As a veteran of the past 12 editions of the Philadelphia Flower Show, landscape designer Lauren Hilburn has a favorite thing.
No, not raindrops on roses.
It’s the show’s gala opening reception.
“It’s our Academy Awards,” she says. “It’s a chance for people who usually wear jeans and boots and work in the dirt to dress in black tie and gowns.”
In the waning days before the March 11 opening of the Philadelphia Flower Show, Hilburn and her crew at Hunter Hayes Landscape Design are in high gear. Every nook and cranny of their greenhouses and garages is housing some work-in-progress related to what will be a 1,400 square-foot display in the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
“It’s a little like Santa’s workshop right before Christmas,” she describes, over the din of hammering and circular saws.
But the efforts clearly pay off.
Hunter Hayes is a multi-winner of past shows. Last year, for example, the crew came away with a gold and a silver for its landscape designs.
Their impressive presentation included huts from Valley Forge National Historical Park, reflecting the 2016 theme of U.S. National Parks.
But for 2017, the team has its sights set higher.
“It was an honor, but we were like two points off Best in Show. Which would have been nice to win,” Hilburn reflects.
Montgomery County is well represented this year in the largest indoor exhibition of floral arts and landscaping in the world. Hunter Hayes calls Ardmore home, with other county entrants coming from Ambler, Wyndmoor and Narberth.
Also attending is the Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board (VFTCB), offering tourism information to the estimated 250,000 attendees at the March 11-19 extravaganza.
The VFTCB will occupy space on the Concourse Level, convenient to attendees taking public transportation. At the VFTCB kiosk, Flower Show fans will have the chance to have photos taken with the mascots from the Elmwood Park Zoo, the soon-to-open LEGOLAND Discovery Center and a historical reenactor from Valley Forge National Historical Park.
The theme to the 2017 show is “Holland: Flowering the World,” which means that as crowds continue beyond the concourse and enter the show, they will ooh and aah over massive volumes of tulips.
Hilburn and her Hunter Hayes colleagues, for example, will use an estimated 10,000 bulbs. But their execution of the international theme extends beyond lots of pots and to celebrate Hollanders’ love of cycling.
“You’ll see a lot of bicycles at the other displays,” Hilburn says. “But we may be the only one using deconstructed bicycles.”
The Hunter Hayes space also includes a bridge, a pond, a fountain, a patio and a garden.
All these elements were constructed in Ardmore and moved downtown in large, flatbed trucks. By the time the last tulip is placed, an estimated 2,500 person-hours will have been spent in crafting the Hunter Hayes entry.
Hilburn herself tackled the meticulous challenge of overseeing the plants that will be the stars of the show.
“Successfully getting every plant at its peak is hard enough – those that are blooming too slowly go into the hothouse; those that are too fast come out of the hothouse. But with daily outdoor temperatures swinging between the 30s and the 70s, a lot of flowers are totally mixed up,” she describes.
But once everything is in place, she’ll have the chance to relax… a little. Prior to the official Match 11 opening, she will spend some time wandering amid the other displays.
“It’s tough to be inventive year after year,” she says. “I like to see what the other participants have done.
“It already gets me thinking about planning for next year.”
Visitors to the flower show can stop by the VFTCB kiosk during the run of the show:
Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board at the Annual Philadelphia Flower Show
Pennsylvania Convention Center
12th & Arch Streets
Philadelphia, PA 19107
- Saturday, March 11: 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.
- Sunday, March 12: 8 a.m. - 9 p.m.
- Mon. - Fri., March 13-17: 10 a.m. - 9 p.m.
- Saturday, March 18: 8 a.m. - 9 p.m.
- Sunday, March 19: 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.