Flower show imparts Parisian bouquet

The Philadelphia International Flower Show will open Sunday.

Taking up 10 acres inside the Convention Center, it’s one of the largest indoor flower shows in the world, and the first for the new president of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

Last summer, Drew Becher took the reins of the Horticultural Society from longtime president Jane Pepper. By then, the theme of the Flower Show had already been determined: “Paris in Springtime.”

To Becher, more is better. He wanted everything big: bigger trees, taller statues, towering walls made of living plants.

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“This building is cavernous. I want people to get lost,” said the New York transplant now living in Chestnut Hill. “Just like in Paris. That’s when you find cool stuff, when you get lost! That little street or that little something not on the tourist map.”

The show will take visitors into places a typical Parisian tour would not–into a grand apartment meticulously decorated in the Victorian style, amid the underground catacombs where graffiti artists thrive, and through florid re-creations of Monet water lily paintings.

Inside the Parisian daydream lurks one of Becher’s most significant changes to the flower show. Marketing messages will be prominent. For the first time, exhibitors will be allowed to hawk their products and services on the floor of the show.

“We’ve got to let them promote their businesses. This is fantasy. Some of this stuff can and can’t happen in yards,” said Becher, standing next to an elaborately wrought iron gate. “If this fence intrigues someone, how do they get with Michael Petri of Handmade Gardens and get that?”

Due to the competition and creativity inherent in the flower show, Becher said the exhibitors have been forced to find clever ways to advertise, such as a bank that has built twin towers out of birdhouses and a plasma video screen embedded in a tool shed.

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