Founded in 1827 by The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS), the Philadelphia Flower Show is the world’s largest and oldest indoor flower show. The event has grown to include 33 indoor acres of incredible floral displays, ranging from miniature planted scenes to life-size, walk through “forests.” Each year, the PHS selects a theme around which the many talented gardeners and horticulturists structure their displays. This year the theme is Brilliant! – a tribute to British floral fashion, taking place March 2 through March 10, 2013. PHS hopes to create an experience that “glows with the majestic beauty and creative genius of Great Britain.” The grand interior space of the Pennsylvania Convention Center will reflect the artistic influence of England, with distinct 21st-century London design elements.
The year I went I was blown away by the scale and detail of the exhibition. Often the idea of a flower show brings to mind the sweet but simple image of table arrangements and holiday garlands. The Philadelphia Flower Show is an explosion of color and artistry one would expect to find in a museum. The contributing designers are not just florists; they are architects, painters and sculptors. Naturally, the event is a huge undertaking; planning for the following year begins immediately after the annual show ends. Thousands of plants are provided by local and national growers while others are specially nurtured in the PHS’s greenhouses at Meadowbrook Farm.
Since its inception, the show has become a citywide endeavor. Local bars and restaurants compete to create the best themed beverage and over seventy retailers enter a contest to construct the most artful storefront displays and lobbies. The annual Flower Show Window Decorating Contest will challenge area stores to channel the spirit of “British Invasion.” Shoppers can go online and vote for their favorite. Voting automatically enters participants to win two tickets to the 2013 Philadelphia Flower Show.
This year the PHS will open the show a day earlier, allowing visitors a total of nine days to enjoy the event. Also new this year are the pre-show, “sneak peek” tours. Guests will get a special behind-the-scene look at the construction of the flower show’s elaborate exhibits. Part of the Brilliant! concept will include a forested wetland, complete with azaleas and fothergillas surrounding a one-room retreat meant as a tribute to the late Henry David Thoreau. A replica of Big Ben will also stand sentinel among the thousands of blooms. Annually, the countless number of participating designers compete for ribbons in a variety of categories, from small arrangements and centerpiece to yard-sized gardens and floral gowns. The show goes above and beyond the typical garden show comprised of centerpieces and arrangements confined to vases.
With the price of admission guests can also take part in the PHS Designer’s Studio and watch as some of the nation’s finest floral designers give insight into their creative processes. The PA Wine & Spirits Store will also return. Led by expert sommeliers, patrons can sample wines and liquors from Great Britain inside the convention center’s Grand Hall before absorbing the fantastic floral displays.
Other activities include culinary demonstrations, entrance into the Gardener’s Studio, a speaker series and PHS Kid’s Zone activities. The interior marketplace, which will be selling authentic British goods, will feature nearly 180 vendors. The event draws over a quarter of a million people a year and generates $8 million dollars in revenue for the city. The Philadelphia Convention Center is also within walking distance of other fun city sights, like the renowned Reading Terminal Market (home to some of the best Philly cheesesteaks around and a plethora of homemade goods) and the Philadelphia Chinatown.