High Art and Italian Sausages at Philly

This groovy wave thing was at the center of a million square feet of contrived awesomeness! http://www.uwishunu.com

Susan Cohan’s recent post about the difference between “Flower Shows” and “Home and Garden Shows” started some rusty gears turning in my brain.  Apparently, some folks argue that the Philadelphia Flower Show is too artificial for their taste, that the floral displays are outrageously impractical, self-consciously artsy, mere theater. 

The heck you say???

Susan’s response to this perspective was more polite.  She argues that flower shows are supposed to be like that.  That we go to the Philly Flower Show to take in the visual spectacle, to revel in some bubbly, over-the-top, horticultural fantasy, not to see what kind of innovative new pavers EP Henry is peddling.  Duh!  (The duh is my addition, Susan keeps it professional.)

When I first stepped into the Philly Convention Center last Sunday and found myself beneath a giant wave made of white orchids and anthurium, I wanted to twirl like Julie Andrews on that mountain top in The Sound of Music.  Finally!  I was at a real flower show!   (I couldn’t really twirl though because we were packed in there like sardines.)

Since 2007 when I became a gardener, I have eagerly attended various “Home and Garden” Shows around DC.  The pattern has been that I drift aimlessly among the spa, tool, and hardscaping vendors, politely picking up a brochure here and there — usually from a nursery called Screaming Dog Natives or something — only to leave an hour or two later, sulking and depressed.  

If you’re now thinking “well what did you expect, you idiot? they’re there to sell stuff!” you are clearly savvier and less naive than I am and you probably aren’t agonizing about whether ceramic fish or stainless steel alliums would better complement your Hosta ‘Bea Arthur’.

But anyway, Susan is right that “Flower Shows” like the one in Philadelphia and Chelsea (squeal!) inspire creativity and showcase innovative ideas more so than H&G shows.  But before you go imagining that these shows are all about Pure Art and would never stoop to Tacky Commercialism, I should mention that there is a butt-load of cool stuff to buy at the Philly Show.  My sister found herself a sweet-ass basket for carrying farmer’s market purchases and I came away with — score! — three ceramic fish (my sister talked me down from buying five.)

I  have to say that I was a little disappointed with the food, though.  When you’re admiring High Horticultural Art like this interactive plexiglass/bicycle chain/palmetto frond sculpture, it doesn’t seem right to be scarfing down a luke warm italian sausauge.

But back to the rusty gears I mentioned in paragraph one.  The idea of “High Art” in gardening deserves a bit of blog space, I think.  I’m not going to write about it right now, because it’s Friday afternoon and I just want to stretch out on the sofa and flip through my White Flower Farm Summer Garden Book and also because research shows that I’ve already exceeded the “Ideal Blog Post” length by, like, 300 words. 

But stay tuned!

16 thoughts on “High Art and Italian Sausages at Philly

  1. It’s like NY Fashion week–real people don’t wear that stuff!
    Great post. Too bad I stopped reading about 300 words before the end.

  2. I am so enjoying reading your posts, and this one had me giggling helplessly and saying “Yes. yes!” to Screaming Dog Natives and High Horticultural Art. Thanks!

  3. Mary,

    I love your sense of voice and evocative word choice in this.
    Wha’? There is an ideal blog length? I shoot it to hell every time I write on mine. Oh, well!

    Write on, mon amie!

  4. Thanks for the props Mary! (See I do visit, but just lurk) So glad you went to Philly–and this IMO–was an off year. Glamour is sorely missing in our world of landscape design where too many people believe all we do is dig in the dirt (oops soil) and plant pretty plants. There is so much pure design innovation out there…Europeans are light years ahead of most of us on this side of the pond, but spring after spring, for 183 years we have had our say in Philadelphia. Too bad so many dismiss it, their loss!

  5. I’m with Molly. What are the arts (yes I consider floral design and the like arts) without displays of over-the-top-no-one-will-ever-actually-do-this-at-home projects? Sure that whole giant wave thingy might not be practical for your back yard but that doesn’t mean one can’t be INSPIRED by it. ::sigh:: at any rate I’m jealous you got to go to the Philly flower show. All we have is the lame-o Chicago flower show which is shockingly dull.

      • I mean…it’s not HORRIBLE…at least it’s truly a flower show and not a home and (one) garden show…but the displays aren’t all that stellar and it’s at Navy Pier (the bane of my existence) and I’m just so lazy and apathetic about crowds of people (good thing I live in Chicago!).

  6. Your blog always makes me laugh! I want to put the Philadelphia Flower Show on my bucket list. I loved the images and over-the-top photos I saw. Also read Susan’s blog and completely agree. So much artistry and design. I was totally inspired, and want to be there to take in the whole experience, including sausages and philly cheesesteak.

  7. I love your style–hort savvy with a smile. Years ago at the Philly Flower show, I saw a mother in heels walking down the main aisle with her four year old, both in full-length mink coats. Beat that, Chelsea. Then there was the life-sized giraffe clothed in three colors with sedums and Mrs. DuPont’s huge lady’s slipper orchid in full bloom with thirty flowers. And so on.

  8. Mary, I had been blogging for several months before I finally figured out that garden blogs are a distinct niche in which the usual blog “rules” about length and frequency of posts do not apply. Thank goodness! I much prefer to read fewer posts with more developed ideas (like this one!).

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