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Disney features brought to you in living color at Philly Flower Show [photos]

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Disney’s movie “Maleficent” is an alternative telling of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, starring Angelina Jolie’s cheekbones.

All Leon Kluge could see was the lush fairy landscape.

“When I saw the movie, I fell in love with not so much the movie but the gardens in the movie,” said Kluge, a South African landscape artist in competition at the Philadelphia Flower Show.

This year, as part of the “Celebrate the Movies” theme, the Flower Show asked exhibitors to choose a film from the Disney catalogue to inspire a garden. Within his allotted 12-meter lot on the exhibition floor of the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Kluge created a two-sided garden. One side’s “happy” (mostly jaunty white bells of foxglove flowers), and the other is “sad” (mostly shade plants) — all run through with a black reflecting pool with small waterfalls made of wood curlicues.

“In Maleficent, the fairy’s home base are trees morphed into a home,” said Kluge, designing a garden in America for the first time. “That’s what we have here. All the wood morphing into her home.”

Another exhibitor, Lim In Chong from Malaysia, chose “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” (2010), but he was not thinking of Jake Gyllenhaal nor Ben Kingsley. As he designed his floating pagoda, he wasn’t really thinking of “Prince of Persia” at all.

“I remember watching a movie called ‘Superman,'” said Chong, who goes by “Inch” and admits he doesn’t watch many movies. “Superman flew off and got a bird of paradise for his girlfriend, Lois Lane. Absolutely fantasy. He went to South Africa, and cut beautiful flowers for Lois Lane. This is like that — an oriental fantasy.”

Garden variety for serious, casual visitors

The Philadelphia Flower Show, staged by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society since 1829, is the largest and oldest in the country. It welcome the serious aficionados who come to collect planting ideas they can bring home and the casual visitors who come for the spectacle.

The entrance this year is a full-sized, Art Deco theater marquee made up with roses;  some of them are hybrids named after movie stars, including Henry Fonda and Marilyn Monroe.

“I didn’t want it to be a Disney entrance, no Mickey Mouse,” said Sam Lemheney, chief of events at the PHS. “I wanted a premiere experience, with a red carpet so you feel like you’ve walked into a movie premiere.”

Lemheney bleeds green; his father and his grandfather both had exhibited at the Philadelphia Flower Show. For 13 years, right out of college, he worked for Disney, maintaining the landscape at Walt Disney World. Before he left Disney to work for the PHS in 2003, he was running the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival.

A Disney ending

Even with his long Disney association, landing the entertainment giant as a partner was not easy. Lemheney says it took years of talks and exploring corporate channels with the Flower Show’s media partner ABC (owned by Disney) to solidify the deal.

“The movie theme is something we’ve been talking about for years,” said Lemheney. “We knew we had to pick a studio so we could get rights to movies, and give exhibitors the use of movies and stuff from the movies. It took a while, but we got through to Disney.”

Disney has allowed showcase gardeners to use design concepts from “Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Cars,” “Frozen,” “Peter Pan,” and many others.

Per the movies theme, the Flower Show solicited original short films from area artists that explore question: “What is beauty?”

The Flower Show will also bring back its own proven hits, including the Butterfly Room with thousands of live butterflies fluttering around visitors, and a pop-up beer garden with a studio backlot theme. The beer garden will serve a new apple cider created for the Horticultural Society by Wyndridge Farm in Central Pennsylvania.

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