When floral enthusiasts walk into the PHS Philadelphia Flower Show this week, somewhere amid the sweeping displays will be an exhibit showing barrels pouring streams of flowers into a foundation of colorful blossoms.
The exhibit represents a first for the Flower Show and for the creative force behind it. Black Girl Florists network is making its debut at the renowned floral showcase and local designers, including a Chestnut Hill College graduate and recent Germantown resident, are helping to install the historic display.
“This year’s theme is ‘The Garden Electric,’ so it’s going to be vibrant, integrate colors and it will definitely be a flowing moment,” said Aliyah Ali, who is helping to create the exhibit and founded her Blossom’Li floral design business in a Germantown apartment.
Ali, who earned a business degree from Chestnut Hill College, will be part of a team that includes Black florists and designers from West Philadelphia and Lansdale, as well as the founder of the Black Girl Florists organization who lives in Atlanta.
The show is scheduled for March 4-12 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center and organizers are excited about the group’s participation in this year’s event.
“Black Girl Florists network is a really unique, inspiring collective of garden and floral designers,” Seth Pearsoll, creative director for the PHS Philadelphia Flower Show, said in a statement. “The concept for their exhibit centers around the idea of unity and collective strength, and we are really looking forward to seeing it come to life.”
The display is designed to symbolize designers who poured their individual talents into a model of unified design that will expand and grow, which is represented by the trees that sprout from a sea of blooms.
The design was a collaboration of the Black Girl Florists team assembled by group founder and event planner Valerie Crisostomo who started the organization in 2020 in response to the increasing interest in supporting Black businesses that surfaced during the racial protests of that year.
Crisostomo reached out to florists around the country, and created a list and a website “so people could find us and support us,” she said. Only about 2.7 percent of florists in the industry are Black or African American.
As Crisostomo talked with Black florists, she found they wanted resources, advice, freelance design opportunities, and ways to connect with other Black florists and build relationships. Black Girl Florists Network was the result.
In addition to Ali, the group’s flower show team includes Rashawn Scarbo, of West Philadelphia, founder of Bloom Bold Co. and Alexis Christine of Lansdale, owner of Flowers by Alexis.
Scarbo’s business took off when she created a bouquet for a sorority sister and posted it on the internet along with bouquets she made from the leftover blooms. She is completing a floral design certification at Bucks County Community College. Christine began working in flowers as a teenager at an Ambler flower shop and later at another floral design business that was part of Normandy Farms Hotel and Conference Center in Blue Bell. She has a robust social media presence and offers tutorials and floral advice on youtube.
For Ali, the flower bug hit seriously when she got the opportunity to fly to the West Coast and work on a floral team designing an event hosted by Debra Lee, former CEO of Black Entertainment Television (BET). Ali pruned flowers, filled buckets, and helped out with other duties.
“Prior to that, I thought flowers were pretty. I liked them, but I never gave it any serious thought until then,” Ali said. “There were these big installations, flowers hanging from the ceiling arranged in so many different ways, it was mind blowing.”
When Ali returned home, she got serious about making flowers a profession and has found Black Girl Florists to be an invaluable support.
“It’s Important in any industry that you’re working in that you have a community, and I knew there was a community, but I wasn’t tapped into it,” Ali said. “I am a young Black woman in the floral industry and you don’t see too many of us, so it was important that I be part of Black Girl Florists.”