By Greg Freeman, Published February 22, 2020
Whether Punxsutawney Phil -- that cute, predictably unpredictable groundhog -- gets it wrong (or right!), lovers of flowers and gardens can always take comfort, even amid the gloom of winter, that spring is just around the corner, thanks to the Philadelphia Flower Show. Held annually since 1829 around early March, the event is produced by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. The largest indoor flower show in the world, the flower show has been held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center since 1996.
A Riviera Holiday
The 2020 Philadelphia Flower Show, to be held February 29 to March 8, is expected to prove memorable with its Riviera Holiday theme. At a time of year when temperatures are quite cold and snow is often on the ground, who can resist thinking about the Côte d'Azur? The South of France might conjure up images of terraced vineyards, fragrant herbs and towering cypress trees, but the Flower Show aims to stimulate the senses as well as the imagination. The exhibits, in addition to the various items offered by vendors, will delight attendees who have the remotest interest in horticulture and flowers.
For the exhibitor, the show is a prestigious venue where one can enter as a novice or compete at a more serious level. Mrs. Joyce Jarvis, a retiree now residing in South Carolina, shared with me years ago how she and her daughter once traveled to the Flower Show from their residence in New Jersey and were thrilled to take second place among stiff competition with their African violets.
Don Caton of Downington, Pennsylvania, about an hour's drive west of Philadelphia, exhibited a first prize winner at the show in 2019. "Because of this win in 2019, I am henceforth forbidden to enter the novice collection. So this year I am planning, or at least hoping, to enter five different daffodils in different sizes of pots," Caton says.
The logisitics of competing at the Flower Show involve unloading flowers at a certain entrance, parking vehicles in designated parking areas and adhering to strict time deadlines. Exhibitors are not allowed on the show floor after 8:00 A.M. Furthermore, the timing of blooms can prove challenging, too. Caton explains, "I am still trying to learn the art of forcing bulbs to be in full flower the day the PFS opens." These are mere distractions that leave serious exhibitors undeterred, however.
Horticulturalist Kate Carney says, "I love the show and its many dimensions," but she adds, "the horticulture competition is my favorite." Carney and husband Mitch are known for their South Mountain Flower Farm in Boonsboro, Maryland, where they occasionally offer a catalogue of daffodil cultivars, including those increasingly popular intermediates that fall between the size ranges of standards and miniatures.