A global flower tour

The annual Philadelphia show starting Sunday highlights well-traveled blossoms

February 26, 2010|By Susan Reimer

This year, the Philadelphia Flower Show has added "International" to its name and adopted "Passport to the World" as its theme. But the oldest, largest and most ambitious indoor flower show has always had "out of this world" as its reputation.

Beginning Sunday and lasting eight days - just long enough so the blooms do not fade - the 181-year-old show will take an expected 250,000 visitors on a dizzying trip around the world.

The voyage begins with a 28-foot hot-air balloon covered with 79,000 dried flowers that hovers over the entrance and the "Explorer's Garden," a display that harks back to the show's original purpose - to showcase exotic new plant discoveries.

The "Explorer's Garden" has a Victorian-era feel, with giant floating water lilies, plus music and dance performances featuring Bollywood choreographer Rujata Vaidya and the Brazilian troupe Minas.

Since the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society took over the show in the 1960s, each year's event has become more breathtaking than the last, and six other enormous showcase gardens, the inspiration of the show's designer Sam Lemheney, will sprawl across the 10-acre floor of the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

The showcase gardens include:

•An Indian wedding with golden columns entwined with jasmine, lotus pools and ropes of marigold, plus a life-size elephant topiary.

•An authentic Dutch canal garden lined with 100,000 blooming flower bulbs.

•A South African Zulu village with hand-thatched huts, live drummers, a chandelier of floral birds, tribal headdresses and masks made of seeds and plant material, and life-size giraffe and lion sculptures.

• Brazil's Amazon jungle with a 15-foot waterfall, indigenous plants and the re-creation of a hungry crocodile. Add to that "Rainbows in Flight," a demonstration of the skill and beauty of tropical birds, presented by the Philadelphia Zoo.

• Singapore, the "Pearl of Asia," features a tribute to the orchid, while the tiered fountains and formal design reflect Singapore's renowned botanical gardens.

•A salute to New Zealand that depicts the traditions of the native Maori and the Aura Garden with its thermal pools. A dragon slithers through this display, and there are giant tree ferns, Maori tikis, a bog garden and a Kiwi Garden, which showcases New Zealand's calla and Casablanca lilies.

Designers throughout the show will continue the international theme - from China to the Caribbean - including an artistic rendering of the polar region's aurora borealis.

In addition to the display gardens, there are more than 150 lectures, demonstrations and interactive educational displays for home gardeners and cooks, and a showcase of plants considered to be best suited for the region.

And, as it was in its earliest days, the Flower Show is the stage for judging of thousands of specimen plants and floral designs in hundreds of competitive categories, including a new fashion category.

The International Wine and Spirits Garden and a dessert and coffee bar are just the start for dedicated foodies at the Flower Show. And there is the Marketplace, with more than 140 vendors, for shoppers.

New this year are tickets that may be downloaded from theflowershow.com and a cell phone-guided tour.

The Philadelphia Flower Show is expected to bring $35 million into the city and raise $1 million for Philadelphia Green, a program of the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society, to restore gardens, parks and vacant land in the city.

If you go
The Philadelphia Flower Show begins Sunday and runs through March 7 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, 12th and Arch streets.

Tickets may be purchased online at theflowershow.com. The cost is $23 for adults in advance, $24-$28 at the box office, depending on the day of the week; $18 for students ages 17-24 with valid student ID and proof of age; and $13 for children ages 2-16.

Family Fun Packs are available for two adults and two children for $65 ($7 off advance admission). Group tickets for a minimum of 25 adults are $22 each. Private tours before public hours may be scheduled at theflowershow.com or by calling 215-988-8775.

The Flower Show is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday; 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; and from 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday. To avoid heavy crowds, the best time to see the show is after 4 p.m. during the week.

For more information, go to theflowershow.com for a complete schedule of events.

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