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Still Growing
Why this year’s Philadelphia Flower Show is shaping up to be “one of the best shows we’ve done in a decade”

by Leigh Stuart

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Philadelphia Flower Show has featured a number of interesting themes over the years, but this year’s show—March 1 through 9 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center—is set to be unlike any before.

The theme of this year’s show is “ARTiculture,” to reflect the space where art meets horticulture, according to Kate Chimicles, senior vice president of business development for PHS. Each of the exhibitors has been paired with an art museum from around the country, including “all the great stalwart local institutions”—the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Barnes Foundation and Woodmere Art Museum, for example—as well as renowned institutions such as the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

Chimicles says exhibitors will draw inspiration from an array of areas, from a style of art the museum is known for (e.g., impressionism, cubism, modernism, etc.), to a specific painting in the museum’s collection, to the museum’s spirit itself. “We will see a wide display of how art can come to life through landscape and horticulture,” she adds.

The Philadelphia Flower Show has been a venerable local institution since 1829. PHS president Drew Becher describes the show as “an iconic brand here in Philadelphia, but it’s also an iconic brand throughout the country and the world.” With an annual operating budget of more than $20 million, it is no wonder PHS has consistently been able to put on one of the most colorful shows in town.

“[The show] really began with people entering prizewinning plants from their greenhouses to be judged,” says Chimicles. The paramount goal of the show is and always has been to celebrate horticulture, as well as “to provide beauty and inspiration to everyone that attends,” from urban windowsill gardeners to those with sprawling estates. This tradition carries on this year with the PHS Hamilton Horticourt, where 3,000 to 4,000 people from all over the world bring their prized plants to display.

On top of these attractions will be a set of special themed evening events, being held for the fourth time in 2014. One such night will be “Wedding Wednesday,” to be held March 5 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Attendees this evening will not only enjoy cocktails and hors d’oeuvres and take home swag from more than 50 local professionals (fashion, music, décor, catering, photography and travel) but also serve as witnesses when one lucky couple exchanges vows with the flower show as a backdrop.

Another popular event is the annual LGBT Party, set for March 2, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. The festivities will feature all the trimmings that turn a plain old get-together into a party (i.e., cocktails, delectable cuisine, live entertainment and networking opportunities), plus a performance by the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus. Attendees will also enjoy a visit by Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge, winners of season 21 of “The Amazing Race” and owners of the farm and business Beekman 1802, which was featured on another reality TV show, “The Fabulous Beekman Boys.”

The most popular theme night, according to Chimicles, is “Girls Night Out,” to be held this year on March 6, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. “It sells out every year,” she says. “It’s a really fun party with great music, vendors, beauty-and-fashion tips … and great food from restaurants from all over the region.”

In attendance will be Elissa Bloom, executive director of the Philadelphia Fashion Incubator at Macy’s Center City, a program through which four “Designers-in-Residence” are chosen every year and can utilize office space, work space and other important resources within Macy’s Center City location. Accompanying her will be a select group of designers vending their wares. “To be able to be in front of a very targeted audience at the shopping event, I think, has just been a wonderful opportunity for our designers,” says Bloom, who is participating in the Philadelphia Flower Show for the second year.

Likewise, Franc Magri, a stylist with Giovanni & Pileggi in Philadelphia, will return to the show for a second year. At Girls Night Out, he will offer complimentary mini-makeovers and makeup touch-ups, as well as services such as curling, drying and style advice. Last year, he says, attendees “were fighting to get into the chair.”

Tickets to the themed evening functions cost $50 per person, per event, and include admittance to the night’s hot happening, as well as entry into the show that day. Tickets to the show during regular hours (weekdays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and weekends, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.) are $27 at theflowershow.com, or available for purchase at the box office for $32.

A portion of proceeds from the show benefits initiatives such as City Harvest, a network of nearly 50 community gardens throughout Philadelphia that grow fresh produce for families in need, and Plant One Million, an initiative started in 2013 with the goal of planting 1 million trees in greater Philadelphia, Delaware and New Jersey by 2020.

“If you’re in the horticultural, greening [and] beautification world within America, PHS is really the iconic brand and organization so it’s an honor to be … setting it up for continued growth,” Becher says. “This year, with the [ARTiculture] theme, the show is going to be like no other, and it will be one that will change the way that people view the flower show. I think this will be one of the best shows we’ve done in a decade.”

Botanical Brass Tacks
For nearly two centuries, the Philadelphia Flower Show has been a herald of spring. This year’s festivities kick off with a black-tie preview party gala on February 28, and day and evening hours commence March 1. Following are some key facts and figures about this year’s events, entertainment and, of course, beautiful flora on display, as well as what it takes to make it all come together.

250,000+
Anticipated number of visitors to the 2014 Philadelphia Flower Show

1,000+
Number of butterflies, including exotic species, to be flitting about “The Butterfly Experience”

500+
Number of brides/fiancés expected to attend “Wedding Wednesday”

186
Years that the Philadelphia Flower Show has been held, including this year’s show

45
Tractor-trailer loads of mulch and staging materials to be used to prepare the show floor

10
Acres of the Pennsylvania Convention Center that the show floor covers

 

Suburban Life Magazine