Tag Archives: Philadelphia Flower Show

Hail and Farewell to the Year 2013

On the last day of December, it seems fitting to take a quick look back at the last 12 months for a fond farewell to 2013. All in all, it was a good year, in the garden and out.

Winter weather was mild, spring was wet, summer was wetter still, and fall gave us a brief taste of hot and dry before cooling and turning the water works on again. Greenville’s total for the year is 70 inches of rain, the second wettest year on record.

January--Fairy garden made in anticipation of a visit from my granddaughter, Caitlin.

January–Fairy garden made in anticipation of a visit from my granddaughter, Caitlin.

February--Camellia japonica, one of many that put on a show outside my kitchen window.

February–Camellia japonica, one of many that put on a show outside my kitchen window.

March--Favorite display at the Philadelphia Flower Show featuring the tea party in Alice in Wonderland.

March–Favorite display at the Philadelphia Flower Show featuring the tea party in Alice in Wonderland.

April--Spanish bluebells and Chocolate Chip ajuga in the front garden.

April–Spanish bluebells and Chocolate Chip ajuga in the front garden.

May--Master Naturalist Conference hike to Yellow Branch Falls, an awe-inspiring experience!

May–Master Naturalist Conference hike to Yellow Branch Falls, an awe-inspiring experience!

June--Garden tour of France, including a trip to Mont Saint-Michel.

June–Garden tour of France, including a trip to Mont Saint-Michel.

July--The white flowers of hosta scent the secret garden with their perfume.

July–The white flowers of hosta scent the secret garden with their perfume.

August--The terrace garden at Jefferson's Monticello.

August–The terrace garden at Jefferson’s Monticello.

September--Great Dixter's Long Border in autumn dress.

September–Great Dixter’s Long Border in autumn dress.

October--Finding the elusive Grass of Pernassus along the Yellow Branch waterway.

October–Finding the elusive Grass of Pernassus along the Yellow Branch waterway.

November--Fall foliage at the North Saluda Reservoir, also known as the Greenville Watershed.

November–Fall foliage at the North Saluda Reservoir, also known as the Greenville Watershed.

December--Ready and waiting for family to arrive for the holidays.

December–Ready and waiting for family to arrive for the holidays.

As the year draws to a close, I wish you a happy and safe New Year’s Eve and all the best in 2014.

Be at War with your Vices, at Peace with your Neighbours, and let every New-Year find you a better Man. ~ from Benjamin Franklin’s 1755 Poor Richard’s Almanac

Tea Anyone?

The Mad Hatter: Have I gone Mad?

Alice: I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.

Why didn't you arrive earlier?  The clock says you're two days late!

Why didn’t you arrive earlier? The clock says you’re two days late!

Can you believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast?

Can you believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast?

If you have to be mad as a hatter to attend a tea party like the one featured at the Philadelphia Flower Show, bring on the mercury! This display, created by Petals Lane in their debut year, took the ice cream along with the cake.

Every time I made a loop of the exhibit hall, I ended up at the tea table, not just to see it and photograph it again, but to watch others discover its magic. Twinkling chandeliers, an opulent table, mismatched chairs, touch-me florals, tree-sprouting treasure trunks, and Wonderland Bronze from the Robert James Workshop Ltd in Dorset, England, coalesced into a sumptuous and breathtaking craziness.

Who are YOU? said the caterpillar.

Who are YOU? said the caterpillar.

I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.

I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.

Curiouser and curiouser!

Curiouser and curiouser!

The pleasure it bestowed wasn’t the exhibit’s only reward. It was honored with the Special Achievement Award for a unique feature or design element, a Special Achievement Award of the Garden Club Federation of Pennsylvania to an exhibit of unusual excellence (under 1,000 sq. feet) in the category of Creativity, and the Phyllis M. Craig Award for the Floral major exhibit demonstrating the best use of color in flowering and/or foliage plants in an innovative or unique design.

How do you know I'm mad? said Alice.  You must be, said the cat, or you wouldn't have come here.

How do you know I’m mad? said Alice. You must be, said the cat, or you wouldn’t have come here.

Highlighting Early Horticulture at the Philly Flower Show

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.

Kirk and Sara Brown as John and Ann Bartram

Kirk and Sara Brown as John and Ann Bartram

Nursery

Nursery

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.

Senior Students at Williamson

Senior Students at Williamson

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.

Boxes were sized to fit under the captain's bed.

Boxes were sized to fit under the captain’s bed.

Congratulations!

Congratulations!

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.

Final Form of Philly Flower Show is “Brilliant!”

I could hardly believe my eyes and ears when I arrived for the PHS Member’s Opening of the Philadelphia Flower Show at 12 noon on Friday. Just 18 hours earlier the 10 acre hall had been a riot of bustling activity and tooting horns, but now every detail was in place and classical music greeted visitors at the Royal Gate.

Grand allee at the opening.

Grand allee at the opening.

That is, until the clock struck 12 and Big Ben launched into its light and music show, a five minute video montage that roared to life with the Beatles “All We Need is Love,” and then flashed through an animated photo of the Royal Family and a dozen or more British TV and Pop icons from Twiggy to Monty Python. It was just the jolt of energy needed to put a smile on my face and spring in my step.

Good thing, too, as I spent the next 3 and a half hours on my feet, jostling along with thousands of PHS members seeing the exhibits for the first time.

There was plenty to excite. The Philly Show does a fabulous job of juxtaposing all the essential elements, from over-the-top floral displays, to incredible gardens and a myriad of competitive arts. There were juried flower arrangements, mailboxes, window boxes, stylized dresses, and doorway gardens, just to name a few. And Hamilton Horticort, with nearly 6,000 home-grown plants vying for ribbons, was the most impressive horticulture battle I’ve ever witnessed.

Hamilton Horticourt

Hamilton Horticourt

Surprisingly, my three favorite displays were floral exhibits, not gardens. They included “Proper Hodgepodge” by Robertson’s Flowers, a five-piece roundabout that showcased a 60’s Mod Gala, a Medieval Feast, a Wartime Pottager, a Royal Tea Party, and a Storybook Wedding. I also adored “Mad Hatter’s Tea Party” by Petals Lane, and was blown away by “Pure Britain,” a contemporary white wedding by Pure Design.

Royal Tea Party

Royal Tea Party

Contempory White Wedding

Contempory White Wedding

I also particularly enjoyed the high school and college displays. It was a thrill to talk to these young horticulturists about their exhibits and to hear their future plans. (More on this topic in a later post.)

Today, the show opens to the public and programs of all kinds begin in earnest. There is both a Designer’s Studio and a Gardener’s Studio within the exhibit hall for hands-on presentations, as well as a handful of nearby lecture rooms for PowerPoint programs.

Sadly, I’ll only see a few of these before it’s time for me the head home. But Philly has been filled with flowers, fun, and friends, and I’m eager to sleep in my own bed for a couple nights before the next big adventure.

Two final notes:
First, I’m sharing additional photos on my Face Book page so join me there if you like. Just friend “Marian StClair” (no punctuation within name).

And finally, if you’re as besotted with the UK as I am, think about joining me on my September trip to Southern England. The tour features the best gardens of the region, including Great Dixter, Sissinghurst, and RHS Wisley, as well as historic sites such as Jane Austen’s House & Museum and Churchill’s Chartwell Estate. Find details here.

September in England is sure to be devine.

September in England is sure to be devine.

Brilliant!

I’m in Philadelphia for the British invasion! Yes, you heard me right; the English have arrived on our shores once again — not by boat but by flower!

Gates of the Royal Palace offer an over-the-top floral welcome to the 2013 Philadelphia Flower Show.

Gates of the Royal Palace offer an over-the-top floral welcome to the 2013 Philadelphia Flower Show.

Grand entrance of birch allee and Big Ben.

Grand entrance of birch allee and Big Ben.

Beginning tomorrow at its 11:00 a.m. opening, the 2013 Philadelphia Flower Show will be “Brilliant!” The show, inspired by the creative genius of Great Britain, pays tribute to both the cultural icons of England and its continuing influence on garden design.

Yesterday evening I joined other garden writers and photographers for a sneak peek at this year’s show and will return again in a few hours to see if exhibitors can pull it all together before tonight’s Black Tie Preview Party.

It was quite extraordinary to be led into the 10-acre exhibition hall in my red hardhat for an insider’s look at the construction of the show. A few exhibits were in their final form, but many were in the early stages of development.

Though my photos don’t quite capture the chaos, small cranes and tractors ruled the floor, while bulky boxes of plants and 5-gallon buckets of cut flowers were everywhere. The room was incredibly cold to maintain floral freshness (my fingers and toes were ice long before the end of the tour), but despite the frigid temperature the heady fragrance of blooms filled the vast hall.

Every detail complete at the Mad Hatter's Tea Party

Every detail complete at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party

White Wedding under construction.

White Wedding under construction.

After the tour, Alan Jaffe, PHS Communications Director, hosted a light dinner at the Convention Center. Sam Lemheney, PHS Senior Vice President of Shows and Events, provided an overview of the creation of this year’s show, spilling the beans that the idea for “Brilliant!” stemmed from a creative brainstorming session in London over a few pints. Many thanks to the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society for their kind hospitality.

The special media event sponsored by PHS was also an opportunity to reconnect with garden writer friends such as Kirk Brown, aka John Bartram at the recent GGMG symposium, and Charlotte Kidd, fellow writer for The National Gardening Association. I made a few new friends too, including Steve Whysall of Vancouver, Canada. Be sure to catch Steve’s blog for The Vancouver Sun and also stay tuned here for more news on the latest British incursion.

That's all for now from groovy London, baby!

That’s all for now from groovy London, baby!