PHILADELPHIA — They call it the Philadelphia Flower Show, but the range of contributors and visitors extends far beyond the city limits.
The world famous botanical event, this year called “Articulture,” opened Saturday morning to crowds that numbered in the hundreds before the gates were even opened. The idea of the theme was challenging exhibitors to come up with designs that simultaneously displayed plant and artistic beauty — often reflecting the work of famous artists.
A few steps from the entrance to the show at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, the vegetation and artistic tradition of the Brandywine River Museum of Art in Chadds Ford attracted crowds of people snapping photos and commenting on the elegance of the display.
Created by the Stoney Brook Nurseries, it featured a Wyeth studio that included an Andrew Wyeth painting with vintage chairs, desks and palettes all around.
Surrounding the main studio was a large landscaped area depicting the rural, somewhat unkempt style of rural Chester County. There was an old wagon, what appeared to be discarded wheels and a painting on a palette in the middle of a field of weeds. Toward the center of the landscape with a working stream that presumably represented the Brandywine Creek.
It earned several prestigious awards that were given in the early judging.
Kennett Square’s Spade and Trowel Garden Club earned a third place ribbon in the Sculpture Gardens class with a site called “Olly Olly Oxen Free” that showcased the yard of a Chester County farmhouse for childhood games. It had woodland border of ferns and an assembly of limbs reminiscent of sticks that children play and fantasize with.
The Elverson Garden Club picked up an honorable mention and a class commendation for a small garden called “Salvador’s Surreal Garden Fusion” that featured a bronze-toned statue and vegetation reflecting the style of Salvador Dali.
Another display that had strong roots to the lifestyle of rural Chester County was created by class from the University of Delaware called “Bring Back the Shad.” In recent months the Brandywine Conservancy and the Brandywine Valley Association has undertaken a project to tear down or bypass old farm dams that to this point have prevented shad from swimming upstream from larger bodies of water.
A representative of the class pointed to the exhibit that had a series of steps short enough for the shad to leap upstream successfully.
Overall, the show, first held in 1829, showcases the finest in floral design from the region. The venue, the Pennsylvania Convention Center at 12th and Arch streets, is several acres in size and accommodates hundreds of exhibits, some of which are as big as houses.
Margaret Hennes of Kennett Square, a judge and longtime member of Spade and Trowel Garden Club, said she was extremely impressed with the show this year and the variety of ways exhibitors combined art, artists and horticulture. One exhibit, the one from King’s Table restaurant, even laid out an attractive display of colorful food that had spectators crowded around almost ready to snack.
“I think the show is stunning,” she said. “There’s plenty to stop you in your tracks.”
One area that enchanted many of the visitors was the vendors section. This year there were several hundred upscale booths selling everything from bulbs and seeds to artwork and garden tools.
One vendor, Golden West Marketing Inc., was selling a doormat that the representative said was especially effective in cleaning off dirty shoes. She said they are in the process of setting up a store in West Chester.
There were many unusual displays including a row of “storefronts” featuring famous artists, pictures made of pressed flowers in the style of well known artists made by children, a shed constructed of all recycled materials and small niche creatures from natural materials among others.
In addition to the show, the nearby Reading Terminal Market provides a world of foods in a celebratory atmosphere.
The show runs until next Sunday. Adult admission is $27 online. Travel into Philadelphia on Septa’s regional rails, and you avoid traffic and parking fees. The trains stop at the basement of the center at the Market Street East station.