STEP RIGHT up! The Philadelphia Flower Show, the oldest and most fabulous garden exposition in the nation, opens on February 29 and runs through March 8 at the Philadelphia Convention Center.
This year the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, which produces the annual extravaganza, presents a whiff of the French Riviera, with citrus groves lining the entry, flowering arches, and drifts of lavender, geraniums, roses, rosemary and sage, which sounds like a total olfactory overdose. Those splendidly scented flowers will be punctuated by enough fountains, tiles and pottery to inspire a Mediterranean garden of your own.
Oh, and there’ll be 4,000 butterflies.
The center court display, a floral version of 4th of July fireworks, and surrounding exhibitions are created by the best of the best floral and landscape designers; among them, this year, James and Helen Basson of Scape Design, and Laurélie de la Salle of Laurélie Paysages, both firms imported from Nice, France.
Beyond the main court will be a joint effort with Monaco, with a replica of Princess Grace’s Rose Garden— not quite the principality’s nine-acre spread with its 4,000 varieties of roses, but still a grand sight, they promise. Grace Kelly, as you may remember, was born in Philadelphia. She was also just 26 when she retired from films to marry Prince Rainier, which is neither here nor there, just interesting. I think.
The rose garden will also feature a new flower, the Princess Charlene de Monaco rose, a very fragrant, double-flowered Hybrid Tea with petals of light apricot to shell pink, named for Prince Albert’s wife. Presumably, you’ll be able to buy one in the show’s marketplace, where there will be aisle upon aisle of plants and garden tchotchkes.
Throughout the week there will also be gardening lectures, events such as jewelry-making from plant materials, and hundreds of competitions for flower arranging, photography, jewelry and individual plants.
Philadelphia really knows how to do this show, with package deals for hotels and easy access from Amtrak via subway, directly to the Convention Center with blessedly clear signs. Make sure to leave room for lunch. The Farmer’s Market, worth a trip on its own, is right across the street. If you’re traveling to the show, you might bring a cooler.
Tickets purchased online before February 28 are $42 for adults, $26 for those aged 18 to 29 and $17 for those aged 5 to 17. That’s a few bucks cheaper than at the gate. You can also reserve parking, get directions and the full scoop on daily activities at https://theflowershow.com/.
LittleBird “Stephanie Gardens” is a Philly fan even when there’s no flower show.