Philly Flower (?) Show Report



I’ll say one thing for this year’s Philadelphia Flower Show – good for the PHS for choosing national parks as the theme, in celebration of the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary. I love that parks got tons of attention! But flower-show material, they’re really not.

Case in point: the show’s grand entrance needs to WOW, and typically does – but not this year. The photos above and below demonstrate.


A bear, the Liberty Bell, and something like a tree?


And where the show usually continues to wow with inspiring gardens designed by some of the best, this year there was this recreation of geysers at Yellowstone.


And charred trees.


And I’m sorry – this really hideous thing. The close-up view was even worse.


Most of the displays were like this one.


And this.


There may have been some daffodils nearby.


Campsite with daffodils.


Or more authentically, a park scene without daffodils.


Photo-ops were few and far between.


An uninspiring picnic scene.

Whatever this is.


This one display of flowering tulips was welcome, however incongruous it was near all the woodsy displays.

Best Bits – yes, there were some!


This is the kind of innovative design I love seeing at the Flower Show, and saw only one example this year. (Does anyone know what this represents? My notes fail me.)IMG_1456

The recreation of Lincoln’s Boyhood National Monument proved to be a both interesting and garden-worthy.


And though flowerless, this depiction of the Cape Cod National Seashore had me planning my first beach trip this year.


The pressed-flower competition, where I lingered over the floral flip-flops, is always fun.


Talks at the Designer’s Studio were standing-room-only.


These are my favorites of the abstract flower arrangements depicting parks.


The show included some terrific signage, including  this one, and snack stands that looked like park concessions.


I found the schedule of talks at the Ranger Station stage super-interesting! The day I attended started with a talk about presidents who owned slaves, fer crissakes, and included the talk I listened to for a while:IMG_1558 “Demanding Civil Rights: Roots of the LGBTQ Movement.” Wow. Highlights included heroes of the movement and the similarities between McCarthyism and oppression of gays. (What’s the connection to national parks? I don’t know, or care.)

So, a big shout-out to the National Park Service for their talks, and much more.

I got to hear Mike McGrath, who is a HOOT and someone I don’t see enough of.  He’s shown here with a bag of compost, of course.

The merch was as pretty as ever, and I have a T-shirt to prove it.

Kathy Jentz on the bus, by tour-goer Eva Graham.
Kathy Jentz on the bus, photo by Eva Graham.

Finally, after doing the exceedingly unpleasant 2- to 3-hour drive to Philadelphia all by myself a few times, I learned what an idiot I’ve been to not just hop the bus and enjoy the excellent company of tour organizer Kathy Jentz. It’s the only way to go.

Show Reviews
Let’s just say they’re mixed. Attendance, at 255,000, was high, thanks partly to travel-friendly weather, so the PHS raised tons of money for its many worthy projects. But the praise was more scattered this year. Just ignore the local press declaring that the “Flower Show is coming up roses” coz it sure wasn’t.

Next year…drumroll

To make up for this year’s flower deficiency, or just because it’s always popular, the theme for the 2016 Flower Show will be good old Holland. No campsites. No bears.


  1. Wow – I wasn’t able to attend this year, and while I hate to say it, I think I’d have been a tad bored. Next year sounds much more to my taste – although they’ll have to go a long way to beat 2013’s “Britain” theme. That blew the doors off of anything I’ve ever seen….

  2. I have been reading people’s posts on this thing for years and I have NEVER seen a picture that made we want to go to it. The tulips are nice.

  3. Hope you made it to the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle where we ROCKED the National Parks Theme! You can see the details here:

    The Tiny Tetons by Nature Perfect Landscapes and Southwest Serenity by the West Seattle Nursery were AMAZING. Flowers in abundance; talks were excellent. We did not go home disappointed.

  4. The Disney theme last year didn’t make me happy at all. I knew the theme was movies, but upon attending I felt the show was bought out by Disney Studios. I had never attended, was disappointed.

  5. I was equally disappointed in the flower show this year. Most of the gardens just lacked “wow” factor. But, like you mentioned, there were a few gems at the show. I really enjoyed the “pocket gardens” and “front entrance” displays. At least the weather was brilliant, so it was a beautiful day to walk around old Philly.

  6. Susan, there’s the spectacle, and then there’s the rest. Personally I leave the spectacles to the crowds; my favorite part of the flower show is always the competitively judged displays of plants by local (and for the most part hobbyist) growers. It’s a shame you didn’t give that part of the flower show more coverage, because there are always plenty of flowers!

    • Well, that part of the show isn’t my thing. I’m more of a garden person than a plant person, I guess. But I’m glad you liked it – as many did. There were really mixed reviews to this show – and strongly held ones, too.

  7. Susan – wow, couldn’t disagree more. I have been disappointed by the show for the last two years, and didn’t hold out much hope this year with such an ambitious (if worthy) theme. However, I was impressed by the innovative ways in which it was repeatedly captured by the exhibitors – with very few exceptions.

    Sure there was the predictable papier-mâché giant sequoia drive-thru, and whoever took that Liberty bell off last year’s Rose Parade float was ill-advised – and the less said about that Muir Woods foam strip ‘giant sequoia’ the better. However, the story told in the re-awakening of Yellowstone’s fire-ravaged acreage, or the juxtaposition of decay and conservation at Mt. Vernon, or that incredible rooftop garden/water-race/cottage display of Hopewell Furnace by the Environmental Design students at Temple, just left me smiling broadly. The Delaware chapter of NARGS had miniaturized The Grand Tetons in troughs – clever clever.

    And, I agree with John – there were flowers galore as usual in the HortiCourt – some stunning displays of electric orange and red orchids this year and the tropical line-ups that always make you want to go home and finally dispose of that struggling croton.

    I’m thinking that perhaps you might have gotten a better feel for it at the press/PHS preview on Friday afternoon? With a few less people to block it, that entrance was impressive-as-hell. Huge flowering totem poles beckoning you into a great timbered lodge….

    And I will even admit that this ice princess started to tear up watching the inspiring 8 minute segment on our National Parks on those massive ceiling screens. Played right into their evil-genius hands on that one.

    It was right up there with 2013’s Britain, but in many ways better – because as a fellow garden writer said, “this is ours – the beauty of America.”

    Didn’t expect to like it at all – LOVED it. Thanks for getting the blood stirring this morning Susan! Here’s my post with pics (notice there is absolutely no mention of the Muir Woods folly).

    • Thanks for your completely different take on the show! And one of many. This show more than others seemed to really evoke mixed reviews and strong opinions.
      I like the big display gardens more than anything and was disappointed.
      Also, I went as a regular tour-goer; if I’d attended the press event I might have had a different reaction.

  8. Can someone tell me what the connection is between Muir Woods and “Petrograd’s unbuilt monument to the Third International”?

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