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Philadelphia Flower Show Highlights & Guide to the Kinetic ‘Garden Electric’ ~ Plus The Winners!

Every year the nation’s largest and the world’s longest-running horticultural event promises and features stunning displays by some of the world’s premier floral and landscape designers at the Philadelphia Flower Show, hosted by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS).  

For me, the show never fails to spark design ideas for the garden, indoor plant compositions and my tablescapes. 

The design inspiration for this year’s theme, “The Garden Electric,” is dedicated to the spark 

of joy that comes from flowers and gardens. Designers created works of art featuring a dazzling array of colors, unique shapes and textures, rich fragrances, multimedia elements, and innovative designs focused on the opulent and celebratory aspects of flowers and gardens.



Seth Pearsoll, PHS’s Director of Design said, “This year’s theme, ‘The Garden Electric,’ is meant to encompass the feeling of magic, celebration, and awe we get when we encounter gorgeous flowers and gardens. We are creating a truly immersive experience for guests centered on bold, eccentric, vibrant color pairings, and an element of surprise that will ignite a sense of wonder and excitement in our guests.”    

We were excited to head back to the Flower Show; in fact, I made the same arrangements with Amtrak and the hotel we stayed in for the June, In Bloom show. 

Last year, Bill and I attended with my press credentials. This year, we joined our Metro Hort group ~ members were hosted by the PHS, with a pre-show overview by Andrew Bunting, vice president of Horticulture, PHS.  And an overview on judging from our Metro Hort member, John Higgins, who has been judging for almost two decades. We learned that there are 250 categories to be judged!

After the talk, we enjoyed the show experience with fellow Gotham horticulturist/Metro Hort member and friend, Lynn Torgerson and partner, Erhan. 

After having the Flower Show indoors for more than 190 years, then a pivot to hosting the Flower Show outdoors for two years due to COVID-19 concerns, the 2023 Flower Show once again be indoors so guests can experience the first taste of spring.

In its return indoors, the Flower Show show said it adopted the concept of a winding promenade. This guided path is a departure from how all previous Shows have been laid out, creating a lush, self-guided experience for guests to view and engage with stunning gardens and flowers up close.

This new design direction at this year’s show is “meant to mimic the feel of being outdoors and immersed in nature, offering a 360-degree blooming wonderland that can be viewed from all angles,” according to PHS.

I must admit that I prefer the outdoor show. Bill agrees.

The return to the Convention Center show was certainly very well-attended so there seemed to be no complaints about the locale. The crowds are tremendous, to say the least. Just to get into Convention Hall there were long lines. And we got there early.

I understand there were challenges hosting the event outdoors (and yes it was unusually hot) but if one wants to mimic the feel of being outdoors in nature, it’s got to be a head-start to actually be outside. In nature… And the FDR Park was so lovely next to the lake… Our Uber driver noted how her F&F so enjoyed the outdoor show as well. So that’s my 100% non-scientific survey of three!

Still, all things considered, we were able to move among the throngs once inside (after all, we are New Yorkers 😅). There were lines at most every featured exhibit to walk “inside” the displays. For many, we chose not to wait to enter but either scooted inside at the back end just for a quick peek or viewed from the front. It all works.


The botanical art and the Design Galleries were much easier to navigate.

We attended on the weekend, and it was the opening weekend, so maybe if you attend during the week, you won’t experience the crush.

There is sooo much to see. And do. Give yourself enough time. And pace your visit. There are plenty of places to sit and take a breather or eat or drink. There’s even a Ketel One botanical tasting station. Delicious peach and mango vodka. So botanical. I’m gonna use this in some refreshing cocktail creations.

But I digress a wee bit…


Show Highlights 

The idea for the 2023 Philadelphia Flower Show Entrance Garden, “FLORASTRUCK,” originated from a desire to understand why people have long felt the need to communicate through flowers. 

This year’s Entrance Garden is framed by an arched mesh scrim that fosters a sense of mystery and intrigue that hints at the opulent and lush world where just beyond guests are greeted by a 360-degree, immersive, vibrant floral world. 

Once inside, you’ll experience a jolt of floral magic that celebrates that unique feeling of awe, excitement, and celebration that one experiences when encountering majestic beauty.

There is pulsing music and lights akin to being in a nightclub.  We heard the crowds’ ooohs and ahhs at various points as the show lights pulsed and the flowers and blooms ignited their senses.

And remember to look up!

     

You’ll enjoy visiting David Rubin’s tool collection and discover his assortment of vintage gardening tools and accessories from around the world. Carefully curated and collected over time, this one-of-a-kind collection is truly fascinating.


Later on our visit, we met Stefanie, the third generation owner & designer of The American Garden Tool Co. Her grandfather was a welder and created this quality line of tools that wouldn’t “break.” The “King of Spades” collection is still made in the Garden State. I recommend you check them out. Their spade and hori garden tools are superior. I’ve used their CobraHead for many years since I was sent to test-drive it in the garden. It’s great.

PHS Hamilton Horticourt returned in a new, central location within the Show, making it convenient for you to peruse the numerous best-in-class plants and flowers entered in the PHS competitive classes.

The Design Gallery displays artistic entries from gardeners spanning many categories of floral art and design, including new categories such as forced cut branches, citrus, and new floral arrangement classes.

Plus, almost my favorite: miniature floral designs are back by popular demand this
year alongside botanical jewelry


and art, making this area the perfect way to experience flowers and horticulture in a variety of mediums.  
Love these hanging garden art creations.
                        

Makers Market, Classes, DIY, and instructional lectures are included on the schedule and help create a very fulfilling show experience. I suggest you check out the offerings ~ some classes have an upcharge, and plan your visit accordingly with what you want to learn and see.

Artisans Row
Here you can craft a floral crown, pour a flower candle, or create a floral handbag, a wearable piece of floral jewelry, a succulent terrarium, potting up containers, and more. The attendees were looking wonderful and proudly wearing their floral designs.

Plus, just very cool attendee Flower Show Fashions!

You can’t help notice that everyone is jockeying to take photos, photos, selfies and more photos! (Can you blame them?!

This show is undoubtedly eye candy. It’s an extravaganza that is an homage to our love affair with plants and the magic they elicit. It’s rather unforgettable… If you love plants, you cannot miss the Flower Show.

Some of my favorite displays:
This Avatar/Tree of Life award-winning exhibit is stunning.

From Jennifer Designs, it’s actually a brain or cerebral garden design. How “mind blowing” is this?

The style of this display is so á la mode. 

Plus their explanation about the history of boutonnieres and corsages is delightful. Prom or no, I love wearing corsages even today. All those pretty flowers and lovely scent. I also wear them in my hair.

Writing this triggered a happy corsage memory. Here’s a throwback photo of me at one of the Garden’s galas from the local newspaper, showing my rose wrist corsage and one tucked behind my ear. Corsages are not only pretty; according to the PHS display, helps ward off evil spirits!

This display artfully showcases the brilliant hues of the color Orange. In all my years of garden design, regrettably, only one wanted lots of orange in her garden. I was elated. As Frank Sinatra said, “Orange is the happiest color!)

And oh, these pretty-in-pink tutus with lots of pink blossoms were a big hit with the photobombing crowds. Me too… See how elegant carnations can be? I’ve longed used them in my tablescapes and holiday designs ~ for all the good reasons.

This mirrored, turning space-themed display was, well, out-of-this-world.
       
In addition, the vignettes and their design stories are so compelling. The designer tells a story with the plants and the composition. So fun to see and dream with…

This is “A Wet Suit Required”

“Mediterranean Delight”

“The Garden Workers”

A Children’s Room

And Outdoor Office

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Announced their Award Winners for 2023 Philadelphia Flower Show “The Garden Electric.”
This year’s artists hail from around the globe featuring notable up-and-coming designers as well as established industry veterans known for shaping the industry.

According to the PHS, for the first time in the Show’s history, many designers have been tasked with creating gardens between 2,200 and 2,900 square feet in size, making them the largest gardens ever displayed at the event.

“The exhibits at this year’s Flower Show, ‘The Garden Electric’ reflected the wide-ranging viewpoints of many of the industry’s preeminent names. From peaceful landscapes to over-the-top floral installations, designers took the theme to heart and created electrifying works of art that thrilled judges and the public,” said Pearsoll.

“The PHS Philadelphia Flower Show Cup for Best in Show – Landscape” was presented to ILLExotics, a Philadelphia-based boutique store that specializes in exotic plants such as aroids, orchids, and captive-bred creatures. The boutique’s exhibit, “Studio Exotica,” is a Studio-54-inspired nightclub fully overtaken by tropical greenery and flowers, complete with a floral DJ, bartender, and dancers.

“The PHS Philadelphia Flower Show Cup for Best in Show – Floral” was awarded to Harijanto Setiawan, an architect-turned-florist from Singapore and the creator of Boenga Floral Studio. His installation, “Florid Electron,” merged cutting-edge floral design, lighting, and experiential elements to create an immersive environment merging the world of floral design with interactive art.

The Philadelphia Award was presented to Newfields, led by renowned designer Jonathan Wright, the director of The Garden and Fairbanks Park at Newfields. This was Newfields’ first year exhibiting at the Flower Show, and their exhibit utilized mixed media projections to captivate guests.

The Silver Award was presented to Mark Cook of Mark Cook Landscaping & LLC, which has previously received numerous prestigious honors at the Flower Show, including Best in Show in 2022 and 2020.

Here are just some of the award winners that the PHS announced Monday. For a full list of Flower Show award winners, please see the listings at their website.

A Curated List of the 2023 Award Winners

Landscape Design Winners

  • The PHS Philadelphia Flower Show Cup – Best in Show: ILLExotics
  • The Governor’s Trophy – Innovative/visually stimulating/unique design: ILLExotics. The firm created “Studio Exotica” a Studio-54 inspired disco taken over by tropical foliage and flowers, complete with a floral DJ, bartender, and dancers. This exhibit captures the electric feeling we get when we’re enveloped by beautiful flowers and gardens, as well as the electric connection we have to music.
  • The Philadelphia Trophy – Best use of color with flowering plants: Newfields. Here, is a 360-degree, mixed-media installation featuring projections, music, and florals reminiscent of immersive art shows, encouraging guests to experience “The Garden Electric” using multiple senses for a sumptuous experience.
  • Pennsylvania Landscape & Nursery Association Trophy – showing most effective use of plants and best use of design in the Landscape Category: Mark Cook Landscaping & Contracting LLC
  • Men’s Garden Club of Delaware Valley Award – to a garden containing plants suited to the Delaware Valley, in a setting that can primarily be maintained by one person: Susan Cohan Gardens. Susan utilized a variety of spring ephemerals, a suspended interactive swing, and spiral motifs, Cohan invoking the blissfulness of a spring day. garden and landscape designer Susan Cohan, named “Designer of the Year in 2021” by The Association of Professional Landscape Designers, will also return to the Flower Show in 2023. Her firm’s philosophy is rooted in the belief that thoughtful and responsibly designed landscapes enhance our lives. Cohan will celebrate the joy and exuberance we feel at the start of spring. 

  1. The American Horticultural Society Environmental Award – for an exhibit of horticultural excellence that best demonstrates the bond between horticulture and the environment and inspires the viewer to beautify home and community through skillful design and appropriate plant material: Treeline Designz. Here, the team utilized a concept that pays tribute to children facing war in Ukraine. This exhibit sheds light on Ukrainian children who have been uprooted from their homes and exposed to war. Ahmed believes that garden and landscape design can contribute to making the world a more livable, equitable, resilient, and just place. His exhibit uses locally-grown trees and plants to envision a magical, twinkling fairy house, home to the Peace Fairy, who watches over and protects all children.

We appreciated the Garden of Freedom installation ~ it was illuminating and poignant. Created by Nature’s Gallery Florist. On the back of their pretty floral business card at the display is a QR code that takes you to the website so that you can learn more about what inspired their exhibit.

  • PHS Gardening for the Greater Good Award – for the exhibit that best exemplifies PHS’s mission to activate horticulture and gardening as a force for the “greater good” by advancing the health and well-being of people and their environments: Apiary Studio. The husband and wife team returned to the Flower Show for the second time with an exhibit that explores themes of duality and contrast. Known for their use of unconventional building materials and adaptive reuse of urban decay, Apiary Studio’s exhibit showcased how gardens can be transformed at different times of the day by focusing on night gardens and using plants that are activated at night with color and scent. I very much appreciate Apiary’s design aesthetic ~ both years. 

Floral Design Winners

  • The PHS Philadelphia Flower Show Cup – Best in Show: Harijanto Setiawan. A recipient of the Designer of the Year Award in 2013 by the President of Singapore, an architect-turned-florist and founder of Boenga Floral Studio/Boenga Flowers by Harijanto. He has worked with high-end clients such as Chanel, Dior, Hermes, Vacheron Constantin, Piaget, Swarovski, Manolo Blahnik, and Audi, uniting floral design, architecture, and high fashion.  
  • The Philadelphia Flower Show Silver Trophy – Floral exhibit: Schaffer Designs
  • The Mayor’s Trophy -For the Floral exhibit that demonstrates the most innovative or unique design or use of floral, plants or products: Harijanto Setiawan.
  • American Orchid Society Award: Waldor Orchids
  • PHS Gardening for the Greater Good Award – for the exhibit that best exemplifies PHS’s mission to activate horticulture and gardening as a force for the “greater good” by advancing the health and well-being of people and their environments: Black Girl Florists

Again this year, some of the most innovative designs are those thoughtfully and creatively rendered in the EDUCATIONAL EXHIBIT displays by area schools and horticulture programs. The students promote the use of native, low-maintenance, and pretty plants.

               

Cool Plants
Of course there are just so many plants at a Show of this scope that whether you’re a garden designer like me or a “just” a plant lover, like me (wink) there isn’t enough space in one blog post. But here are a few for your viewing pleasure. I like them for their foliage or structure or color ~ or all those criteria! And how the designers paired up with companion plants to enrich the designs.

These plants caught my eye… And in some cases, my nose, too.

More Cool Plants
Black Tulips

Heuchera with Acuba

Stag Horn Ferns

The PHS Flower show runs through Sunday (March 4-12th.) at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

Information on the full list of exhibitors, musical talent, marketplace, and more for the 2023 Philadelphia Flower Show are available at: phsonline.org/the-flower-show. Tickets are available for purchase at tickets.phsonline.org.

And Still More Cool Plants! (Can’t Stop!) 
With space age “mulch” ~ purple dyed moss.

I want a tent filled like this when I camp out (which is ahem, never!)

I so love Maidenhair ferns but they are the divas of the fern world. Mine often are so fussy and I swear I’m through with them but then they go all ravishing and I love them all the more. Not as ravishing as this award-winner but we’re working on it. (smile)

ABOUT PENNSYLVANIA HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY

Started in 1829 by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, the Show introduces diverse and sustainable plant varieties and garden and design concepts.

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS), an internationally recognized nonprofit organization founded in 1827, uses horticulture to advance the health and well-being of the Greater Philadelphia region. PHS programs create healthier living environments, increase access to fresh food, expand access to jobs and economic opportunity, and strengthen deeper social connections between people.

Enjoy the show. Flowers and plants beguile us, delight us, fascinate us, excite us, and love us. 


It’s all so very glamorous…


9 Comments

  • Garden Glamour

    What a thoughtful choice, Ruth. I too was very moved by the Freedom Garden. As a garden designer, I tell my clients ~ & audience of my garden talks & blog ~ that every good garden design tells a story. In the Freedom Garden at the PHS show the narrative allowed us to see ~ to illustrate powerful ideas and show its impact that we could feel. It touched our heart & soul… We were almost startled by its ability to teach us about these honorable women & their situation. Gardens have the power to move us… Thank you for your insight and mindful recognition.

  • It's hard to choose, but I really liked The Garden of Freedom, and reading more about the story behind it made it powerful.

  • Garden Glamour

    Thank you so much for your enthusiastic feedback, Ruth. 🙏💚 it’s much appreciated. I’m so very glad you enjoyed my virtual tour of the Flower Show. Did you see a favorite display that inspired you? Sparked your connection to the plants? Left you speechless?! Cheers.

  • Garden Glamout

    Did you see a favorite display?

  • Garden Glamour

    It’s wonderful to read that you enjoyed my photos and videos. I tried to capture the essence of the beauty and energy displayed at the Flower Show so that you all can get the sense of being there and experiencing the designers’ garden art. Thank you very much.

  • Thanks for sharing your vivid descriptions and great photos. I got to be there vicariously!

  • Anonymous

    A most wonderful description of the show and such excellent pictures. This will make everyone happy and desire to see it all in person. Thanks.

  • Garden Glamour

    Thank you very much for your positive feedback. The Flower Show is indeed a very exciting show. Not only is it beautiful to see & experience but there is much to learn also. Hope you get to experience it live. Cheers.

  • Anonymous

    Incredible show. Thank you for sharing

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"Love of beauty is taste. The creation of beauty is art."
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 I adore plants. Plants are my muse ~ they are my paramour… I’m a garden artist; a nature lover, & horticulturist. I’m an author & writer. My passion for culture & beauty, along with my trait curiosity, brings you an authentic celebration of life. I’m a storyteller ~ weaving the artful gifts of horticulture, garden design, tablescape decor, floral design, cocktail culture, garden-to-glass recipes & their glamorous garnishes, homegrown edibles, food & drink; & cooking, to bring you my flair & what I’ve been told is an avid elan ~ as well as the stories from those who inspire me ~ to pursue an elegant, enduring, & joyful, entertaining lifestyle. It’s an honor & a privilege to do what you love.

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