By Melissa O'Brien
After transitioning the Flower Show outdoors to South Philadelphia’s FDR Park for the past two years due to COVID-19 concerns, the 2023 Flower Show will once again welcome guests indoors to experience the first taste of spring! Next March 2023, PHS invites first-time visitors and longtime Flower Show fans alike back to the Pennsylvania Convention Center to celebrate the spectacular and decadent floral displays for which the award-winning Philadelphia Flower Show is known.
For the past two years, the Flower Show themes have centered on the therapeutic and healing power of gardens. “The Garden Electric” was chosen as the 2023 Flower Show theme to highlight the spark of joy and excitement that comes while giving or receiving flowers. From the dazzling array of colors, unique shapes and textures, and rich fragrances of gorgeous floral displays and gardens come feelings of excitement and celebration. This year’s theme brings the electrifying presence of today’s most dynamic designers of floral arrangements, lush gardens, and landscapes to visitors from around the world.
When choosing the theme for this year’s Flower Show, it was important to consider the context of the last two outdoor Shows and continue building on that story. In 2020, “Habitat” examined the relationship gardens have to animals and pollinators and – while chosen ahead of the COVID pandemic – it was a particularly apt theme for 2021!
Then, in 2022 “In Full Bloom” explored gardening as the ultimate form of therapy. “If those two years were a set-up, we've been presenting gardens as passive and healing,” says Seth Pearsoll, PHS’s Director of Design for the Philadelphia Flower Show. “That's true -- they are those things. But there's also an exciting, bold element to gardening. There's something very proactive and joyful that gardens can spark in each of us.”
The indoor Flower Show in March is a different experience than the outdoor Show in June, and this theme reflects a revamped experience to come. “It's a shocking transformation at the end of winter that uplifts your spirit, gives you something to look forward to, and creates a bit of almost suspension of belief because you don't expect these things to be in this setting, on the other side of these doors,” says Seth. “The Garden Electric” will allow designers to explore bold colors, fragrances, and textures in new and unexpected ways indoors.
The horticultural and floricultural inspiration for “The Garden Electric” comes from three distinct muses. Makoto Azuma is a Japanese flower artist who focuses on unexpected pairings and grouping botanical elements in new ways. His works serves as an example of the type of bold, colorful creations guests can expect to see at this year’s Show. Jimi Blake’s Hunting Brook Gardens in Ireland are another point of reference for this electrifying theme, focusing on grouping flowers and plants together in provocative new ways using bold colors. Lastly, The Great Dixter in England is famous for their signature container gardens out front. “Those views all embody the spirit of ‘The Garden Electric’ because they are bold, daring color combinations that lift the spirit up,” says Seth.
These exemplary gardens and their designers offer a preview of the type of juxtaposition of color, texture, and risk-taking that guests at this year’s Flower Show will experience. “The idea behind ‘The Garden Electric’ is that gardens can be a bold thing and not just a calm and a healing thing,” says Seth. “They can be full of excitement and wonder.”
The floor plan for this year’s Show has never been done before inside at the Pennsylvania Convention Center – calling on inspiration from the theme and drawing on lessons learned from the outdoor Shows. There will be a focus on what Seth calls “wayfinding,” which uses the layout to create a specific path that takes visitors on a narrative journey through the gardens. This way, designers can sequence exactly what they want visitors to experience next. “We've relocated all the garden content -- big gardens, small gardens, floral elements, student work -- all in one area in a linear path,” says Seth. “If you're coming to the Show, you absolutely cannot miss all of the gardens!”
There will also be a focus on large anchor gardens that guests can immerse themselves in. The Hamilton Horticourt, where individuals can enter their plants for competition, has been relocated to the center of the Show as a place for guests to meander and pass through to access the rest of the Show.
Seth hopes “The Garden Electric” is a beautiful, comfortable, and effortless experience for guests. There will be plenty of seating, food, and drinks located throughout the Convention Center. “Ideally, if people look at gardens, flowers, and plants in a different way -- I think that's what we're going for,” says Seth.
The Flower Show is the biggest fundraising event supporting PHS’s year-round efforts to improve the health and well-being of the Greater Philadelphia region through gardening. “The Garden Electric” will showcase all of the ways someone can get energized and get involved – once again taking place in spring.