We took the Amtrak train down, and stayed in a quirky bed and breakfast in Society Hill. The tiny brick row house had been built in 1811 and was an eclectic mix of modern furnishings, centuries-old structure, and shabby upkeep.
We liked it. It was comfortable, but not luxurious. In the evenings we had our choice of a four star restaurant or a house of ill repute directly across the narrow street from the B&B. It was hard to tell which was which, but we figured it out.
We could walk to the convention center a little over a mile away. Our B&B hostess was a pleasant woman, a gardener and member of the Philadelphia Horticulture Society, which sponsors this renowned flower show each year.
I have asked Jane to write a guest blog about the show and I will post that when she does.
There are a couple reasons why I want you to read Jane's critique. First, because she is a sharp observer of human social groups. As a professor of anthropology at a college here, she has a trained eye when it comes to how gardeners interact with each other and the horticulture industry.
Second, because I have searched high and low and can find no critique of the Philadelphia Flower Show. Nada.
There are articles aplenty about how wonderful it all is -- So bright! So loud! The Beatles! Big Ben! Such a sight for winter weary eyes! There are roses!
Negative criticism of the show mentions only the lack of parking and the ticket cost. Critique of what was shown is non existent, even though the entries were juried and prizes were awarded. Nobody in the press or on blogs seems to have any opinion about what was displayed, other than that it was all a wonderful spectacle.
So stay tuned. "An Anthropologist Visits the Flower Show" is coming up on this blog.
Meanwhile, here are the uninformed observations of a first-time visitor to the greatest winter flower show that ever was:
I was disappointed.
Yes, it was huge and the exhibits were eye goggling. I understand it really is about floral extravagance, not gardens.
The themes of "Brilliant" and "British" led most exhibitors to do something silly related to English pop culture, and so we got a Beatles-themed yellow submarine, a Jane Austen cottage garden scene, installations with royal thrones in them (really... throne chairs) and the queen's crown as design motifs.
There were umbrellas scattered in the garden (get it?)
There were some more complex displays too -- a Hidcote representation, a Scottish golf course scene, some layered designs with garden sheds and design elements that were interesting enough, although plant material was heavily spring bulbs and azaleas.
One exhibit that I really did like was a student-created display of the early seed trade between John Bartram and Peter Collinson, showing what transatlantic shipping of plants and seeds was like and how a seedling nursery might have been grown in 1740.
(Read Brother Gardeners by Andrea Wulf to learn about the wonderful history of plant trading that went on in the 1700s between the American colonies and Britain. This display depicted it nicely.)
|Photo and article from Hortitopia|
I know visiting a flower show is not like touring a botanical garden for plant education or design inspiration, but I did want to get some ideas to try in my own garden. There were few. I am not putting thrones in my borders or the queen's crown on a birdbath pedestal.
Instead, I enjoyed the spectacle, the color, and the relief from threatening snow and cold wind outside. Jane and I had coffee in great little shops nearby, ate well at local restaurants, called our husbands at home to tell them what we saw, and spent some serious money at the vendor stalls. All good, but not much to do with gardening or plants.
I had expected something different.