The first outdoor Philadelphia Flower Show sets a new precedent for wow!
South Philadelphia’s Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park, the 348 acre FDR Park down by “The Lakes” as we like to say, has forever been a part of my life, one that, quite frankly, I’ve ignored since my 20s. The Park, not my life. Family picnics as a kid, teenage luaus, Grateful Dead concert treks: that was what FDR Park and the bucolic, but, messy, weedy area around the Swedish Museum was all about for me back-in-the-day. I guess I had forgotten about the joys of the large grassy knoll near the stadiums and arenas. I won’t forget any longer. Not after witnessing the 2021 Philadelphia Flower Show stretched gorgeously across 15 acres of the fairly newly redesigned FDR in an event whose immensity and color dwarfed that of past Pennsylvania Convention Center shows.
From floral designer Jeff Leatham’s stunning orange, blue and purple feather boa-like show opening display, “Habitat,” presented by the Four Seasons Hotel and wrapped around the columns of the Olmsted Pavilion, to the winding green village of vendors, to the delightful rehab of The Boathouse (first fresh paint job in 80 years), to the minimalist bamboo totems and beyond, it is both sad, amazing and monumental that this sort-of-post-pandemic event, Philly’s first real public outing sans masks and distancing, was the PHS Flower Show’s first time outdoors in its 193-year history.
Absolutely undeterred by 90 degree plus temperatures (thanks to the themed snacks and boozy cocktails courtesy Brulee Catering), the PHS Flower Show smacks you in the face with one marvel after another all basking in the glory of blues skies and bright suns.
The ferocious black feathery flowers of “The Jersey Devil,” the mysterious, red and white floral “Moth Man,” the colorful Bok Building organic printer’s house, the Ikebana International bamboo sculptural display, the Dinosaurs’ plant-laden play palace fun for adult and children alike, the Monet-as-visiting-artist statue at work painting The Boathouse, the lush Hamilton Horticourt, the old-timey F.A. Bartlett Tree Expert display (and original motor transport) and the countless smaller exhibits that dotted the periphery. It was, as if we lived in a paradise for a time; one certainly not of Philadelphia, yet very much of Philadelphia. And, as amazing as all this looked during the bright light of daytime, I can’t imagine what PHS & Co. will do during June 12’s After Hours event.
One question remains, though. Once you’ve been outdoors in the little-seen sprawl of FDR Park – its tall manicured lawns, its rare birds, its iconic architecture – how do audiences go back inside to the Convention Center?