Much like its stars, The Philadelphia International Flower Show is a living, breathing thing. A Philadelphia tradition since 1829, the show has many elements that have stayed the same, but it is also constantly evolving—and the latest advancement, under the direction of new Pennsylvania Horticultural Society President Drew Becher, is the introduction of a new roster of digital effects and interactive elements to make this year’s show, the tropical-themed Hawaii: Islands of Aloha, more engaging than ever.
With a short yet pivotal tenure of a year and a half, Becher is working hard to enhance the technological aspects of the event for this year’s exhibitions. “The inspiration was to make sure that the Flower Show was keeping current with trends happening in the rest of the industry,” he says. Impressive motion graphics simulating lava and wave patterns, by local projection company Klip Collective, will bring cuttingedge visuals to the floor. “Digital projections go hand in hand with what we had done in the past,” says Becher. “The wow factor has always been a part of the Flower Show.” An app for smartphones is also currently in development; it will provide free maps, schedules, special offers, show features, and even parking advice.
This year’s show features the spectacular tropical plants of Hawaii.
One of the changes Becher is most energized about is the interactive Design Studio, devised to attract audiences to the flower-arranging competitions and to allow them to interact via text messaging. “The fun part to see is the competitive stuff leading up to the show, and the judging that happens,” Becher says. He draws his inspiration from the popularity of competition-based TV series like Cupcake Wars, and he even jokes, “Maybe we’ll get a reality television show.” This year the audience will be able to vote on their favorites in the competitive class shows, whereas previously, entries were displayed only after the judging commenced.
Hawaii: Islands of Aloha promises to be spectacular, with a 25-foot-tall rushing waterfall and the world’s largest wall of orchids as its focal points. Not to be missed among all the technical and visual wizardry, however, are the educational demonstrations. A sustainable vegetable garden grown by PHS’s City Harvest program provides inspiration for visitors’ home gardens, with innovative ideas like an indoor lettuce wall. Other attractions include a brand-new culinary room, created in part with local chefs and the Rodale Institute, as well as lectures and demos on composting, garden design, planting tulips, and creating floral arrangements—lessons that any visitor, not just experienced horticulturists, can take home and put to use.
For Becher these hands-on elements are the key to expanding the Flower Show. After garnering much media attention this past summer for a pop-up garden at 20th and Market Streets—which involved six city restaurants, offered morning tai-chi classes, and included a large-scale Twitter initiative— Becher continues his mission of connecting Philadelphians with the urban landscape through PHS. “The show is not just a come-and-look attraction,” he says. “It is a come-and-be-engaged event. I think that is one of the big things that you will start seeing about the show over the next couple of years. We are not a museum—tell us what you think, tweet about it, log on to our app. Engagement is pretty cool.” The Philadelphia International Flower Show runs from March 4 through 11 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, 1101 Arch St., 215- 988-8899.