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