Saturday, March 14, 2015
I hate the Philadelphia Flower Show
Marquee should read: abandon hope, all ye who enter here
I hate the Philadelphia Flower Show. There, I said it. It's heresy, I know. The Philadelphia Flower Show, which bills itself as "the world's longest-running and largest indoor Flower Show", is certainly one of the best-known and best-loved flower shows in the entire country, with a practically cult-like following built around it. I managed to avoid it for over 20 years, having found it just too damn crowded the last time I went. This time around, I was already in Philadelphia for another event on the first weekend of the show and decided what the heck, I'll give it another chance. I arrived at the show at 10 am on Sunday morning, and fled at noon.
Is there something to see beyond all those people?
You may think it strange that I left so early, but I'm surprised I lasted as long as I did. I dislike crowds, especially indoors. Attendance over the 9 days of this year's show was around 250,000 and I'm pretty sure they were all there the same day I was. Despite the show having moved to the cavernous Pennsylvania Convention Center sometime in the intervening 20 years, it was just as bad if not worse. I suppose this kind of attendance is good news for the show and its organizers, but I simply found it unpleasant and as I left, hordes of people were still streaming in. I have to admit that my recollection may be colored by a miserable white-knuckled drive back to DC, with sleet and freezing rain most of the way and numerous cars off the road (including a couple of pretty bad wrecks). And before I snark too much, I should also note that as a garden blogger, I was given a complimentary press pass--a $32 value, which more than offset the $20 I had to pay to park near the convention center.
The show is put on by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, and has a different theme each year. This year's theme was "Celebrate the Movies", Disney movies more specifically. The show helps publicize, and attract new members to, the PHS, with this year's theme intended to appeal to a younger audience. In both respects the show was a great success, adding 15,000 new members and attracting twice as many children and students as last year's show.
This is a display of... something
The competitive displays--built around various Disney movies--were reputedly superb, but I never really got close enough to see for myself. From what little I did see, I cannot imagine the time, planning, and effort that goes into these displays, some of which were truly over-the-top.
Because of the crush of people I spent most of my time in the marketplace and "Horticourt". As a devoted plant geek, focusing on the smaller displays put on by vendors, and individual plants and other items they were selling, helped me ignore the crowds. People were selling a wide variety of tschotchkes, doo-dads and devices, as well as tacky ornamental sculptures, but also some very nice garden-related tools, arts and crafts, and lots and lots of plants. One vendor had a good selection of nicely-grown begonias, and I picked up an (unlabeled) B. 'Helen Teupel'. It also brightened my day a bit to see a familiar face, Joe Kiefer of Triple Oaks Nursery.
Succulents for sale
Joe Kiefer, Triple Oaks Nursery
Where I spent the most time, and took the most photos, was in the "Hamilton Horticourt", where all manner of beautiful, interesting, bizarre, and rare plants are exhibited and competitively judged. One thing I appreciate about the Philly Flower Show is that it gets local garden clubs and plant societies involved, in the judging as well as the entries, and amateur gardeners can show off their plants. The orchids were particularly popular but there were many other plants as well, and I saw many begonias and gesneriads (and even recognized a few exhibitor names). My only complaint (aside from the crowds, of course--which weren't nearly as bad in the Horticourt) was the terrible lighting, which made photography incredibly difficult. Using a flash partially solved the problem, but flash is not conducive for photographing many plants, especially those like gesneriads and begonias that have hairs or glossy leaf surfaces that catch and reflect the light.
Begonia entries (photographed with flash)
Begonia 'Red Fred' with (l) and without (r) flash
Award-winning Sinningia piresiana (Gesneriaceae)
Asplenium nidus, closeup
"Living wall" entry
"Living wall" entry
So maybe Sunday morning on the first weekend of the show was the worst possible time to go, but I had little choice on the timing. If I go again next year, I'll plan to visit during the week, when the show isn't quite as crowded. I also heard that later in the evening (the show is open until 9 pm most nights) is also a good time to go with far fewer crowds. And maybe next year I'll figure out some way to get there and back that doesn't involve driving my own vehicle.
I added that last photo, a cheerful little narcissus of some kind (I almost always forget to note the plant names!) to remind myself that, first, it's not really the Philadelphia Flower Show I hate, it's the crowds; and second, that the flower show is a good thing: it reminds us that spring is just around the corner, it reminds us that plants and flowers and gardening and everything related to them are wonderful, wonderful things, and maybe, just maybe, it will get somebody interested in gardening who never was before. Hmmmm, maybe next year I'll drag my husband along to come with me.
Next year's Philadelphia Flower Show is scheduled for March 5-13, 2016. The 2015 Philadelphia Flower Show has been covered by many other bloggers, so please read some of them to get a different point of view!
MY Trip to the Philly Flower Show (Susan Harris, GardenRant)
Lights, Camera, BLOOM! Celebrate the Movies at the Philadelphia Flower Show (Kathy Jentz, Washington Gardener)
Philadelphia Flower Show….More Than Just An Event (Teri, Cottage in the Court)
Lights Camera Bloom! Philadelphia Flower Show, Part 1 (Claire Jones, The Garden Diaries)
Lights Camera Bloom! Philadelphia Flower Show, Part 2 (Claire Jones, The Garden Diaries)
5 jaw-dropping reasons to see the 2015 Philadelphia Flower Show (George Weigel, PennLive)