Bella Italia blooms at Philadelphia Flower Show

I did some flower spying this weekend, but instead of going somewhere exotic and fabulous, I chose to stay in the U.S.-- the mid-atlantic to be exact. This trip was for the largest indoor flower show in the world, the Philadelphia Flower Show, which took place in same city. I had little time, due to a large wedding on Sunday, but I managed to cover some gorgeous ground.

The theme this year was Bella Italia, and although I've never visited Italy, I can only imagine that it is every bit as beautiful as the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (P.H.S.) re-created. When you enter the show, you are immediately greeted by two enormous urns filled with an even larger, beautiful arrangements of assorted roses, hydrangea, eremurus, acasia mimosa and lush greens. They were truly magnificent.

Now I must pause here for a minute and offer my disclaimer: I am a floral designer by trade and can be somewhat (alright... very) scrutinizing with floral design. It is not meant as snobbery or callousness, it just comes with the turf-- I know flowers and I really know good flowers. I have been going annually for 10 years now, and not always do they hit it. Sometimes the landscaping is the highlight of the show while in others it's the garden club floral design competition that shines. This year, I thought all categories pleased, at least for this international flower spy. And while the orchid plant section is usually must see, I didn't even see get to the exotic plant judging area. Remember, I only had an hour, but I still managed to discover all sorts of fiores bellos e interessantes.

This year, there were lots of laboratory-like containers, including hanging test tubes, large bell jars and apothecary jars in several sizes. Each had unusual florals and/or exotic greenery inside them. One of the more eye-catching displays was this slatted wall covered entirely with green cymbidium orchids in tiny tubes. Incredible concept!

I loved the use of orchids as science lab decor, its Darwin motif didn't go unnoticed... attendees were swarming around like bees by the unusual exhibits.

Another design display that stood out were the succulents and cacti. I never used to appreciate these plants until I visited the Botanical Gardens in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Once I learned some background information about them, I get excited now when I spot a waxy echeveria or the webby clustered thorns on the hedgehog cactus. They are very alluring in an odd way.

Next stop was to the desert plants, where some bromeliads and cool water roses rested together on metal racks. It looked like dried bulbs were mixed in the grouping, but I'm not sure. In any case, the design was unique, and strangely attractive.

Speaking of the strange, I found a section containing modern designs that was pretty out there. I couldn't take my eyes off this spiraling vortex of bear grass, aspidistra leaves and anthurium inside a red metal swirl. It was amazing.

There were so many exhibits it was difficult to pick a favorite, but I loved this room of all yellow flowers. There was a wall with a circle of sunflower heads in the background with these tall cylinders of blooming forsythia off to the side. It was very clean and striking.

Another vignette that stood out was this falling amaryllis bulb design. You don't usually see the entire bulb, but this display showed many.

Once I made my way through more gardens and floral still life, I entered the area I like to call the "girl section." Each year, members of local floral studios and garden clubs design jewelry out of botanical matter, which often includes seeds and pods. It is quite unreal to describe, and unless you've seen these small works of art, you may not understand their brilliance. For me, these displays are incredibly entrancing, and the imagination that goes into creating them is off the chart.

These two necklaces were my favorites. I'm unsure if either of them won the blue ribbon, but it didn't matter, they are both winners in my eyes.

Jewelry wasn't the only feminine attraction. I looked across the room and found floral interpretations of another girl's best friend--shoes! There was even a pair of tall ones to fill the international flower spy's boot fetish! To look closely at all the detail is amazing. It's no surprise that this was the most crowded area in the show. These were well worth my ticket of admission.

These bark heeled pumps complete with dried leaves and fungus were crazy sexy!

More autumn inspired pumps of dried leaves and acorns... very smart.

If you've never been to this flower show, you must go next year. It is worth the travel and afterwards, there are hundreds of wonderfully hip restaurants in Philly to stop in. As far as this visit, all I can utter is: "Viva Italia!" Que bello!

All photos by: The International Flower Spy


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