Annual PHS Flower Show offers fun time for all with National Parks theme

Photo: Shane O'Connor, The Triangle

Photo: Shane O’Connor, The Triangle

The Philadelphia Flower Show is a must-see for all flower enthusiasts and nature lovers. The annual show is held at the Convention Center and runs from March 5-13.This is the largest garden-related event in the nation and was recently crowned “the best event in the world” by the International Festivals and Events Association. The Philly Flower Show, started by the Philadelphia Horticulture Society, dates all the way back to 1829 and has continued to blossom throughout the years. The event is composed of countless exhibits, a prodigious marketplace and most importantly, food. All proceeds benefit the PHS whose goals revolve around protecting and preserving the environment.

The show’s theme this year is “Explore America,” which celebrates the iconic national parks throughout the country such as Yosemite and Yellowstone, among others. Other historic sites are also included. The visitor begins at the “Big Timber Lodge” and is immediately welcomed by National Park Service Rangers. This lodge is described as “a modern interpretation of classic park architecture” and was greatly inspired by Native American culture. Artist Emily White provided the function with buffalo and bear sculptures while Klip Collective created a video with sounds of bison and songbirds. The visual and audio components come together to really make the guests feel as if they were in the wild. After the grand entrance, the guest then has the ability to take one of the three trails through the showroom to observe all the different exhibits. The design gallery is composed of creative, colorful windowsills and balconies with decor concepts “borrowed from historic settings.” The mini arrangements of flowers were charming and the detail of the miniature settings based on historic periods were exceptional.

Scattered throughout all the exhibits are caterers and restaurants so explorers don’t go hungry. The carefully crafted themed dining experiences begin with a trail mix bar near the entrance where visitors could make a “grub bag” until they find their way to the Smoky Mountain Cafe, The Declaration of Cheesesteaks, or the Denali Cafe. There are many more food offerings and even a “PHS Pop Up Beer Garden” that takes the explorers camping with its s’mores, brownies and music. The show’s famous “Garden Tea,” which is only offered twice a day, is the more sophisticated dining option. This menu of mini sandwiches, pastries and teas is a fan favorite at least for those who get the chance to try it.

Some other highlights of the show include  “Find Your Park Pavilion”, Railway Garden, “Butterflies Live!” and Make & Take. “Find Your Park Pavilion” has a very cool concept of inspiring visitors to actually get outdoors. Through webcast, the guest has the chance to meet different park rangers and explore parks and gardens throughout the nation. The new Railway Garden features a display of known [miniature] American landscapes with locomotives and railcars trekking through. My personal favorite, the “Butterflies Live!” experience, allows guests to interact with real, exotic butterflies. As soon as you walk in, you’re given a cotton swab with sugar water on one end and the freedom to walk around and feed the roaming butterflies. These butterflies flutter wherever their hearts desire and although I was internally screaming the first time one decided to land on my forehead, I was striving to befriend more of them towards the end. Next is the Make & Take where the visitors can opt to create either a craft or garden. DIY experts are there to help make crafty little critters or real terrariums. Lets not forget about the marketplace made up of over 180 vendors selling every horticulture related item a person could think of.

At first, walking into the flower show was like walking into a parallel universe that consisted solely of floral and landscape designs surrounded by groups of retirees jotting down notes for their gardens. Overwhelmed and bewildered, I pulled out my map and located a Ben & Jerry’s which was just one of the several caterers for the event. Once I had ice cream in my hands my stress seemed to vanish into thin air and I was able to get an actual feel for the event. The crowd ranged from large families to pairs of 20 something year olds to groups of senior citizens. There’s something here for every age group, whether it be the different exhibits and experiences offered or the themed dining options.
The Philadelphia Flower Show is a highly enjoyable event and I would definitely recommend going before it ends. Keep in mind that it’s all for a good cause and check it out even if you aren’t a gardening aficionado.