A second act for Flower Show plants

The 2012 Philadelphia International Flower Show is now a memory, but the plants live on. The tropicals that dazzled on the showroom floor of the Pennsylvania Convention Center are for sale.

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society is selling off the anthuriums, palms, and ferns Saturday at Meadowbrook Farms in Abington.

“I’ve always had this fantasy about the Flower Show where, if I went on the last day, I’d be able to get truckloads of things at a very low cost,” said Diane Gentry who is salivating at the promise of the weekend sale. “I’ve never been able to make that happen.”

While Southeast Pennsylvania is far from a Hawaiian climate, Gentry says the leafy tropicals should fare well in the 18 square-foot, sky-lighted green wall she is building inside her rehabbed row home.

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Thousands of plants, from mature palms to tiny bromeliads, have been trucked to Meadowbrook Farm, where they are jockeying for space in the nursery’s already crowded greenhouses.

Many were originally grown in Hawaii or Florida, and spent the last month in a whirlwind of travel, repotting and pruning. They were forced to bloom in March, then closed up for 10 days to a convention hall with no sunlight.

“You’re pushing these plants to their limit,” said Meadowbrook grounds manager Tom Reber. “When they come back, they’re bloomed out. They’re tired, they want to go to sleep. To go right into the growing season, they need extra care.”

The bloom is off most of the flowers after having been ogled by records crowds of 270,000 people. Now they are looking for someone to take them home and make an honest plant out of them.

“You get them at a really discounted rate because they are about to lose the thing that people fantasize about — the bloom,” said Gentry. “But if you’re patient and you take care of it, then it’ll totally come back the next year for you. I tend to be someone who’s not really afraid of plants and their life cycle — and maybe killing one or two off accidentally.”

The sale is available only to members of the Horticultural Society. Last year’s sale — the first — attracted about 175 shoppers. More are expected this year.

“Going to Meadowbrook Farm, for me, is kind of like for many women going to Nordstrom when it’s on sale,” said Audrey Berg-Clothier of Haverford. “There’s a treasure trove of plants.”

While she has no expectations going into the sale, Berg-Clothier hopes to find some artichokes. “They are magnificent plants. They never survive — it’s just a little too cold for those to live. Their leaves look like silver plumes.”

The sale is, in many ways, a rescue effort. Plants left unsold will go into a compost heap.

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