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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Philly Flower Show Goes Global

Delaware County Times

If ever there was a year to think spring, it’s this snow-shock winter and offering a sense and scents of well-being this weekend is the Philadelphia International Flower Show.

A Philadelphia tradition begun in 1829, the floral show now annually draws tens of thousands seeking the warmth of blooms and buds, awesome and winsome displays, interwoven music and great ideas for the gardener or anyone looking for what to do with that backyard dirt patch or empty corner.

For 2010, the message is a worldly one, as the show officially adds International to its name and is themed “Passport to the World.”

The flower show will run from Saturday, Feb. 28 to Sunday, March 7 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

Philadelphia Horticultural Society President Jane Pepper, a Delaware County resident, has said there are several firsts for the show, including offering downloadable tickets online.

Pepper, who is bowing out as president after 29 years of leadership, also pointed to a Family Fun Pack, which offers families a package price and savings.

The PHS president has promised this show will offer great entertainment with support from the Philadelphia Zoo and upbeat music, a solid educational base, and an emphasis on sustainable living and being “green” —- a point to which the PHS has always been committed.

By the way, Pepper’s departure will not go unmarked. A PHS gardeners group that goes by the name of “Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club” will salute the retiring president with a tribute garden that was to be unveiled just before Saturday’s opening day.

Pepper is not the only Delaware County thumbprint on the show. Major exhibitors Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades, Stoney Bank Nurseries, J. Downend Landscaping and OuterSpaces Inc. will all show their incredible handiwork.

And as if that were not enough, Lansdowne’s own musical duo of Brazilian music, Minas, will be featured throughout the show. Orlando Haddad and Patricia King will offer a taste of Brazil with their unique South American sound on the Explorer’s Stage.

Looking back, looking ahead

Visitors to this year’s worldly presentation will experience Amazonian splendor and some colorful surprises.

Guests will be greeted by a 28-foot-high hot-air balloon, covered in more than 79,000 dried flowers, that towers over the Explorer’s Garden. The Victorian-era display, filled with varieties of plants like those collected through the remarkable Wilkes Expedition (1838-42) and more recent finds from Longwood Gardens, Morris Arboretum, the University of Pennsylvania, and the U.S. Botanic Gardens, harkens back to the show’s roots as a showcase for new plant discoveries.

Giant pads of floating Victoria water lilies and blooms introduced to America at early shows will fill the much larger-than-life cases throughout the display. Daily musical performances include classical and contemporary Indian dance led by celebrated Bollywood choreographer Rujuta Vaidya.

Six Showcase Gardens take visitors on a trek to an Indian wedding, with soaring palm trees, golden columns entwined with jasmine, lotus-filled pools and elaborate ropes of marigolds.

From here, 100,000 flower bulbs will bloom in an authentic Dutch canal garden created by Robertson’s Flowers. Working with design colleagues from South Africa, the American Institute of Floral Designers (AIFD) will provide a tangible artistic presentation of the Zulu culture. Hand-thatched huts, live drummers, a chandelier of floral birds, and sculpted wildlife provide an enchanting entry to a walk-through display that invites visitors to inspect tribal headdresses and masks that depict the vivid colors and patterns found among the native people.

Deep into the dense ficus growth of Brazil’s Amazon jungle, visitors will encounter a plunging waterfall, indigenous plants such as heliconias and bromeliads, and a hungry caiman created by Burke Brothers Landscape Design. Officials of the Philadelphia Zoo will bring the display to life with “Rainbows in Flight,” demonstrations that feature the skill and natural beauty of tropical birds.

Singapore, the “Pearl of Asia,” will be represented by Waldor Orchids in a luminescent tribute to the orchid. The tiered fountains and formal design are inspired by Singapore’s renowned botanical gardens.

The rugged beauty of New Zealand will be captured by Stoney Bank Nurseries of Glen Mills in three designs that depict traditions of the native Maori and the alluring plant life found in exotic New Zealand. The Aura Garden, with its thermal pools and sculpted dragon created by artist Greg Leavitt, presents an appropriate setting for the native plants of this northern island. Giant tree ferns, hand-carved Maori tikis and flax rope complement the landscape that includes a bog Garden of English and Scottish tradition, and the Kiwi Garden, which showcases New Zealand’s popular calla and Casablanca lilies.

An event for the world

“Passport to the World” is a truly a grand celebration of the world’s flowers and gardens and an appropriate debut for the newly renamed Philadelphia International Flower Show, the oldest and largest indoor show of its kind.

“The Flower Show’s new title raises it up on the world stage, and it is an invitation to gardeners everywhere to join us in Philadelphia for this fabulous show that does so much to highlight the best of horticulture and design,” said Pepper.

The change reflects the increasing participation in recent decades of horticulturists, designers and partners from other nations. Since the 1980s, the show has welcomed presentations by gardening experts from Asia, Europe, Africa, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.

But the show is not just about flowers.

The show draws in fashion with a whole category showing off elegant dresses inspired by many countries and created by fashion students at the Art Institute of Philadelphia.

Visitors should plan in advance to attend any of the more than 150 gardening presentations held throughout the week, as well as dozens of educational displays that explore the most popular new trends for home gardeners.

Learning to garden from the experts is a highlight of the visitor experience. Students, faculty and professional horticulturists explore a variety of today’s trends in gardening and sustainable landscapes in exhibits, including “green walls,” vertical and roof-top gardens.

Shopping is a mainstay of the show, and this year a whole crop of new vendors will offer visitors a chance to take home memories of the show. The Marketplace offers an array of products to get the garden started; the Flower Show Shoppe has keepsakes in celebration of the show theme; and the World Bazaar provides exotic crafts and gifts for the well-traveled shopper.

What about food you ask?

This year, a Dessert and Coffee Bar is offered by Sweet Streets on the Show Bridge. In the Grand Hall, the Pa. Wine and Spirits Store will offer an expansive, international selection at the Wine & Spirits Garden and will include free tastings served by the vendors. DiBruno Bros. also will hold court in the Grand Hall with an authentic Italian menu.

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