The 2023 Philadelphia Flower Show Promises ‘Magical’ Garden Experiences

A visit to this iconic flower show with its “Garden Electric” theme for 2023 is the perfect way to kick off spring.

After two years outside in FDR Park, the world-renowned Philadelphia Flower Show will once again be held indoors, from March 4 through March 12, 2023. For the past couple of years, the pandemic and subsequent mandatory social distancing measures led Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) creative director Seth Pearsoll and the rest of the show’s coordinators to host the festival outdoors in 2021 and 2022 to keep guests and exhibitors safe. Those outdoor events, with themes “Habitat” and “In Full Bloom,” highlighted the physical and mental health benefits of gardening and being out in nature.

Archway at Philadelphia Flower Show

Philadelphia Flower Show

Pearsoll says that his goal for those two shows was to host an event that was “calming and tranquil” amidst the chaos we all experienced through COVID-19. This year, he wants things to be different. The theme for this year’s Philadelphia Flower Show is “The Garden Electric,” which Pearsoll says is a bolder, more exciting, celebratory theme, encouraging visitors to have a blast among floral gardens with pops of color and whimsy.

“I believe that an event needs to be responsive to the world that it lives in, and the flower show presented two themes in our outdoor run that were very calming and tranquil, focused on mental health and on a connection with nature, because we were trying to look at what gardens and horticulture could be for people at that current time,” Pearsoll says. “So you’ve got two shows that are calming, peaceful, tranquil, healing, palliative. But not every event can be so calm and subdued. For this return to the indoor format of the show, we wanted something that would be celebratory and exciting, provocative and daring.”

With this return to the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Pearsoll and the rest of PHS wanted to make significant changes to the show, taking what they learned from the outdoor festival and revamping nearly everything about Philadelphia Flower Show’s layout and featured gardens. The entrance garden, which will be around 10,000 square feet, will be enveloped in a “mesh scrim,” which Pearsoll says is a semitransparent fabric that will create a shrouded, encapsulated feel, different than the normally open-plan garden we’re used to seeing at the show.

“As you enter this glowing light tunnel, all white on the outside, totally covered up, you passthrough this illuminated little tunnel, and then you're in this beautiful, magical garden world,” Pearsoll says. “You’ve got floral sculptures coming out of these garden beds, there’s a giant floral canopy overhead, and there’s a giant 20-foot-tall floral wall that guides guests through the center of the exhibit. It’s just about total flower and garden immersion.”

What to Expect from the 2023 Philadelphia Flower Show

What was once a “choose your own adventure” kind of festival is now more of a guided tour, with what Pearsoll calls a “winding promenade,” which will snake around the convention center, hitting every featured garden designed by exhibitors from across the country. For the first time in the show’s history, several exhibition designers will be constructing gardens of up to 3,000square feet.

One of these designers, Treeline Designz’s principal and founder Iftikhar Ahmed, will design and construct a 3,000-square-foot exhibition using locally grown plants and flowers to create a garden which pays homage to “children of war,” specifically, children who are currently suffering in Ukraine. Ahmed says that he got the idea of creating a forest-inspired garden using moss, water, plants, and lighting from his Ukrainian friend’s 6-year-old daughter, who would go into the woods to find “the peace fairy,” an imaginary entity found in the woods who her grandmother said would protect her during the turmoil of war. Ahmed will construct the fairy’s house amidst the plants and flowers.

“I would like to tribute this garden to the children of war throughout the world because things are happening and nobody talks about the children out there suffering and dying,” Ahmed says of his design. “[The children] get diseases and they are displaced from their homes. They don’t see their parents, or their parents die. These are all things that are quite painful. So I thought about that, and then I ended up saying, ‘Okay, let’s create that garden.’”

Another exhibitor at the show is Ill Exotics, led by Franco Franchina and Chris Urban, who will create an 850-square-foot exhibit which directly reflects “The Garden Electric” theme. The two are constructing a Studio 54–esque installation paying homage to disco culture of the late 1970s to early 1980s in Manhattan. They will be dressing mannequins in plants, moss, and flowers to make it look like they are enjoying a night out on the dance floor. The “DJ Booth” will be represented by a 160-gallon aquatic tank full of water and live aquatic plants, and the “dance floor” will be a platform of foggy water to make it look like you’re dancing on clouds.

“It's about that electric moment that you have when you have that connection with nature,”Urban says. “We took that and flipped it to the electric moment that you have when you are onthe dance floor. So we’re doing a Studio 54 rendition taken over by the jungle.”

The 2023 Philadelphia Flower Show will also be the first time that a Black team of designers will create an exhibit, with the organization Black Girl Florists Network bringing around a dozenBlack women from across the country to participate in making a 600-square-foot installation.

Valerie Cristostomo, president and CEO of Black Girl Florists, says that they will work with colorful flowers, tall trees, and twinkling lights in their installation to follow the theme.

“I feel more proud than anything. I’m really thankful for PHS, and just having the opportunity to
showcase our talent. I think it's a step in the right direction when it comes to representation,” Cristostomo says. “I think people do understand that there are Black florists in the floral industry, but I don't think that people understand that we make up less than 2%.”

Along with the featured exhibitions, the Philadelphia Flower Show will have its regular marketplace section with showcased vendors and a newly centralized PHS Hamilton Horticourt showcasing award-winning plant specimens. There will also be competitive displays in categories such as windowsill decoration, doorway decoration, miniature floral design, floral arrangements, pressed plants, botanical jewelry, and more for guests to peruse throughout the event.

Musical performances will enliven the festival, as well, with artists such as SNACKTIME, DJ Aktive, RECPhilly, Zeek Burse, students from the School District of Philadelphia, and more set to perform. Overall, this year’s show will be bold, exciting and fresh. Tickets can be purchased now through PHS’s website.

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