Passport to the World, Philadelphia Flower Show 2010

Balloon created and designed from all flowers, both fresh and dried

It's that time of year when I make my annual trek to the Philadelphia International Flower Show. This year's theme, "Passport to the World", showcased incredibly beautiful botanicals from several different countries as opposed to just one, which has been the case in past years. The countries included: India, South Africa, Brazil, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Singapore. They each featured their prized local flora in unique settings. Vignettes ranged from intricate and detailed such as India's magnificent temple scene; while others chose to focus soley on the flower's individual character, like the tulip fields of the Netherlands.

The show began last week on February 28 and continued until the following Sunday. There were record crowds this year, most likely due to a welcome warm weather pattern after such a fierce winter of the east coast. People came from all over the country and as well as the world; the Philadelphia show is the biggest of its kind in the United States.

In between the exotic world displays sat magnificent annual spring scenes which were provided by local area landscaping companies. Most of the bulb flowers were in full-bloom, filling the large room with mixture of earthly fragrances. We attended the Friday before the show's last weekend, which is usually around the time some flowers start to become overly-ripe or faded. Even with some blooms visibly fatigued, we still caught the fragrance buzz: the intoxicating aroma steered us away from our dismal memories of shoveling 80 + inches of snow, and led us to fields of cherry blossom trees, lilacs and witch hazel.

The local designer displays were the most unusual of their kind this year. Each consisted of hip, industrial scenes and cutting edge designs. Cargo storage containers filled with a variety of unusual flowers created an arresting vision with the juxtaposition of full-bodied, sensuous blossoms against steel walls.

The white flower room was one of the most original displays at the show. Shelves and buckets of flowers were knocked over and askew, creating the illusion of a floral delivery truck accident or a passionate tryst in the cooler. It was a recipe for passion and back-room sex... ok, maybe too graphic? Sorry... but it was a scene so brilliantly executed, we could barely turn away.

Things cooled down around the corner where we were greeted with an artic array of calla lilies suspended from ice boxes and nerine lilies popping up from mounds of artificial snow. Thousands of phalaenopsis orchids were arranged in many places making the snowy scene a bit tropical, but still enticing.

The women's garden club arrangements were more modern than in past years, incorporating flowers and greens from the featured foreign lands. Some of best examples were minimal and striking, using long stemmed tropicals in shorter, cropped designs.

The floral/botanical jewelry section, which is always one of the most popular sections, delivered some of the most creative designs yet. There were bangles and crowns in a variety of periods and styles, all fit for any woodland faerie princess. Each piece lists its elements, which was incredulous when looking at the finished product.

Sample botanical elements used to create some of the jewelry

Bangles created and designed by Mimi Favre

After studying such intricacy, we were ready for the simpler things like the cactus/succulent section. I find this area to be one that attracts either horticulturists or enthusiasts who grew up with these rare, unusual forms. My east-coast friends ended up passing this by, while I captured some of my favorite pics. Although not always 'simple', I find that cacti are very enticing, despite their alien/insect appearance. They certainly pull you in with their textural paradox.

On the way out, I spotted some perfect Lady's Slippers. I never get tired of looking at these orchids; they personify "the woods" to me. I only wish they grew wild in my messy little backyard forest.

The last row of plants had this odd looking fellow, I didn't catch his name, but was taken with his onion-like bulb and hairy stems. Again, a bit alien but very cute.

The only complaint was that the lights surrounding the displays were piercingly bright-- they were so strong that taking pictures was near impossible. The pretty white orchid tree was just too over-exposed to include in this post.

Flowers as fashion

In all, this year's show was very creatively orchestrated and imagined. Known as the "Best Flower Show in America", The Philadelphia International Flower Show more than delivered with its diverse multi-cultural displays, gardening seminars and endless shopping... even a non-gardener could find inspiration and beauty. If you missed it, go next year and bring LOTS of film. It's one of the nicest ways to spend an early March day and get a head start on your gardening plans.

The best things in life are sometimes very small~ I.F.S.



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