Philadelphia Flower Show embraces outdoor setting, most displays ever

by Diane Fiske
Posted 6/9/21

The Philadelphia Flower Show is being held outdoors this year for the first time since 1829, the year it was founded by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

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Philadelphia Flower Show embraces outdoor setting, most displays ever

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The Philadelphia Flower Show is being held outdoors this year for the first time since 1829, the year it was founded by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

The outdoor event is a creative attempt to cope with the pandemic restrictions that canceled last year’s event.

This year the annual Philadelphia Flower Show is celebrating in late spring instead of its usual date in early March. There will be 75 installations in the new location, which is the 15-acre FDR Park in South Philadelphia, a site which for one year replaces the Pennsylvania Convention Center where the show is usually held.

To accommodate pandemic restrictions, tickets for the show this year are timed giving attendees more room to spread out and socially distance. The 250,000 people expected to attend from June 5 to 13 will have designated blocks of time to appreciate the exhibits arranged in the show, which this year is entitled “Habitat: Nature's Masterpiece.”

The change in seasons has meant that a number of exhibitors can't make it this year.

Kevin Burke, CEO of Burke Brothers Landscape Design/Build in Wyndmoor, one of the main exhibitors in the show, said that the new postponement date in June is "the worst time for us because we have weddings, graduations and other spring events right now."

"And additionally, we have a huge labor shortage locally,” he said. “Fifteen of the international workers we had requested are not coming this year. We are looking forward to having better luck next year. "

John Ferry, CEO of Robertson's Flowers in Chestnut Hill, offered the same reason as Burke for not participating in the flower show this year. His reasons: weddings and graduations all needing flowers and not enough available workers.

“It is no-one's fault, but spring is the worst time for the flower business", one of Ferry's assistants said.

On the other hand, Sam Lemheney, Chief of Shows and Events of the Philadelphia Flower Show, was optimistic.

"Despite the terrible events of last year, this experience is a wonderful example of an enduring and combined power of green space plans and gardeners to create impact and inspiration,” he said.

And also, despite a lack of participation from some regulars, Sin Gogolak, Associate Director of Communications at PHS and spokesperson for the show, said this year’s event has never been bigger.

“The show features the most designers, gardens, and floral displays in the show's 192 year history,” Gogolak said.

She said one of the new designers exhibiting at the show this year is Jeff Leatham, Artistic Director for the Four Seasons Hotel.

Another is Patrick Cullina, a landscape designer and horticulture consultant whose projects, particularly in New York, have included High Line park. His installation at the flower show "communicates the constructed aspects of a city that is both dynamic and transformative utilizing spontaneous energy that rises through voids in the urban landscape," Gogolak said.

Gogolak said Cullina feels his designs provided habitat for pollinators and other wildlife by offering a host of of ecological benefits.

Another of the new exhibitors is Donald Pell, a garden designer, who said he offers "bold naturalistic landscapes." His exhibit shows "an idealized woodland as well as a neatly decorated table, with a sense of wildness."

Much of the income from the Flower Show ticket sales support humanitarian activities in Philadelphia. In a statement, the horticulture organization said, "the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society uses horticulture to increase the building blocks of health and well-being and to help its people gain access to fresh food, healthy living environments, and deep social connections.”

The statement continues to say that the organization is "a group of people and organizations who believe in the power of horticulture to make positive social and environmental change and that gardening and horticulture belong to everyone."

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