PHILADELPHIA >> The Philadelphia Flower Show experienced a roller coaster adventure this year, surviving a severe nor’easter storm on the day before opening and another at midweek. An attendant at one station said it was feast and famine: On Wednesday a small crowd would arrive, and then no one.
On Saturday it was quite different: The crowds were constant and filled the Pennsylvania Convention Center wall-to-wall and shoulder-to-shoulder. ...plus cameras.
One thing was constant, however: The show exhibited striking originality by the exhibitors as they sought to explore the meanings and beauty of water — this year’s theme, “The Wonders of Water.”
It was evident that participating individuals and agencies had dug deep into their imaginations and had come up with a wide variety of interesting and widely varied exhibits.
That creativity shined bright, for example, at the exhibit of Stroud Water Research Center of West Marlborough, whose staffs joined with Williamson College of the Trades to create an interactive and educational site. It asked visitors to identify the critters on display and to observe the natural characteristics which make streams clean and healthy. A sign and brochure asked the visitors “Would You Drink the water?”
Within the exhibit were fish, crayfish, blue herons, woodpeckers, turtles, frogs, squirrels bees, snakes and butterflies. Each was noted as having contributed in some ways to the health of the stream.
From the start, the arriving crowds were met with an unusual experience at the gate. Unlike many shows in the past that acted as an entrance or kind of “front porch” to the show, the visitors were immediately surrounded by a jungle rain forest with sounds of water dripping, birds singing and monkeys calling,
The large and consistent exhibits from the established nurseries around thew area presented startling ideas that did not immediately come to mind as water.
There was a shipwreck — several small boats that had obviously come to unfortunate ends in ocean water.
Another was a mountain, all in white, that represented a spring thaw. .... the water turning from solid to liquid.
Standing back from still another display was an ocean of hanging glass rods that looked from the distance like a rain storm.
And there was also a toy train exhibit that had the vehicles circling around a community’s ice lake in pre-refrigerator days.
Delaware County’s frequent winner, Stoney Bank Nursery, collected five trophies for a patio-like scene beside a large pond. Inside the lake were duck decoys almost daring the currents to move them around.
Stoney Bank had another display, however, that took on the converse aspect of water’s wetness. It was a desert scene composed entirely of plants like cactus that grew almost completely without water.
As visitors moved slowly through the show, they experienced displays created by individuals, schools and garden clubs that depicted things like balconies, window boxes, jewelry, botanical art and front doors. Off to one corner, a designer of floral centerpieces showed his audience the tricks of making attractive ones.
The exhibits were not the only feature of the show, however.
A good half of the center was filled with vendors offering all kinds of garden equipment and decorations. Their spokespeople were eager to sell anything from fences, jewelry, art work, gourmet food, flower bulbs, garden banners, patio furniture and more. The shoppers for their part crowded the posts and eagerly spent their cash for the objects — many of them unique to the show.
The physical needs of the customers were not ignored either. Liberally placed along the back wall were food vendors that kept the visitors well fed and watered.
Upstairs was a food court that surrounded a room full of tables, giving guests a rest from their walking.
The show is run by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and was begun in 1829. For years it took place in the Civic Center before coming to the Pennsylvania Convention Center.