Flower power in the City of Brotherly Love—The Philadelphia Flower Show 

click to flip through (9) PHOTO BY KARIN LEPERI
  • Photo by Karin Leperi

Every March, people come from around the world to see thousands of profuse blooms in the East Coast city of Philadelphia. Sometimes it's sunny outside and sometimes there's snow on the ground—when I went last year, the city had a raging blizzard.

There's something to be said for a city that celebrates flowers on the cusp of winter morphing into spring, and rest assured that, no matter the weather, the plethora of flowers are all indoors, safe from the fickle elements of the outdoors.

The Philadelphia Flower Show is produced annually by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS). Dates for the show this year run from March 2 to 10 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. With more than 260,000 people attending annually, it's billed as the "largest indoor flower show in the world." It's also the world's oldest, making its debut in 1829.

Every year has a different theme and this year the focus is on "Flower Power." (Think 1960s and Woodstock, so you might want to wear some flowers in your hair). This theme pays tribute to the enormous impact flowers have on our lives. 

"Our lineup of brilliant Flower Show exhibit designers will capture how flowers influence the way we feel, think and act in personal and global ways," said Sam Lemheney, PHS chief of shows and events. 

Special evening events and daily attractions will incorporate the "Flower Power"-era theme as well as note the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock music festival. At the opening-night dance party, the '60s vibe will bloom at the Flowers After Hours event with the musical group The Beat Tells.

The indoor show is a flower extravaganza, with a rainbow of colours to excite the senses and the soul. Gardeners, florists, landscapers, designers and flower lovers in general flock to the centre to see displays, interpretative art and even unique architecture. Four hectares of floorshow help explore "how flowers convey a wide range of emotions and messages in a universal language that transcends cultures and borders," according to show organizers in a release. "Stunning landscapes, imaginative gardens, and breathtaking floral displays will interpret flowers' power to inspire, decorate, style, and enrich our lives. Through imaginative exhibits, guests will see ideas like community, healing, peace, transformation, and hope brought to life in surprising, vibrant ways."

And, for the first time in the U.S. since 1985, Florists' Transworld Delivery (FTD) is hosting the premier competition, the FTD World Cup 2019, which showcases talented floral designers from around the world (www.ftd.com).

"The FTD World Cup will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience and is a wonderful example of the power that flowers have to bring people from different cultures and backgrounds together," noted Lemheney.

This is the world's most prestigious event for the floral industry, with up to 30 countries participating. (The international floral design competition is only held every four to six years, and is hosted in different worldwide locations.)

At last year's Philadelphia event, I was overwhelmed with the variety of orchids on display, spending hours photographing the tropical gems at an up-close-and-personal distance—hard to replicate in gardens. There are reputedly about 28,000 orchid (Orchidaceae) species: From moth orchids (Phalaenopsis) and Showy Lady's Slipper to the spot-flecked Oncidium, and one of my favourites: the Rothschild's slipper orchid (Paphiopedilum rothschildianum). They range in size, colour and fragrance, which can become challenging to the casual orchid-lover in trying to identify the type.

I stayed at the nearby Loews Philadelphia Hotel, which proved to be quite convenient for attending events at the convention centre—even when it was snowing. The hotel has a central location in the heart of the city, with many historic attractions within a short walking distance of the hotel. The Independence Hall is just a block away. 

Extend your stay with a side visit to the world-famous Longwood Gardens in nearby Kennett Square, about a 50-minute drive. Admission allows you to explore places such as the Orchid House and the Mediterranean Garden. Seasonal events are also featured throughout the year. The Orchid Extravaganza runs from Jan. 19 to March 24, 2019, a nice add-on to the flower show. A separate-timed admission ticket is required for this event, but it is well worth the premium. Be advised that tickets sell quickly and range from $23 on non-peak days to $30 on peak days for adults. Tickets for seniors and college students with valid ID are less, while children aged four and under are free.

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