Philly Flower (?) Show Review by Susan Harris


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.

Philly Flower (?) Show Review originally appeared on Garden Rant on March 18, 2016.


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