Usually held indoors in late winter, this major gardening event will now take place in June at FDR Park in Philadelphia.

By Mackenzie Nichols
Updated January 13, 2021
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When I went to the Philadelphia Flower Show a few years back, it provided a welcome escape from a snowstorm that was raging across Pennsylvania in late February. This event is one of the biggest and longest-running flower shows in the United States, so it is always thrilling and vibrant. Inside the convention center where it is typically held, I strolled through stunning displays of tropical plants, colorful flowers, waterfalls, and fountains, almost forgetting about the icy weather outside.

This year, the show will avoid any chance of wintry conditions because it will take place outdoors in the summer.

Tropical plants surround an indoor waterfall in one of the Philadelphia Flower Show's previous display gardens.
| Credit: Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS), which organizes the show, considered offering the 2021 event virtually, as the Chelsea Flower Show in England and several other major U.S. flower shows have opted to do because of the pandemic. Instead, the PHS decided to hold its event outdoors at FDR Park in Philadelphia for the first time in the show's nearly 200-year history. Scheduled from June 5 to 13 to coincide with the height of the growing season, this year's show promises to provide a very different experience for visitors as well as the exhibitors who create the event's famous garden displays.

For Vincent Roux, co-owner of Petit Jardin En Ville, a Parisian florist and garden designer in Philadelphia, this new season and outdoor capabilities are exciting for his upcoming exhibit at the flower show. “I think that's going to be a great novelty,” Roux says. “We'll be able to have very interesting plant material, a lot of flowers and perennial plants in bloom, which is always difficult to forecast for February. Being outdoors, we will have natural light, which we are not able to get indoors.”

Of course, one thing is on everyone’s mind: Will it be safe enough to go? PHS Chief of Shows and Events Sam Lemheny and the rest of the organization's board are tackling that concern and will continue to work with state officials and the CDC as coronavirus continues to spread in the United States. For Lemheny, it was about picking a large enough location and implementing timed tickets to allow for appropriate social distancing. “We're following every caution and restriction we need to do to keep everybody safe,” Lemheny says.

Even with modifications for health guidelines, Lemheny wants this year to be one that attendees will never forget. “If you've seen the flower show in the past, you're going to want to see this show being outdoors for the first time,” he says. “When people come to see the show, they want to be transported and forget about the outside world. We want to make sure that experience is something that they get when they come to the convention center and that they're going to get at FDR Park and really leave all their troubles behind and just enjoy the beauty and the flowers.”

FDR Park will provide an exciting backdrop for the Philadelphia Flower Show in June.
| Credit: Courtesy of The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

FDR Park is in itself a memorable location. It was designed by the Olmstead Brothers, who are also responsible for styling Central Park in New York. Claudia Roux, Vincent Roux’s wife and co-owner of Petit Jardin En Ville, says that visitors should expect beautiful stonework and water features where exhibitors could potentially feature floating gardens. And then there’s the pollinators, which the Rouxs say they are planning to naturally attract with their garden design come June. 

“With [last year’s] flower show, you really are inside. You're creating something from nothing," Claudia says. "But where we're doing it this coming year, it's going to be so interesting to be able to utilize the landscape that's there and try to integrate what we're doing into it. As exhibitors, we're going to have to think about that, and that’s thrilling for us.”

Tickets for the 2021 Philadelphia Flower Show are on sale now online. They cost $45 for adults, $30 for attendees ages 18-29, and $20 for children ages 5-17 (children under 5 can get in for free). If you’ll be in the Philadelphia area while the show’s happening, it’s definitely worth a visit.

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