Design New England

Horticulture Meets Hollywood

Roses shaped into a ball at the Philadelphia Flower Show.

By Tovah Martin

The dreams of green gardens that danced through our heads as we survived the winter of 100 inches were writ large at the week-long Philadelphia Flower Show. As always, this rite of spring-to-come, hosted by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society February 28 through March 8, was serious about horticulture. But with a “Celebrate the Movies” theme, this year’s annual exhibition was full of fantasy. Wander through the marquee, and Neverland began.

The display at the front of the Philadelphia Flower Show.

Beyond the Disney and abracadabra, however, the message from landscape designers was clients are clamoring to get more living done outdoors. Recreation areas of all types were omnipresent and not just for Tarzan. Plenty of swank, romantic pergolas and cabanas draped in fabric were on the show floor. So were more makeshift cabins, shacks, and man caves with character. Know somebody who likes to grill? Outdoor kitchens were everywhere. Conversely, so were the perennially popular sculptures paying allegorical homage to the classic Four Seasons. (In the vendors’ area, busts were marching out the doors in record numbers.)

Elements that show the “man cave” is moving outdoors.

Many exhibitors catered to the kid within us with miniature landscapes all over the place as designers filled the mossy confines of little knotholes with tiny living spaces. The biggest crowds of spectators were clustered around any little space and no doubt many a gardener — urban, suburban or otherwise — was inspired to create a tiny garden of his own.

A miniature garden at the Philadelphia Flower Show.

In the horticultural sphere it appears that dwarf iris are up and coming judging from the exhibits and the competitors in the Horticourt, where plenty of Iris reticulata entries won ribbons. Clivias, too, were in vogue, with flowers ranging from yellow and saffron to multicolored versions. Bonsai were also big, the entries proving that you can craft a bonsai from just about any woody plant given some wire, a pair of pruning shears, and a whole lot of patience.
As for planting trends, the wicked fetish for zombie-colored mulch is dead (thank goodness). Instead of large expanses of brown showing in exhibition gardens, groundcovers such as heuchera and tiarella did the job. For florists, roses continue their reign, but the undisputed queen of cutflowers now comes in a rainbow of colors.
There definitely was a buzz at this year’s show, literally. Multiple exhibitors included bees in their displays. All pollinators were well represented, bees undeniably took center stage. Hives were in several exhibitions — sometimes painted fetching colors so they wouldn’t be missed (what a great idea: make hives a flamboyant element of your backyard landscape). And, the continual inclusion of hives stuck with the Hollywood theme, because Honey, we’ve all heard of B-rated movies (apologies to Jerry Seinfeld).

Some exhibitors included bees in their displays.

The Philadelphia Flower Show took place at the Pennsylvania Convention Center from Friday, February 27 to Sunday, March 8, 2015. Go to for more details.
Great design is always at your fingertips! Read Design New England’s March/April 2015 issue online!

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