The 2012 Philadelphia Flower Show

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

The 2012 Philadelphia International Flower Show took place last week.  It is the world’s largest indoor flower show and can be a bit intimidating.  My husband and I  find that Friday night is a less crowded time to go especially if you want to photograph the exhibits.  This year’s theme was Hawaii, which was a great choice for me because I attend for the “show” aspects and not to get ideas for my garden.

One of the most interesting parts was the entrance where visitors walked underneath a realistic sounding wave made of screens projected with changing sea life and striped with white flowers evocative of Hawaii.  Created by Valley Forge Flowers of Wayne, PA, it was a full immersion experience as if you were inside the wave:

View of the wave from outside.

There were many scenes of Hawaii (or at least what us easterners think Hawaii looks like), and surf boards were very popular:

My husband and I volunteer to staff the exhibit of the Delaware Valley Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society.  I am not a rock gardener but this organization is worth joining for its lectures and plant sales alone.  Their exhibit was very well received and included a tufa outcropping and hypertufa troughs:

My absolute favorite part of the show is the competitive classes where regional gardeners enter their well grown plants to receive ribbons.  This area, known as the hort court, takes up half the area of the show.  Here are the bulb classes:

The competitive classes are filled with well grown individual plants.  Some of them come to the flower show year after year, but I never tire of seeing them:

My favorite exhibit was put on by the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society and featured the use of edible plants in an ornamental landscape.  Fruits and vegetables are just as beautiful as any other plants, and this exhibit showed some very innovative uses such as a 10 foot wall of lettuce, a large pergola covered with cherry tomatoes, and a wooden walkway through healthy, gorgeous edible plants:

I really enjoyed the flower show this year, and, if you couldn’t visit in person, I hope you enjoyed your virtual tour.


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Nursery Happenings: My Hellebore Extravaganza open house sale is Saturday, March 24, from 10 am to 3 pm.  To view the Woody Plant Offer Catalogue and place an order by March 26, click here.  To view the 2012 Snowdrop Catalogue, click here.  Snowdrops are still available for pick  up at the nursery, but mail order is closed.

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35 Responses to “The 2012 Philadelphia Flower Show”

  1. One of these years I am going to see this for myself. This is such a hard time of year for me to get away, but I will make this happen. In the meantime, thanks for sharing your pictures.

    • Les, It was especially hard to make time this year because the “season” started so early. I volunteer to staff the rock garden exhibit in early winter when I am not worried about time and that forces me to go now. I am always glad I went. Carolyn

  2. My gosh, I wish I would not have missed this show. I love the Wave, what an interesting display and gateway. Philadelphia has one of the most grand shows in the country. Toronto has their show this week and Buffalo next. They both are not as creative as in Philadelphia, that or my memory and your images just makes that so. I did get the email alert, but now many bloggers can not leave comments on my WP blog. Have you been experiencing this too?

    • Donna, The wave was extremely creative and made a great entrance. You should have seen me standing there forever trying to snap a photo when one of the large sea creatures was swimming over. I ended up with half of a turtle. No one has said anything about no being able to leave comments. Carolyn

  3. Wonderful pictures, Carolyn! Thanks so much for sharing them, I loved the virtual tour. I wish I could have been there. Do you know what next year’s theme will be? My son lives near Philly, and I’d love to visit him and do the flower show at the same time, I think that would be fun! And I’m wondering if that pink flower with the dark leaves is a Tiarella. It’s beautiful.

  4. Oh how absolutely amazing it is. Thank you for sharing this – I really enjoyed the edible section and the bonsai wisteria (?) how gorgeous is that. AND the bulbs, wow! What a burst of colour! Wish they had a big flower show like that here in Cape Town!

    • Barbie, We tend to take for granted all the great horticultural institutions available to us in the mid-Atlantic US, including the flower show. The wisteria isn’t really a bonsai but it is growing in a gigantic pot and kept well pruned. I look forward to seeing it every year, and this is the first year that I got a decent photo. Carolyn

  5. nwphillygardner Says:

    Yes, I thought this year’s show was especially good. The Hawaiian theme seemed to have more impact across the show, even including Hawaiian vendors outside the main Exhibit Hall, in the historic Reading Terminal train station.
    Interestingly, your lead photo shows a floral arrangement that I was drawn to on the Saturday preceding the public opening. At the time, all the agapanthus blooms and stems were very tightly clustered, forming a blue violet billow that looked almost like hydrangea. I wonder if the exhibitor did some rearranging or if they naturally spread themselves out!?
    I too find the Hort Court fascinating. There are three separate rounds of judging through the 9 days of the show. This more brightly lit section of the show rarely gets any of the PR that the themed exhibits receive.

    • Eric, Your are so right. When there is a definite theme then the show is so much more cohesive and creative. If it is something like “The Pleasures of Spring” the exhibits are all over the place and have no character. I don’t even remember taking the photo of the arrangement but when I downloaded it to my computer I thought it was gorgeous. The Hort Court is definitely the best part. The people who enter are very dedicated as are the passers, recorders, judges, etc. that make it all happen. Philadelphia is so lucky to have such a wonderful community of horticulturalists. Carolyn

  6. I really agree with you about some of the edible plants. They can be just as beautiful as the other plants, and edible too! Thanks for sharing your experience about the Philidelphia Flower Show!

  7. What a fun taste of the tropics! Love the photo with the fish ‘swimming’ through the plants! The bulbs display is magnificent! And I’m glad they brought in edibles in a fun and creative way.

  8. I intended to get to the Philadelphia Flower Show this year, and even got as far as buying a ticket and making train reservations, but life’s complications kept me from getting there. Since I do go to flower shows at least in part to get inspiration for my garden, I was a bit ambivalent about the Hawaii theme; but I have been wanting to go ever since reading Jim Dodson’s description of the show and its participants in *Beautiful Madness.* I’ll have to try again next year! Meanwhile, it’s great to see others’ images of the show (especially since different bloggers emphasize quite different things). I enjoyed your virtual tour.

  9. Thanks for the tour! I’m often not a fan of themed gardens as they can get so far away from reality, but the Hawaii idea looks like it was a lot of fun. The hort court is a great idea – and those irises are just beautiful. I am already looking forward to seeing your report on next year’s show and what Philadelphia does with that theme!

  10. This my dream show to attend once I retire. I love these shows for the sheer art of the exhibits…ours is more of a home show so they started a smaller garden show…I also love rock gardens…the competition reminds me of our state fair which is huge…the Horticulture building is filled with exhibits and competitions for 10 days…love it.

  11. Love the virtual tour… I’d love to attend someday. Especially enjoyed the potted tulips. I wait (not so) patiently for the sun to warm the earth so that mine will bud and bloom.

  12. Thanks for the tour. This show looks like it’s in a similar league as the Chelsea flower show. Chelsea doesn’t have a theme though.

  13. Really enjoyed the virtual tour, no crowds, no tired feet, and plenty of time to admire the exhibits.

  14. deborahelliott Says:

    Now that’s a garden show! It looks like there was a LOT to see! I smiled at the fish swimming through the garden! Our trip to Hawaii years ago was one of our best vacations ever, and some of the displays brought back memories.

  15. What a wonderful show Carolyn, and so very huge, Myra and I would be like lost souls in such a place. Thoroughly enjoyed the virtual tour. We dont really have a suitable area for rockery plants, think I will get a couple of those hypertufa troughs.

    Ah, this is a new message coming up when I try to post a comment on a few blogs (That email address is associated with an existing WordPress account) I have an alternative email which I am about to try, cheers alistair.

    • Alistair, I have a rock garden area but it is not filled with rock garden plants. The hypertufa troughs are evidently very easy to make. Everything you need to know is on the website of the Delaware Valley Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society. Click here. I get that message when I try to comment sometimes and I just keep hitting publish until the comment is accepted. Carolyn

  16. paulinemulligan Says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us, what a fantastic selection of flowers, so colourful. Loved the fish swimming through the plants, can’t resist a bit of sculpture!

  17. Oh, I like the theme. It must have been fun to just take it all in. The Lettuce and Cherry displays and edible walkway are impressive! Thanks for the tour!

  18. Hi Carolyn, Thanks for the virtual tour. It was years ago now, but the Philadelphia Flower Show was the first big show of its kind that I ever attended. Seeing it here brought back fond memories.
    P.S. I have removed the word verification from my blog for now and will see how it goes. I don’t blame you for finding it annoying! Hopefully, I will not be hit with a ton of spam.

  19. Oh…I love garden shows! This has given me some ideas and made my day. Thanks for sharing all this lovely beauty!

  20. So glad to see a post on this show – I have been in the past and it is a special treat for gardeners! My love is the Hort too, so I was thrilled to see your picks!

  21. Thanks for the excellent tour. What a huge show that looks like. The fish swimming through the grass was my favourite virtual sight.

  22. wifemothergardener Says:

    Love the wall of lettuce! And I think that the rock iris in that show pot is the one that I just featured on my blog/ in my Shade Path. 🙂

    I have never been to the PFS but it looks like a lot of fun.

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