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Philadelphia Flower Show gets inspired by Chelsea

It might surprise the average person to learn that global horticultural trendsetting takes place every spring on a rainy island in the Atlantic Ocean. Of course, it takes no more than a cursory glance around the RHS Chelsea Flower Show to see why.

by Raelie Mulvey

Spectacularly planned, demonstrating the best of the best in horticultural practice and landscape architecture, the Royal Horticultural Society’s show is a source of awe, wonder, and inspiration for gardeners around the world.

“The level of horticulture at the Chelsea Flower Show is amazing,” says PHS Chief of Shows & Events Sam Lemheney. “They have a big respect for gardening altogether.” Lemheney directs the planning of the PHS Flower Show, which occurs every spring in Philadelphia and is the largest flower show in the United States.

The Royal Hospital grounds in Chelsea, London, host no other events but the Chelsea Flower Show. For months in advance, gardeners strive to bring together incredible feats of horticulture for just five days of the show, when all types of plants are exhibited and new varieties of existing plants are debuted.

Under the Great Pavilion, spanning five acres, the world’s premiere plant breeders present their products to the public. “You get all the best breeders from all over the world. You’ll have just one beautiful section of all daffodils and all the daffodil varieties,” says PHS Manager of Member Events Jacqueline Fisher, who attended the Chelsea Flower Show this year.

After a visit from the Queen of England on the first day of the show, the Royal Hospital grounds open to the public for viewing. It was then that Lemheney entered the show.

Beyond the dazzling displays and enticing vendors, Lemheney notes that one of the best parts of the show was its most humble: “The Space to Grow section of the show was really reaffirming to me. Home gardeners go to flower shows and they want to know how to do things in their home.” Fisher echoed his sentiment, saying, “What people love is that special accessibility of knowledge. It makes it feel like you can take a piece of it home and make it work.”

The Space to Grow section focused on trendy horticultural ideas for the home gardener. Among the major trends this year were white-yellow-orange color schemes, vertical gardening, lupins, and sustainable rainwater reuse practices, much like the ones enacted by the Rain Check program in Philadelphia, which provides free rain barrels and other runoff prevention services. New in 2018, the Space to Grow area marks a trend in making flower shows not just a spectacle but also a source of practical home garden inspiration.

Lemheney is aware of the changing nature of flower shows. “They need to relate to the home gardener to continue to extend that interest in gardening. The PHS Philadelphia Flower Show has an opportunity to change the attitude of gardeners in this country, to see the importance of plants and that they have a much bigger impact in our lives than we think,” he said. “Our mission at PHS is a huge part of that -- making a difference with plants and building communities, bringing people to a common ground.”

Next year’s Philadelphia Flower Show, “Flower Power,” will take place March 2 to 10. Tickets will be available for purchase this August.

For more information:
Pennsylvania Horticultural Society
100 N. 20th Street
5th Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19103

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