Phila. Flower Show blooming till the very end

Erich Enns of Blooming Fields helps customers select plants on the Flower Show's last day. Attendance was estimated at 230,000, up 2% from 2013.
Erich Enns of Blooming Fields helps customers select plants on the Flower Show's last day. Attendance was estimated at 230,000, up 2% from 2013. (MATTHEW HALL / Staff Photographer)
Posted: March 11, 2014

PHILADELPHIA At 5 p.m. on Sunday, an hour before the official end of the 2014 Philadelphia Flower Show, the event was hopping.

From the floral exhibits inspired by artists such as Matisse, Wyeth, and Kandinsky, to the garden-to-table studio of accomplished chefs, to the lengthy line for the Butterfly Experience room, to vendors such as Peony's Envy, visitors seemed determined to enjoy themselves down to the wire.

Many bought pussy willows, garden tchotchkes, or roses marked down to less than $6 a dozen as they prepared to head out of the Convention Center into the (at last) sunny, temperate weather.

Alas, for the second year in a row, the weather during much of the show's nine-day run was not kind. The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, producer of the 186-year-old event, estimated this year's audience at 230,000, up only about 2 percent from last year.

The average audience size over the last decade has been 250,000, said society spokesman Alan Jaffe.

Then again, the bottom line - which will take time to tally - is not just about ticket sales, he said. The society, which uses the revenue for year-round regional greening programs, keeps adding income-generating features to the show.

This year, for example, visitors were crazy about the $3 Butterfly Experience, a ballroom in which 20 species of native and exotic butterflies fluttered around, settling on plants and people.

Other popular sidelines were the "Make and Take" rooms, where consumers could make their own terrariums or headpieces called fascinators. (Last year's British-themed show came up with that feature.)

This year's theme, "Articulture," was a bit of a departure from the place-inspired presentations of the last decade. The horticultural society teamed with 22 art museums and institutions across the country, which helped the show garner unusually extensive coverage from national media.

Christine McDaniel of University City found the theme more interesting, but less spectacular, than last year's. She figured little kids like her daughter, Jane, would be happier with spectacular.

But Jane seemed enchanted by Vincent van Croak, a tiny blue creature at the Gallery of Frogs.

And next year's theme, though not place-oriented, is sure to be eye-catching: Magic at the Movies.


mmccullough@phillynews.com

215-854-2720

@repopter

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