Thursday, March 24, 2011

Report from spring: Philadelphia Flower Show 2011 (LP = Long Post)

Before I left for Costa Rica I managed to squeeze in a daytrip to the annual, international, famous, fashionable, and extravagant Philadelphia Flower Show to check out what is going on in the world of horticulture and gardening.

scented plant competition

 These shows have three components.  Two are competitions, one are large or small installations of gardens or other plant-themed exhibits, flower arrangements, themes, and so on.  The other competition is which can grow the largest Hoya with the most green leaves, largest Christmas cactus in perfect symmetry, or smallest rock garden (and so on, in perpetuity).  I am sure they have at least 200 classes you can compete in.  Only the best plants are shown, so there must be a lot of weeding done by the judges among the submissions early on.

lavender satchels

The last part, is a giant area with vendors selling everything that have to do with flowers - tools, seeds, knick-knacks, salad dressings, ugly garden decorations, deer fencing, super cutters, and water hose attachments. Yes, I did spend some money, mostly on seeds :)  Strange, there are really no books for sale here, which makes no sense to me.


This year's theme was Springtime in Paris, which was followed by some, but not all exhibitors.  In fact, the winner of Best in Show for major exhibits showcased a fishing cabin in a bayou in Louisiana (OK, that is kind of French, but neither spring nor Paris).  Outside it was freezing, and inside the convention center it was flowers, flowers, flowers.  And people, thousands. Here are some personal reflections on this type of living botanical art (and science).

theme Dresses
Making a flower arrangement inspired by a dress?  No problem.

flower ball
We are having a ball!

Wonderful Oshibana Club (theme Pressed Plant Material)
This painting is 'painted' with only pressed plants.

Touch smell and feel garden (horticultural therapy)
A touch-feel garden table for blind people - horticultural therapy in action and a wonderful thing for all.

 A garden in the bayou (Best in Show award)
And the winner is.....  this!  Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades did a great job, but it is too clean!  Make it look worn and old and more real... that would have been even more charming.  But I realize that control over dirt might be something many horticultural people love, so the cleaner the better in their minds....

thin glass vases on wall
These handmade glass vases were nice and are for hanging on a wall.

Paris Underground: floral design projects
The 'Paris Underground' flower design contest was interesting in its macabre combination of skulls, metals, blood and flowers.  National Geographic just had an article on the catacombs under Paris, and what they do and did with all those bones....

Under Glass by John Whitenight
A bit overdone and overwrought?  Nah, this is America. No wait, it is Paris, right!

Reve de Fleurs
Something pink for all the girls and ladies.  I have no idea what this was inspired by.  Often when I go to these shows I wish the designers used less of everything.  It often turns into a mishmash of large and colorful plants, but not particularly beautiful. Just like many American Christmas trees - more color, larger is better...

floral design overkill
This got many ohs and ahs by the flower ladies.  I didn't like it at all (that is why I took a photo of it!). Why throw cheap junkglitterish from China onto nice flowers?  This is just like when they spraypaint little living cedar trees with glitter and sell them in the stores at Christmas.  Come on, fake is not better. (more examples, here and here). It looks so cheap, don't they get that?

instant delight
Next time, bring a flower to a friend.

Urban Graffiti by Michael Bruce
Now this was cool and different.  You get some junk and garbage together, some cutting tools, and a spotlight, and whips, and you have created a can-can girls out of cans. Michael Bruce had four installations and they were all fantastic and unusual. Innovative and wonderful.

Monet's Allee by Groundswell Design Group
This I loved and it was made by Groundswell, a company not far from where we live.  A fake tree allee, supposedly from Monet's garden, but reinterpreted as cedar trunks standing in water with blue fake waterlily leaves, red gold fishes, and dripping water from the tree branches and leaves above.  Creative and very different.  And very dark, too dark to get good photos. 

Back Road State of Mind
What are the daffodils doing out in the Pine Barrens when you are camping?  Did you plant them there last year and then came back to camp at the same spot just to look at some Narcissus? Even the pine needles on the old army tent were over-arranged, probably with tweezers.  Come on! Garden designers are sometimes so crazy about the colors that they put together plants based on their colors, not on where they can or should grow.  Many landscape architecture students know very little about plants, and design with 'red bush, 2 feet tall', instead of knowing the plants and their natural shapes and forms and environmental requirements.  Oh, there was a tiny pond in this sandy pineforest exhibit too, about one-two square meter, and guess what - there was a fishing rod rigged up by it.  Fish in a tiny pond like that in the pine barrens?  The pink ladies loved the whole thing - so romantic... I didn't.

La Vie en Rose
La Vie en Rose - is this conceptual flower art?  This didn't do much for me, but kind of cool.

An American in Paris
This was inspired by the movie An American in Paris. I don't know what it represents, I guess I have to watch the movie again. Skirts and legs maybe?

tulips, of course
Superpredictable and ugly. Keep it more simple.

at the florists
Now this kind of overdone coloring on the design palette I can understand, because this is supposed to be a Parisian Florist Shop.  You go here to pick out a few select colored things to bring home from a vast variety of colors, shapes, and scents.

carousel animals
Carousel animal made from flowers. What do you think? Any opinions?

All my show photos are here if you want to see more.


PP said...

This year was the highest attendance ever...I think it was about 300,000.
They also lost their sponsor PNC Bank...imagine that a bank withdrawing from a cultural sponsorship!

LS said...

Oh, that is right, PNC is usually there. But SUBARU was still there, they have been the main sponsor for years.