You know spring is near when the Philadelphia Flower Show rolls into town. Each year the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) hosts the wildly popular show downtown at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. For 2018, the show is tackling the theme of water. This precious and limited resource is highlighted in some interesting and unexpected ways. But, as the Philadelphia Flower Show demonstrates this year, conserving water doesn’t mean you have to forgo a beautiful garden.
History of the Philadelphia Flower Show
This year, PHS is hosting the 189th annual Philadelphia Flower Show. When PHS held the inaugural show in 1829 it was the first flower show in the United States! At the time, the show introduced the public to many unique, unusual and exotic plant and flower species. It’s a tradition that continues to this day.
There are two parts to the Philadelphia Flower Show. There’s the aspect that visitors see: beautiful, larger than life displays and exhibits. Each display is to be enjoyed and to offer inspiration for your own garden — no matter how large or small. But the Flower Show is also a competition. Landscapers, garden designers and others create the large-scale pieces that dominate the floor. Elsewhere smaller but no less detailed exhibits in a number of different categories highlight the theme at hand.
Exploring 2018 Theme: Wonders of Water
After last year’s Flower Show with a theme of Holland: Flowering the World, it was going to be difficult for exhibitors to outdo themselves. The water theme was represented in numerous ways. Water fountains and features, plants native to rainforests, plants that require minimal water, and ways in which we can more smartly manage water usage were just a few of the ways the theme was realized.
With Philadelphia and much of the northeastern United States experiencing two major winter storms this week, it made visiting the Flower Show a bit iffy. I visited the day after the second, larger storm and turnout — at least before lunch — seemed low. This made visiting the exhibits much more enjoyable. The Flower Show is notorious for being crowded and it can, at times, be difficult to see or get close to popular spots as selfies and photo ops are in full swing. It also felt as though the exhibits were spaced a bit more apart this year. This also helped significantly in making the experience more enjoyable.
As always, PHS provides a real wow moment at the entrance. This year it meant bamboo lashed together as scaffolding several storeys high. The sculpture was covered in rainforest-friendly plants with bird of paradise flowers and others spilling off. For extra emphasis bird call audio played overhead.
There were, of course, the requisite displays of spring flowers. Trees with hints of cherry blossoms, pink rhododendron, daffodils and tulips in seemingly every color of the rainbow. But if you’re eager for flowers, this might not be your favorite year. Similarly, while the theme of water made for interesting interpretations, it wasn’t the strongest of themes for the Flower Show. Of course, the theme interpretation for the Flower Show is always a bit generous.
Bigger Isn’t Always Better
While the large scale exhibits are always the biggest draw, the in-competition plants and displays by designers and horticulturalists amateur and professional are also a highlight. If you’re looking to see a perfect example of a plant, this is where to look. Similarly, exhibits of best balcony, window display and others highlight a special creativity that anyone can use as inspiration no matter the size of their home or their budget.
The 2018 Philadelphia Flower Show runs through Sunday, March 11th at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. You can buy tickets online or at the door. Once inside, a hand stamp will allow you to come and go from the show.
There are parking garages in the area surrounding the convention center, including directly across the street. With public transportation, SEPTA’s Jefferson Station stops directly below the convention center. Parking on the street surrounding the area will in all likelihood be hard to come by.
Thank you to PHS for providing admission to the Philadelphia Flower Show. All opinions, as well as all photos, are my own.