By Melissa O’Brien
The 2023 Philadelphia Flower Show will place special emphasis on the representation of garden and landscape designers of varied backgrounds, experiences, and specialties, offering them a platform to make their unique artistic voices heard. “Every exhibitor is creating a unique, spectacular interpretation of the ‘Garden Electric’ theme, filled with bold color and interesting design elements that will really captivate our guests while the promenade-style path ensures that all visitors can closely enjoy these stunning works of art,” says PHS Creative Director, Seth Pearsoll.
For the first time in Show history, several designers have been invited to create gardens that range from 2,200 - 2,900 square feet, the largest gardens ever seen at the Flower Show. This creative direction continues the immersive experience of the previous two outdoor Flower Shows, enveloping guests in a 360-degree floral world that can be experienced from multiple viewpoints. This year’s artists hail from around the globe featuring notable up-and-coming designers as well as established industry veterans known for shaping the industry.
Get to know four designers you don’t want to miss at this year’s Flower Show!
Among the lineup of renowned exhibitors, is the Black Girl Florists network, led by Valerie Crisostomo, and including Alexis Christine of Flowers by Alexis, Aliyah Ali of Blossom'Li Florals, and Rashawn Scarbo of Bloom Bold Co. This network was created to support and celebrate Black women in floristry, and the group offers workshops, group training sessions, and more to deliver on this impactful mission. “This is the first year that our group, Black Girl Florists, is participating and we want others to experience unity through our design. Having an all-Black team is special, and we look forward to the attendees experiencing our work!” says President and CEO of Black Girl Florists, Valerie Crisostomo.
They'll be bringing “The Garden Electric” to life with an exhibit that draws inspiration from their own unity as Black florists, illustrating that together, they contribute to the growth and sustainability of their presence in the floral industry. The exhibit will feature an array of vibrantly colored florals reflective of the theme, lighting elements, and large-scale barrels brimming with stunning flowers pouring into three 6-to-10-foot trees. “Being able to design in a long-standing Flower Show as Black women in floral design is a fantastic step in sharing our talent with the world,” says Valerie.
IllExotics, a boutique shop based in South Philadelphia and specializing in uncommon plants from aroids to orchids and captive-bred fauna, will create “Studio Exotica” a Studio-54 inspired disco completely taken over by tropical foliage and flowers, complete with a floral DJ, bartender, and dancers. This exciting exhibit will capture the electric feeling we get when we’re enveloped by beautiful flowers and gardens, as well as the electric connection we have to music.
Co-Founders and Co-Owners of IllExotics, Franco and Chris Urban, say the exhibit is inspired by the current struggles to seek equality amongst the LGBTQ+, Black, Latin, and other marginalized communities in America. “The story of disco is important because it’s a reminder that marginalized communities have the power to create art that will give people meaning, help people persevere, shift the culture, and shift history to hopefully achieve equality amongst all,” says Franco.
Nature’s Gallery Florist, led by Head Designer Gabriella Nemati, will create a floral garden with colorful steppingstones, magical trees, and lots of color and texture that represents the moment someone is “Flower Struck,” or free within nature. The “Garden of Freedom” exhibit is inspired by the strength of Iranian women in the face of oppression and will feature a dry and arid section that leads towards an open gate out to the larger garden. “The strong colors and vivid hues embody the very essence of the women of Iran, the intricate texture reflects the richness of the Iranian culture and society, and the floral trees represent the beauty, happiness, and joy of a society without oppression,” says Gabriella.
Nature’s Gallery Florist is proud to be exhibiting at the Flower Show for their sixth year. Each year, they donate as much material as possible from their exhibit to local public schools and/or public gardens in the Philadelphia area.
Treeline Designz, led by Iftikhar Ahmed, will bring to life a concept that pays tribute to children facing war in Ukraine and other countries in the world. This exhibit sheds light on Ukrainian children who have been uprooted from their homes and exposed to war. “The whole garden design is based on a true story of a 6-year-old girl's imagination who was recently hiding in a village bunker (at her great grandmother’s home) outside of Kyiv Ukraine,” says Iftikhar Ahmed.
Ahmed believes that garden and landscape design can contribute to making the world a more livable, equitable, resilient, and just place. His exhibit will use locally grown trees and plants to envision a magical, twinkling fairy house, home to the Peace Fairy, who watches over and protects all children.