By Donna Zitter Bordelon
The show must go on, and so it did, but not without some radical revisions to the program. The Philadelphia Flower Show is the oldest and largest indoor flower show in the world, dating to 1829. Organizers skipped a few years because of World War I and II. This year’s show — which continues through Sunday, June 13 — is being held outdoors in FDR Park and incorporated the landscape, in keeping with the show’s theme, “HABITAT: Nature’s Masterpiece.”
It’s a positive thing that the Flower Show took place at all. With the soaring number of coronavirus cases, no one knew months ago what the pandemic’s effects would be on a show scheduled for June. Happily, the downward trend in cases as well as the show’s outdoor venue enabled the Horticultural Society to make a go of it. The organizers should get an “A” for effort. So should the visitors who endured the 90-plus degree heat.
The entrance to the show was flanked by a plumed orange and purple boathouse gazebo and the words HABITAT spelled out in large, wooden blocks with flowers attached. A wooden, arch-structure entryway with flower boxes on the side read “Welcome to the Flower Show” — a study in understatement compared to previous Flower Show entrances. There were many vendors selling various wares. Besides fine dining at The Boathouse, there were several food opportunities along with a beer garden. A ticket allowed free entrance to the American Swedish Historical Museum, which is located at the edge of the show grounds.
The show is divided into a Plant District, a Design District and a Garden District showcasing floral displays in various contexts. Most reminiscent of previous shows was the Hamilton Horticourt Plant Display, which was contained in a hothouse tent that the plants found accommodating even if the visitors did not. Wandering the show grounds, you could see birds, bees and chickens as well as butterflies (for an extra fee) unless you were able to spot some on various flowers. There was also a hummingbird, a kangaroo, some dinosaurs and even Claude Monet but these features relied upon the visitor’s imagination. The displays are ambitious but are at the mercy of the weather.
In a recent newscast, a commentator described the show as “breathtaking.” How right she was. My visit to the show last Saturday, with the intense heat and limited seats in the shade, made it truly “breathtaking.”
Upon entering, a sign asked visitors to “Wear a Mask,” “Maintain Social Distance” and “Clean and Sanitize Hands Often.” But very few people wore a mask or social distanced and some bathrooms were “Out of Order” or without water. The lines to enter the show, along with the bathroom lines, were horrendous. However, hand sanitizer pumps were located at several locations around the show.
As a longtime PHS member, I have thoroughly enjoyed each and every Flower Show as a harbinger of spring. After winter’s cold, dreary days, there is nothing better than to enter the Convention Center on a March day, and see that burst of color that introduces the theme and the many flowers and the dramatic displays that await at the show. It’s the WOW factor that sets the stage for the show.
FDR Park is a lovely setting, the visual appeal of which is worth a look even without a show to behold. Seeing the Philadelphia Flower Show in the June heat at FDR Park convinces me that the show really belongs at the Convention Center in March. ••
For more information, visit https://phsonline.org/the-flower-show.