Friday, March 8, 2013


I spent three days this week in Philadelphia at the Flower Show with Jane. We took Amtrak down, and stayed in a quirky B&B in the Society Hill area. The brick row house had been built in 1811 and was an eclectic mix of modern furnishings, centuries-old structure, and shabby chic upkeep.

We liked it, and it was comfortable, but definitely not luxurious. We could walk to the convention center a little over a mile away. Our hostess was a pleasant older woman, a gardener. Breakfasts were very good.

Snow threatened the whole time, but didn't really arrive until we got home, and now, March 8, we are in the middle of a wet winter snowstorm.

Last March at this time we were headed into a warm week in the 70s!

The flower show was a disappointment to me. Yes, it was huge and the exhibits were over the top and bright. There were high end vendors. And it really is about floral displays, not gardens.

But the theme of "Brilliant" and "British" led most exhibitors to do something vaguely related to English pop culture, and so we got a yellow submarine, Jane Austen cottage garden displays, gardens with thrones and the queen's crown as motifs. Umbrellas in the garden. Sherlock Holmes, lots of hackneyed British references, unrelated to anything to do with plants. A giant Big Ben in the middle.

There were gardens too, a Hidcote facsimile, a Scottish golf course, several layered and complex designs that were interesting enough, although plant material was almost exclusively bulbs, and azaleas.

The one exhibit I really did like was a student display showing the early seed trade between Bartram and Collinson, with accurate depictions of what the shipping containers were like and how a planted nursery might have looked.  There's a good post about it here at Hortitopia, describing it fully.
Photo and article about the exhibit from Hortitopia

I know a flower show is not like touring a botanical garden, but I did want to get design inspiration and some ideas I could implement. But there were few.

I do want to grow some big purple clematis twining up the Austrian pines out back. There was a lush clematis display that was over the top but actually inspiring. I could easily grow a couple of these gorgeous vines up through the pines.

And as we try to bring the Birch Garden closer to the three paper birch trees by widening the gardens themselves and reducing the grass between, the idea of using scattered stone steppers set in the grass to define a path is nice. It still needs to be mowed, but it ties together separate beds.

Jane and I both thought the show was too tacky, too much an entertainment extravaganza and too little about gardens or plants. But it was a great experience and a nice little getaway.

Now, back at home, we are getting buried. Snow all last night, all this morning, and it is still going on.