There are many noteworthy exhibits at this year’s Philadelphia Flower Show but none are more engaging or interesting than “Horticulture in 18th Century America,” an extensive display created by the students of Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades.
To honor the show theme, Brilliant!, the display is centered around the transatlantic exchange of plants from American botanists such as John Bartram to their counterparts in England. Features of the exhibit include an 18th century nursery and botanic garden with northeastern native plants and an adjacent packing shed where wooden boxes are filled with roots, plants, and seeds.
One of the first things to catch my eye, however, was the group of students on hand to interpret the exhibit. As a mom and former substitute teacher, I was excited to witness the enthusiasm these students showed for their field of study, as well as their display. Best of all, each senior told me he already has a landscape or horticulture job ready and waiting.
I particularly admired the work put into the accurate depiction of small-size boxes which, if the American botanist was lucky, would be stored under the captain’s bed. There, the plants would be sheltered from weather and salt water, benefit from the warmth of the cabin, and be protected from rats by the captain’s cat.I wasn’t alone in my admiration of the exhibit. It garnered four prestigious awards: The Bulkley Medal of the Garden Club of America—for an exhibit of horticulture, botany, or conservation with exceptional educational merit; a Special Achievement Award—for a unique feature or design element; the Special Achievement Award of the Garden Club Federation of Pennsylvania—for unusual excellence in the category of Horticulture; and the Chicago Horticultural Society Flower Show Medal—for an educational exhibit showing outstanding horticultural skill and knowledge.