Petals Turn into Art at This Year’s Flower Show in Philadelphia
Alexander “Sandy” Calder, one of the art world’s most famous sculptors, painters and mobile designers of our modern age and whose sculptures can be found all around Philadelphia, was the inspiration for the entrance garden of this year’s show.
Instead of a traditional approach to its juried flower show, the 2014 Philadelphia Flower Show, which closed this weekend, was called “ARTiculture” and featured floral fantasies and extravaganzas inspired by works of art from art museums and local artists. Ten acres of flowers, gardens and landscapes, along with a retails sales space featuring new flower breeds, seeds, plants, products and design workshops, covered the convention center March 1-9 in what is the nation’s largest flower show, now 186 years old.
In previous shows over the past several years, Great Britain, Hawaii, Paris and Italy were flower show themes that focused on familiar landmarks and sights recognizable to many tourists to these destinations. This year, natural settings, floral arrangements and gardens became living examples from works by Turner, van Gogh, Monet, Matisse, Hiroshige, Warhol and Kandinsky, among others.
Alexander “Sandy” Calder, one of the art world’s most famous sculptors, painters and mobile designers of our modern age and whose sculptures can be found all around Philadelphia, was the inspiration for the entrance garden of this year’s show. A massive theatrical set design in bright, bold primary colors was rendered in a three-dimensional format with three triangular frames (30ft x 50ft) hanging from the ceiling and filled with fresh and dried flowers. Topiary shapes, rounded boxwoods and other suspended floral decorations encompassed this massive garden. As an added attraction, the vertical dance troupe Bandaloop performed at various intervals throughout the show, dangling like aerialists as they struck poses and danced in the air.
Art museums such as the Barnes Institute (Philadelphia), Solomon R. Guggenheim (NY) to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery (DC), Storm King Art Center (Hudson Valley), Grounds for Sculpture (Hamilton, NJ), Noguchi Museum (LIC) and the Brooklyn Museum (NY) each had a work of art that was the starting point of a particular garden club’s creation. British garden designer Andy Sturgeon and Provence-based garden designer James Basson were two international floral designers who participated this year.
This year, the American Institute of Floral Designers (AIFD) based its entire landscape on the highly anticipated exhibition now on view at the Philadelphia Art Museum through May: “Treasures from Korea: Arts and Culture of the Joseon Dynasty 1392-1910.” The centerpiece was a floral rendering of a ten-fold Korean screen used at royal banquets and called “The King’s Feast.”
In addition to the major garden displays, the flower show hosts world-renowned competitions in horticulture and artistic floral arranging (similar to Top Chef but where floral designers race around the floor to “shop” for flowers in the retail section and put together an arrangement in 30-mintues on a stage) and garden presentations. The most remarkable works of floral design can be found in the “jewelry” category where entrants create tiny jewels (brooches, earrings, pendants, bracelets) using flowers and dried floral elements. The wall of miniatures is a tour de force of window-box gardens, like dollhouses. Other juried categories include succulents—you’ve never seen cacti like these—to bonsai trees and topiary.