The first outdoor Philadelphia Flower Show kicks off Saturday at FDR Park

Jeff Leatham’s “Habitat” at the 2021 Flower Show

Jeff Leatham’s “Habitat” at the 2021 Flower Show at FDR Park in South Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Flower Show opens Saturday for two weeks and it will be the first outdoor show in its 193-year history.

It’s normally held in March inside the Pennsylvania Convention Center, but this year, due to the pandemic, it’ll be at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park in South Philadelphia in the acreage between the Swedish Museum and the lake boathouse.

FDR Park has been transformed for this year’s Flower Show. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The show is divided into three districts: the Plant District showing exotic and prize-winning plants, the Garden District for home gardeners interested in workshops, and the centerpiece Design District, which showcases 27 designers’ work under the theme of “Habitat: Nature’s Masterpiece.”

“These imaginative exhibits will inspire and bring joy to people and provide gardeners with a wonderful kick-off to the growing season,” Sam Lemheney, chief of shows and events at PHS said.

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The theme of the flower show is “Habitat: Nature’s Masterpiece.” (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

This year’s winner for “Best in Show: Innovative Use of Design and Execution” for the theme is Wambui Ippolito’s Etherea. Ippolito was inspired by her memories of growing up in East Africa. It’s designed as a re-interpretation of the moorlands where humanity’s first ancestors lived.

“I’m very thankful for my mom who taught me how to garden,” she said. “I’m thankful for all the little kids of color who will be able to see me and locate themselves in the garden and start doing this for themselves.”

Pandemic-related precautions include requiring reserved tickets for morning and afternoon sessions in addition to occupancy limits.

The Philadelphia Flower Show is the oldest and largest indoor show in the world, dating back to 1829. Organizers skipped a few years because of World War I and II.

The 2021 Flower Show at FDR Park in South Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The Flower Show usually brings in about 250,000 people from all over the world every year. The 2020 show was in late February and early March, narrowly missing the pandemic shutdowns.

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This year will have the most designers, gardens, and floral displays in the show’s history with over 75 installations. This is a 45% increase compared to previous shows. Each year, PHS says the show generates about $62 million in revenue for the region.

A preview show Friday only allowed press and PHS members, drawing about two hundred people.

Normally, the show uses light, sound, and theatrical design for the indoor version, but that can’t happen outside. Alice Kachbalian, a visitor from Broomall who comes every year, said she doesn’t mind.

The 2021 Flower Show at FDR Park in South Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

“I think it’s spectacular,” she said. “I think that’s where nature is and that’s where flowers belong…outside.”

Mary Warshefsky, from Hopewell, New Jersey, feels the same. She comes with her daughter annually and saw no reason to stop the tradition.

“I like it so far,” she said. “We experience it every year and every year it’s different.”

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