Flower Show to light up Convention Center with ‘Garden Electric’

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The theme for the 2023 Philadelphia Flower Show is ''Garden Electric.''

The theme for the 2023 Philadelphia Flower Show is ''Garden Electric.'' (Emma Lee/WHYY)

The Philadelphia Flower Show has learned some things by being outside for the last two years during the pandemic.

Some of the floral designer spaces will be twice the size as they used to be inside the Pennsylvania Convention Center, and the walking route through the exhibition hall will be more clearly and simply laid out so visitors won’t accidentally miss anything.

“You start with professional world class designers and florists. Eventually, you make your way into the educational and display partners,” said show director Seth Pearsoll. “So you start professional and you end with something you could bring home if you wanted to.”

Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Creative Director, Seth Pearsoll speaks at a press conference outlining plans for the 2023 Philadelphia Flower Show. (Emma Lee/WHYY)
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On Monday the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society unveiled some of what visitors can expect from the largest and oldest indoor flower show in the world, this year turning 194 years old. With a theme of “Garden Electric,” the return indoors will highlight the exciting aspects of plants and flowers.

A rendering of the Entrance Garden at the 2023 Philadelphia Flower Show. (Courtesy of the Philadelphia Horticultural Society)

Some designers plan to augment the natural thrill of flowers with artificial enhancement. The preview showed a few plans in which designers will build indoor spaces within the indoor space, enabling them to use lights, projections, and sounds to create a controlled immersive environment.

The centerpiece design created by the Flower Show itself will be wrapped in a mesh skim that will “conceal and encapsulate the space.” Designer Jonathan Wright of the Newfields public garden in Indianapolis will create an enclosure for a mixed-media installation of projections, music, and florals.

A rendering of the Newfields’s entry in the 2023 Philadelphia Flower Show. (Courtesy of the Philadelphia Horticultural Society)

Apiary Studios of Philadelphia will enclose its exhibition space with light-blocking scrim to create a night garden.

“In the last two years we’ve seen designers want to bring guests into the space so they can personalize their design vision,” Pearsoll said. “People are looking to take advantage of projection and other ways of immersing a guest. So everybody’s creating a little world that you can either stand in or be in or look in. Definitely a big trend we’re seeing this year.”

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Mayor Jim Kenney was on hand at the preview to say he is a big fan of the Flower Show, and that this would be the final Flower Show in his tenure as mayor, during which the show was forced to be held in FDR Park.

“Really difficult from an infrastructure standpoint to maintain that, but based on what we went through with COVID it was the right thing to do,” Kenney said. “I’m glad we’re back in the Center.”

A rendering of Susan Cohan Gardens’s entry in the 2023 Philadelphia Flower Show. (Courtesy of the Philadelphia Horticultural Society)

The exhibitors are also glad to be back inside, according to Wilfrita Baugh, who has been volunteering for the flower show for 49 years, starting in 1974 as an amateur flower arranger when she was a math teacher at Cooke Junior High. She stayed with the show through her time studying to be a doctor, and during her medical practice in Germantown.

“I still own the building that I practiced out of, so that’s full of my Flower Show stuff,” Baugh said. “My basement is filled with it, my garage is filled with it. My daughter keeps going, ‘Mom, when are you getting rid of this?’ I said, ‘When I die you can pull up a dumpster.”

Wilfreta Baugh is looking forward to her 49th year with the Philadelphia Garden Show. She started in 1974 when she was in medical school, and now 10 years after retiring, whe will chair the competitive classes at this year’s show. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Baugh has been a steady presence at the Flower Show, now as chair of competitive classes. She said most exhibitors prefer to be inside.

“We were going through unprecedented times and people really enjoyed the outdoor show, but most of the exhibitors are very happy we’re back inside,” she said. “You don’t have to work with the vagaries of the wind and the rain and whatever else.”

The Philadelphia Flower Show is a major fundraising event for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, which uses the proceeds for its year-round community gardening and beautification programs. The show runs from March 4 to 12.

Saturdays just got more interesting.

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