Battleship memorial, peace lilies figure in floral tribute to Pearl Harbor

The Hawaiian theme of the 2012 Philadelphia International Flower Show may bring to mind leis, orchids and palm trees for some. For Tom Morris, he remembers the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor 70 years ago.

When the annual Philadelphia International Flower Show announced earlier this year that the theme of the 2012 show would be “Hawaii,” it brought to mind leis, orchids and lazily swaying palm trees.

But Tom Morris, a designer for J. Downend Landscaping in Crum Lynne, Pa., immediately thought of the USS Arizona, the battleship that sank to the bottom of Pearl Harbor with 1,177 crew members 70 years ago. The Japanese attack on Dec. 7, 1941, pushed the United States into World War II.

“Surfing, volcanoes, waterfalls, tropical paradise. That’s very—I don’t want to say ‘easy to re-create,’ but it’s easy to wrap your head around that,” said Morris. “Hawaii is the center for one of the largest tragedies in U.S. history. Pearl Harbor—when you go there now, it is a beautiful place. The beauty of Oahu surrounds Pearl Harbor.”

A frequent entrant in the flower show, Morris won best-in-show honors in 2010 for a whimsical “Tour de France” landscape.

In 2012, his scaled-down re-creation of the USS Arizona Memorial will be a heady mix of patriotism, tragedy, and floral beauty. The construction will be floating in a pond inside the Pennsylvania Convention Center, surrounded by royal palms, fragrant plumeria, and white peace lilies.

The model of the memorial is built and being stored near Philadelphia. The plants are being raised in Florida’s warmer climate.

Morris does not want his memorial to the day of infamy to be a morose spot on the otherwise lush flower show floor, but rather a tribute to history.

“The military provides the cover that allows us to sleep at night,” said Morris. “It’s not meant to be dark; moreso patriotic and uplifting.”

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