The Philadelphia Flower Show was once a rite of late winter announcing that spring was, in fact, coming. But as with so many things, the popular event has been forced to adapt. The Philly Flower Show has now become an event in late spring celebrating the season.
Now in its second year being held outdoors and in June, the event is starting to find its feet. Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS), which hosts the flower festival, has clearly learned from last year. With a theme of In Full Bloom, the 2022 Philadelphia Flower Show is fun with plenty to see and do for a day out.
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2022 Philadelphia Flower Show Learns From Last Year
At first glance, things don’t seem quite too different from last year’s Flower Show which is again held at FDR Park in South Philadelphia. But you would be sorely mistaken. While the show still uses a similar layout, it somehow feels easier to navigate and more clearly defined than in 2021.
The main garden and floral displays are centrally located at the heart of what is called The Promenade. To one side is the Food Bazaar, a very large food court-like area full of a variety of local restaurants and vendors; to the other side and off in the back is a marketplace of more than 120 different vendors.
At the top of The Promenade, a tent holds all of those unique plants in competition as well as some special displays, including a (thankfully) not-in-bloom corpse flower. (Although there is a chance that it might bloom during the show.) And, like last year, the American Swedish Historical Museum hosts exhibits like the jewelry arrangements, the always spectacular works from the Philadelphia Society of Botanical Illustrators, and pressed plants.
The displays come from landscapers and gardeners not just in the Philadelphia region but across the country. The show is always a great place for finding inspiration for your own garden and this year is no different. The all-encompassing theme of In Full Bloom really allowed the displays to speak with a unique voice and embrace a variety of thoughts and ideas. The garden displays really impressed with fun ideas (like a DJ in the “bloom room”), home landscaping ideas you wish you had the yard for (such as the lavender-lined reflecting pool), and those with educational value (like the oversized fungi flower). The Men’s Garden Club of Philadelphia caught my eye with its likeable potting shed surrounded by raised garden boxes and a quiet spot for coffee. And the Ambler Arboretum educated visitors on LGBTQ issues with a garden theme (such as how Oscar Wilde’s use of green carnations has become a “hidden symbol of LGBTQ love and identity”).
And it seems as though the use of native plants at the Philadelphia Flower Show 2022 is being fully embraced as you can see local favorites across the showgrounds. This seemed to be much to the utter delight of the bees that stopped on flowers and dragonflies that buzzed by.
There is no shortage of truly beautiful plants carefully arranged and landscaped. With the large selection of food vendors — far larger than was at the Pennsylvania Convention Center — and the shady spots for relaxing, the event has become a good excuse for how to spend a day.
But what is missing from the show is the trademark over-the-top display at the entrance. Usually it serves as a bottleneck, as visitors clamber for selfies and gawk at the spectacular display. Last year, colorful tentacle-like garlands extended off of the park’s gazebo. This year, a tasteful and very large arrangement sits at the gazebo’s center. It’s beautiful, no argument there; but the display lacks the wow factor that ordinarily would cover social media for days thanks to shared photos.
The Challenges of an Outdoor Show
There are certain challenges that no matter how much planning and prep PHS does, they will never be able to solve for the Philadelphia Flower Show. There will likely be rain during the show at some point. And there is a good chance it will probably be unbearably hot. The Flower Show handles it well with free water bottle filling stations. There is also plenty of seating and a fair amount of shade, but it tends to be off to the sides. The Promenade is largely open to the elements, making breaks a necessity and not an option.
One of my favorite parts last year was the marketplace where you could find live seedlings that you could take right home and plant in your garden. That returned this year, but the timing for some of the plants and seeds just isn’t right. As my husband purchased some horseradish roots, he offered to buy me the flower seeds I was eyeing. But the saleswoman must have heard my unspoken concerns. She said, point-blank, “Don’t buy them. They’ll never grow in time for this year.” It’s honesty like that that you can really appreciate.
With the location in South Philadelphia near the sporting complexes, there is plenty of parking available. Parking is credit card only or using a parking pass you purchase ahead of time online. Alternatively, there is a shuttle from Reading Terminal Market or public transportation, including the Broad Street Line. Be prepared to walk, especially if crossing Broad Street from the parking at the sports complex.
Consider combining a trip to the Flower Show with a Phillies game to capitalize on the location and minimize the driving.
Thanks to the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society for hosting me. All photos and opinions are my own. This post contains an affiliate link.