The Philadelphia Flower Show is a rite of spring. It is a unique blend of garden high and low, an elite event with mass appeal. Designers (both floral and landscape), schools, garden associations/clubs and individuals create gardens or vignettes or enter into many categories or plant classes ensuring that there’s something for everyone. It is always packed (making photographs difficult) and sometimes the lines waiting to see the large display gardens are long, long, long as they were on Friday when I went.
This year’s theme ‘Passport to the World’ gave garden creators a wide berth for interpretation. Some didn’t (yawn) go much past the back yard, a few were whimsical (yawn, again) interpretations of foreign places, but the really, really interesting ones juxtaposed the idea of the natural world colliding with the industrial world and challenged the idea of what is traditionally beautiful in a garden.
Two gardens in particular took the idea of rust belt industrialism juxtaposed with naturalism and made it into something new and beautiful.
Michael Petrie, of Handmade Gardens, created a garden (one of two) for show sponsor PNC out of cast off junk that was both whimsical and a road map for recycling industrial cast offs. The use of recycled materials defined the idea of a vertical ‘green’ wall–in every possible way.
Moda Botanica stacked rusted, graffiti covered shipping containers on top of one another to create an other worldly environment. The garden was incredibly crowded.
There are those who deride flower shows as awful fakes with plants blooming completely out of sequence with no regard to how they would be in the real world. Get over it! When its good, it’s experimental theater at its best and at it’s worst it’s still pretty. For me, as someone who designs gardens for a living, it’s a place to look for ideas and inspiration–to seek possible directions that are only possible when creativity is allowed out of the bounds of design reality.