Sunday, March 19, 2017

Spring Blooms at the Philadelphia Flower Show

"Holland: Flowering the World," the theme of this year's Philadelphia Flower Show presented by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS), celebrates the beauty, color, and ingenuity of Dutch culture. H.H. and I took the train into the city -- later in the week than intended due to winter storm, Stella, dumping two feet of snow at our house -- and it was wonderful to escape from snow, ice and bitter cold into a world of spring flowers. As we entered the show, we were welcomed by a display of 30,000 blooms surrounding bridges, canals and water gardens. The bridges were overflowing with flower boxes and hanging baskets. The sight filled me with awe.

Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's exhibit greets you as you enter the show

We were met by our dear friend, and fellow Brit, Jenny Rose Carey, who is the senior director at PHS Meadowbrook Farm. She is justifiably proud of the fabulous Entry Garden and the part she played in its production.  I looked forward to taking a tour of the show with Jenny Rose as guide.

Bicycles and blooms on the bridge in the Entry Garden
The bridge has a green ceiling with Delft tiles

Passing under the bridge we found 6,000 more blooms forming a giant floral canopy. The blooms were freeze dried then suspended on 16 miles of parachute string. (As Jenny Rose said, it's a good thing the lines of string didn't become tangled while being installed.) With the addition of Euro pop music and a light-show, the effect is stunning.

Hanging field of tulips

The surrounding gardens demonstrate the natural and sustainable approach of the Dutch New Wave Movement. I love the drifts of mass plantings: astilbe, echinacea, fritallaria, lamb's ears, and other perennials; this is the style I try to achieve in my cottage garden. Wild grasses, cherry trees and sycamores enhance the scene. I believe this method is the very best way to garden, with the added benefits of no mulching nor weeding.

Dutch new wave planting

Beyond the PHS's entry garden, the Ecodome is all about green living. It showcases up-to-date sustainable production of vegetables and green technologies, proving the Dutch have more than just tulips in their horticultural arsenal. This is the first stop of the Ecodome's inaugural journey around the world.

Ecodome behind the windmills

I always enjoy the landscape design gardens at each show and this year promises to be special with guest designers from Holland as well as our own top competitors in the field. A local PA landscaper, Mark Cook, was awarded Best of Show with his 'Inner Waters' design. He shows a beautiful reflecting pool with raised berms. I love his stylized windmill sculpture seen through an espaliered cherry tree arch. I also like the way he pruned boxwood into waves. 

Mark Cook's 'Inner Waters' took Best of Show

Jenny Rose's favorite is Nico Wising's design. I'm sorry to say I did not do this justice with my camera. Wising uses natural materials: woven willow and naturalistic plantings (such as fothergilla, that I don't grow, but is now on my 'must get' list). He stresses the importance of using products with a small ecological footprint.

Dutch designer Nico Wising's 'Reconnection'
Fothergilla Fothrgilla major

I have an aversion to chain-link fencing and wont have it in my garden -- until I saw how Carrie Preston, also from Holland, incorporated lacework into her fence. Her show garden is an interpretation of the 'stinze' gardens of the Netherlands' stately homes.

A small part of Carrie Preston's interpretation of the 'stinze' gardens

At the opening ceremony, the Dutch Ambassador presented a new tulip from Holland that took 15 years to develop. It was named 'Philly Belle' in honor of the show.

Tulip Tulipa 'Philly Belle'

Cognizant of the common colors of the US flag and the Dutch flag, white tulips were dyed blue to add to red ones and white ones.

Blue tulips?????????

There are several examples of sustainable roof gardens at the show. The most impressive is Bart Hoes' garden. Jenny Rose showed us how green roofs are made.

Jenny Rose explains how to make a green roof

The bicycle culture of Holland is represented in many displays. In 1967, a Dutch group introduced legislation for their White Bike Plan, creating a bike-share movement that spread throughout the world. The orange and white of this display is very striking. Incidentally, there is a lot of orange in the show: Jenny reminded me of the Dutch Prince William of Orange who became King William III of England in the sixteen hundreds. (Something we had to learn in school.)

Pedals: The White Bike Plan

Here are a few other favorite of mine:

Japan Flowers and Plants Export Assoc. displayed bleached dried flowers in bamboo frames
Traditional Cropped Willow Tree
Gardening in a very small space: a rock garden
Orchids Hoop House

There is much to interest children including interactive and educational exhibits such as 'Butterflies Alive' with more than 1,000 butterflies, a 'Make and Take' crafts area, a railway garden, and a Junior Flower Show. The latter engages children throughout the region from preschool to high school during the school year. Because I conduct workshops (and write) about gardening with children, I was especially interested in some of the show gardens designed by students. As gardeners, we know how important it is to start them young!

Children's Alphabet Garden
Children's garden with fairies. Love the hat.

And finally a 'new favorite' plant I spotted in a rock garden that was designed by a Dutch grower based in England. Sorry I didn't get the name of the cultivar.

Adorable miniature iris

There is so much at the Philadelphia Flower Show, a great deal more than in this posting. I am so glad I am able to attend each year; I think 2017 is my favorite so far. It was extra special because I was able to spend time with a good friend. I can't close without congratulating her on her new book, Glorious Shade, that will be released in April. Jenny Rose showed us the author copy and it looks amazing. The book is available on Amazon for pre-order.  When I get my copy, I'll review it in a blog post.

Jenny Rose's new book

I look forward to next year's event: it has the theme "Wonders of Water" so I'll be able to pursue my interest in water gardens. The Philadelphia Flower Show always puts me in the mood for spring and this one was no exception!

Pamela x


  1. I was most impressed and fell in love with the tulip in the first photo.

    1. I love that first one too. Sorry I didn't jot down the name. It was difficult to choose the best tulip -- so many.

  2. Pam, thank you so much for your pictures and comments! I do like 'Philly Belle'! How exciting to get such a gift from Holland! I am looking forward to your review of the book! Have a great week!

    1. I can't wait for my copy of the book to arrive from Amazon.

  3. This show looks huge and that bridge is amazing! How wonderful for you to be able to attend despite storm Stella's efforts. She has arrived in the UK now, and is not half the storm she was in the U.S. I look forward to the book review.

    1. I was determined to attend the show in spite of Stella's challenges. It was wonderful to get a taste of spring while winter raged outside the show's walls.

  4. Hi Pam. Thank you for sharing these wonderful photos of the garden show. The displays, and especially the garden entry, are absolutely gorgeous! I hope your snow disappears soon from winter storm Stella. Spring has officially arrived, so we need to think warm thoughts and blooms! I am glad to have experienced the show along with you, even if virtually!

    1. I met some folks from New York at the show, Lee. You should go one year.

  5. Pam I've discovered your fantastic blog some days ago and find it extremly interesting since I love, adore english style gardens, I live in Argentina,South America and here the humid subtropical climate stands between my dream cottage garden and the garden I can actually have, most cottage english plants simply don't thrive in hot climate, I couldn't grow a peony to save my life here, I have roses but keeping them more or less healthy is always an uphill battle especially in summer, Nevertheless I keep trying! Thanks for sharing so much beauty in this blog! I'll be a devoted reader from now on.

    1. Welcome to my blog! I'm glad you like it. I'll check out yours.

  6. How very much fun you must have had gawking at all that! I especially like that bridge.

  7. I finally got back to look at your post again. Beautiful! and it sounds like it was the perfect trip for what has turned out to be quite a snowy March. All the spring bulbs are fantastic, and I regret not getting down there this year.
    I do like a nice water garden though. Maybe next year!

  8. What beautiful and different displays. You must have had a great time. I know your images make it look so inviting.

    1. You are always so kind about my photographs. Thank you.

  9. Pam, I have been to many flower shows over the years, never seen anything quite like the Philadelphia Flower Show.