Vincent and Claudia Roux, the husband and wife team behind Petit Jardin en Ville, an Old City garden design company, aren’t newcomers to the Philadelphia Flower Show. But this year, they are taking guests on a journey.
“We start with the starkness of winter,” said Claudia Roux of their exhibit. “Then we move into the transition — the budding of spring, the newness of spring. The third part is the fullness of spring. That’s where we have an abundance of flowers and life.
“The electric spring.”
And it couldn’t be more befitting the theme of this year’s flower show: The Garden Electric.
What exactly does that mean? Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, the show’s organizers, have explained it as “that spark of joy while giving or receiving flowers — this is the moment captured by The Garden Electric.” But with so many flower show exhibitors and other participants, that spark of joy is open to interpretation. That’s what makes it interesting — and fun.
For the past two years, the Philadelphia Flower Show — the nation’s largest and the world’s longest-running event of its kind — was held outdoors in the pastoral setting of South Philadelphia’s FDR Park. For many a refreshing relief from the confinement of COVID, the flower show had as its focus the soul-restoring and healing qualities of nature.
This year, the show, which starts March 4, is going back indoors to the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
“It’s really meant to be bold and exciting and magical,” said Seth Pearsoll, the flower show’s creative director. “And because it’s at the tail end of winter which is usually pretty bleak and gray and wet, this indoor show feels a bit more about celebratory moments. We wanted to really showcase that aspect of flowers and gardens.”
The outdoor show had its own special beauty and opportunities; the Rouxes said that by the time show started, birds had nested in a tree in their exhibit.
But since an indoor show occurs in a much more controlled environment, exhibitors have more leeway in the flowers and other material they use and, in some cases, the drama of their design.
South Philly’s Ill Exotics shop is constructing an elaborate Studio 54-inspired disco, complete with a DJ, dancers, and a bartender — all made with tropical flowers and foliage.
The nearly 40 major exhibitors span a wide variety, and their designs each have their own unique spark.
Black Girl Florists, a national organization for Black women in the floral business, is creating an exhibit that will symbolize what sisterhood means to its members, and what their work brings to their industry and its customers.
“The theme of our display is basically unity,” said Valerie Crisostomo, an Atlanta florist who is part of a 14-person team that includes Philadelphia area florists.
They’re using flowers, including Hawaiian blossoms, in all vivid colors — oranges, yellows, blues, bright pink, and purples.
“We selected these colors because they reflect the vibrancy of our work and we work together to create something beautiful,” Crisostomo said.
The students of the Lakeside School, an alternative school for youngsters with behavioral issues and other special needs, focused on the influence of color and flowers to stimulate creativity. Their Garden Electric exhibit will be a replica of an outdoor artist’s studio made of flowers. Their primary color will be orange.
“The reason why we picked the color orange is because how we feel it drives energy and passion,” said Jonathan Klinger, horticulture coordinator on the school’s Horsham campus. “It stimulates people and motivates people.”
The show’s organizers are trying to create that spark in other ways, too. The outdoor shows brought in a more diverse audience — including more young people, and more families — that the event’s hosts want to keep, along with more traditional flower show goers.
So the Garden Electric theme — that spark — will extend to other events and activities too. Guests will have more opportunities for hands-on activities, and there will be two or three bands or DJs everyday in the Grand Hall area. The Grand Hall will become Bloom City, a lively center with entertainment, children’s activities, butterflies, and more. Plus there will be all those gorgeous blossoms throughout the show.
“We want to have guests experience a wow moment,” said Rebecca Schuchart, director of experiences and engagement for the horticultural society and the flower show.
“The Garden Electric is really about that moment. We want guests to feel that electric moment inside them when they see something beautiful. We want guests to really have their breath taken away when they come into the flower show this year.”