By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY
PHILADELPHIA – With a theme that pays tribute to the power of flowers, the Pennsylvania Horitcultural Society’s 2019 Philadelphia Flower Show got underway Saturday at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. The theme “Flower Power” was reflected in landscapes, gardens and floral displays across the 10-acre showroom, including the fabulous orchids of Waldor Orchids of Linwood, New Jersey.
The “Hanging Meadow” display will welcome an estimated 250,000 visitors this week with vivid colors and towering sculptures that blend the Flower Power and Pop Art movements, complete with hippy picnics set up in meadows, old trailers and trucks with flowers flowing and numerous peace signs. A meadow made of 18,000 floral and grass stems was suspended 25 feet above the spectators as they enter the showroom.
Visitors may not have realized why exhibitors were still setting up floral displays after the start of the show, but they were all competing in an international floral design competition that is held every six years in different locations. The last time the competition was held in the United States was in 1985 in Detroit, said Illinois resident Tricia Haislar of the American Institute of Floral Designers.
This year, the prestigious FTD World Cup included designers from 23 different countries, who won their national competitions to gain entry into the contest. Each was given several design tasks to complete during preliminaries held on Friday and Saturday during the show.
“Each 2-man team was given baskets of the exact same flowers and stem count to complete each of their four tasks,” Haislar said. “They are now completing their fourth task, which has the theme ‘Season of Bloom.’ The first three tasks were to create an architectural piece, a hand-tied floral bouquet and a table setting for two.”
The 10 finalists announced at a private reception Saturday night will go on to compete in additional tasks on Sunday, again each receiving a basket of flowers to work with. The field would be narrowed to five by Sunday night and the finalists would again compete in a surprise design competition with the winners of the Interfloral World Cup awarded trophies following judging. Designs will be on display throughout the remainder of the show.
Grower and business owner David Off designed Waldor’s large display with the theme, “Kaleidoscope,” according to Beth Davis who works at the greenhouse on Poplar Avenue in Linwood.
“We have all types of orchids and some specimens from our private collection interspersed with tropical foliage and lots of mirrors,” she said. “The idea was to be able to see the orchids reflected from all angles in the display, which includes a rotating tower in the center.”
The Off family started growing orchids in 1925 when Davis’ great-grandfather started growing orchids as a hobby. The company has been displaying orchids at the flower show since the 1930s and is one of the remaining five major exhibitors, she said.
The business was passed on through generations and currently grows and distributes orchids to garden centers in the region. The Waldor retail sales center is open 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays year-round. Davis said she occasionally conducts greenhouse tours for groups.
“It’s always a great time and people always come to our booth to say they love to see all those orchids in one place,” she said.
Off started working on the design last year as soon as the Flower Power theme was announced, and it took seven days to construct the display inside the convention center.
“We’re already planning our display for next year, which will have a Riviera theme,” Davis said.
The Philadelphia Flower Show is one of the largest and most successful horticultural shows in the world.
The show will be open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, March 4-8; 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 9; and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, March 10. Plan to arrive early to avoid the crowds.
For tickets and information, see theflowershow.com.