Flower Show ends with attendance down; snow threat blamed

Toni Cook of Germantown holds dried flowers from Cramers' Posie Patch during the final day of the Philadelphia Flower Show. "In the past, we thought the displays were a little more elaborate," she said.
Toni Cook of Germantown holds dried flowers from Cramers' Posie Patch during the final day of the Philadelphia Flower Show. "In the past, we thought the displays were a little more elaborate," she said. (YONG KIM / Staff Photographer)
Posted: March 12, 2013

This year's attendance at the Philadelphia Flower Show, which ended Sunday, was the lowest in more than a decade, drawing 225,000 visitors - 17 percent fewer than last year - and even coming in below recession-plagued 2008.

A spokesman for the show's organizer, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, blamed the threat of snow on Wednesday and Thursday.

"A lot of the bus groups, for safety reasons, cancel the trips," said the spokesman, Alan Jaffe. "Numbers were all trending up until forecasts of storms on Tuesday, then actual snow on Friday."

Before hearing the preliminary attendance total, vendors knew it was down.

"I feel it," said Monique De Kruif, manager of a stand selling plant bulbs from the Netherlands. "Normally, I'm sold out. Look what I have left," she said, pointing to wooden bins of bulbs for Japanese wonderflowers and Japanese flowering ferns.

Scott Kremp of Kremp Florist in Willow Grove said the benefit from opening a day early this year was wiped out by the threat of snow, especially Wednesday. "It killed the whole day," said Kremp, whose family has sold flowers at the show for 37 years.

Even those who made it to the show – a perennial midwinter spirit-reviver and reminder that spring is not far off - seemed to be keeping a tighter hold on their wallets, Kremp said.

"What we noticed was that the people here were just not buying as much as they do in other years," he said.

The overall slow sales were likely a reflection of the drop-off in attendance. For, as of late Sunday afternoon, those still at the show were indeed spending.

Germantown resident Toni Cook was shopping for dried flowers in just the right colors at the stand for Cramers' Posie Patch in Mount Joy, Lancaster County.

Cook was joined by her sister, daughter, and niece. "It was nice walking with my family," Cook said, adding that the English gardens theme show was a bit disappointing.

"In the past, we thought the displays were a little more elaborate," she said.

De Kruif, the bulb seller from Holland who heads next to a show in Toronto, said she would return to Philadelphia despite this year's soft sales.

"The Philadelphia Flower Show is still the best show you can have," De Kruif said. "Big show. People come from all over the world."

A group of 100 Italians visited De Kruif's stand Sunday afternoon, some wondering whether they could pay in euros. "I took the euros," De Kruif said. "I'm from Holland. I can do that."

Minutes before the show's end, in a bid to empty the bins, a worker at De Kruif's stand was calling out, "Showtime! $20 a bag!"

Then it was over.

Even before the message came over the public-address system at 6:06 p.m., telling exhibitors they could start dismantling their displays, a worker at the Camden Children's Garden display was pulling potted flowers out of the ground to be replanted in New Jersey.

Members of the Men's Garden Club of Philadelphia were rolling up the sod from their re-creation of a portion of the Lost Gardens of Heligan, a famous estate garden in Cornwall. The exhibit included an imitation of the head gardener's office and potting shed, which was built on a trailer.

"We drove it in and we'll drive it back out," club member John Young said. "But we have to dig it out first."


Contact Harold Brubaker at 215-854-4651 or hbrubaker@phillynews.com.

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