Holland. Flowering the 2017 Philly Flower Show


The Philadelphia Flower Show, that perennial rite of spring, always seems to come at the right time to lift my spirits. It doesn’t matter. Long winter, short winter, cold one or mild one, this annual floral production of the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society is balm for my frozen soul and guaranteed to sooth those edges left ragged by the cold, snow and ice. The over-all themes are sure to be familiar crowd pleasers as well, ranging in the past from Hawaii to London, from the Movies to America’s National Parks at their centennial anniversary.


This year’s theme is
Holland: Flowering the World and the Entrance Garden welcomes you into the show with the exuberant abundance you’d expect from an homage to the Dutch as you pass under an arched brick bridge, tiled beneath with delft, into the central plaza. Inspired by Amsterdam’s cityscape, the bridge is hung with joyful baskets of flowers and festooned along the railing with what seem like garlands of Holland’s iconic bicycles. It’s anchored at the sides by a kaleidoscope of colorful bedded tulips and other flowers. There’s even a miniature canal.

The beds go on to ring the Entrance Garden with blossoming cherry trees and sycamores. All is underplanted with drifts of flowery brightness ranging from hot oranges to soft pinks, reds, blues and purples, the work of tens of thousands of tulips abetted by hundreds of fritillaries, daffodils, anemones and others. Almost thirty thousand blooms to be exact. Abundance indeed.

At the far side of the plaza rise sloping berms of wild grasses and other perennials intended to evoke the “controlled chaos” and naturalistic style of the Dutch New Wave Movement in landscape design. The colorful sails of three windmills rise up from there as well, an additional backdrop for the periodic light show that adds even more sparkle and zip to the whole festive installation.

An amazing floral canopy, with over six thousand fresh and dried flowers, each suspended from a long multi-colored string, undulates and floats overheard. Designed to evoke Holland’s seemingly endless fields of flowers, the effect is suitably stunning, but the reference is thin and not as apparent as intended. It took the instructions to clue me in on this one.

The effect of the entrance design is bright, cheery, and more than adequate to this year’s theme of
Holland: Flowering the World. Over all, though, it seemed to me a little lacking of some of the soaring touches and brilliant flourishes of past entrances. I have to think about this one a bit more. Perhaps it was the flower fields hanging closely overhead. Intellectually, it seems like a great idea. And the sweep is actually very attractive. But it might be one thing to have fields of flowers spread out before you under wide-open skies. Yet another to have them coming down on you from a field above your head. But maybe it was another perplexing distraction that made the design seem not to soar quite as much as I expected this year.

Live performances often grace the Entrance Garden and a stage space is usually skillfully incorporated into the design for that purpose. This year a crude wooden black platform was pushed into the inner plaza instead. Along its sides were stacked rows of large and boxy speakers, control boards, and whatever other electronic equipment is considered essential for an amplified performance. Bedsides being ungainly and just plain ugly, the assemblage interfered with the aesthetics of the Entrance Garden. It blocked nearly a full quarter of the inner display. It was also visible from multiple angles from the outer perimeter as well. I really do have to scratch my head about this unfortunate stage wedged in under the canopy of hanging flowers.

Anyway, the cheery greeting of thousands of bright tulips and their other blossomy friends certainly had the effect I was hoping for. Spirits lifted. Winter gone. If only from the day in a fantasy land inside the cavernous convention center. Next up on the
Urban Fuchsia + Blog? An exploration of the numerous exhibitors and their display gardens. Stay tuned to this channel for the tour.

Holland: Flowering the World runs from March 11-19, 2017 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia.

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