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From Hippie to Hip

A floral peace sign as part of a '60s wedding setting

The ‘Flower Children’ are all grown up and running the show. It was fun to walk around the Philadelphia Flower Show on Tuesday and see the vibrant colors and groovy displays that chose, as their theme this year, “Flower Power” to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the Woodstock music festival. Even more fun was to see the very diverse crowd all mouthing the words to the popular music of the 1960s and 70s – from bellbottomed visitors to those in their traditional Quaker attire.

The love of flowers has power –

It unites us. And just like the hippies who chose that symbol to promote peace in the Vietnam War era, the organizers of the “oldest flower show in America,” who most certainly experienced the impact of that movement, borrowed the slogan for this year’s event.

Started in 1829 and hosted by the Philadelphia Horticulture Society, the City of Brotherly Love is the site for the nation's largest and longest-running horticultural event each March. With guests expected to total more than 250,000: young, old; men, women and children; professionals and casual observers alike throng to the Philadelphia Convention Center to get a glimpse of spring in the grand hall filled with flowers, plants, trees and vines.

A veritable floral feast for the eyes, visitors to this year’s show first pass under a hanging meadow made up of 18,000 flowers. And that’s just getting started! Bright colors, creative use of organic materials, whole garden scenes and spring bulb paths surprise the senses at every turn. From towering trees to

Tea Cup Orchid (notice the second place ribbon)

teacup orchids, just when you think you’ve seen it all, the next display proves more amazing then the last.

While one can certainly be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the event and the displays – the show strives to inspire gardeners from all walks of life with new ideas and the sense of wonder that is inherent in nature and, hopefully, “bring that back to their homes and communities to experience the power of flowers in their lives every single day," according to PHS Chief of Show and Events Sam Lemheney.

In addition to displays, there are workshops, lectures, floral arranging live demos and lots and lots of vendors.

First prize floral arrangement interpretting Album Cover Art

A flower show is first and foremost a competition where designers compete in various categories with prescribed themes and rules. Throughout the 10 acre venue, visitors were able to see many judged arrangements and read the judge’s comments. One of the highlights of this year’s show is a World Cup competition in which competitors — the national champions from 23 respective countries — each created a hand-tied bouquet: a table-for-two setting design, a pedestal design and a trellis design. The FTD sponsored competition is considered the most prestigious floral design competition and hasn’t been held in the U.S. since 1985 and never at the Philadelphia Flower Show.

The show runs through this weekend, but let’s hope that the power of the flower to show us that we all don’t have to look alike or function the same to be beautiful will last far into the future.

Creative use of old tires

I’m not sure that the flower show organizers were trying to make a hip political statement about countering the division that is pervading our current American climate, but perhaps like the hippie movement that chose to protest peacefully and pass out flowers to the nearby police and press, we could all consider changing the landscape with a little more love and flower power.

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