The Philadelphia Flower Show: Wonders of Water 2018

If you've never heard of The Philadelphia Flower Show, don't feel bad. We only learned about it in the last couple of years. It is one of the largest and longest running horticultural events in the world, dating back to 1829. The event showcases the best of the best in floral-scapes, landscape designs, plant varieties, sustainable practices, and an all-around crazy array of hanging gardens.

This year's show themed 'The Wonders of Water' (not to be confused with this year's Best Picture, The Shape of Water, although we would have loved to have seen the Fish-Man in the aquatic feature!) celebrates the beauty and role of water in horticulture.

Philadelphia Flower Show

The Philadelphia Flower Show takes place every year at the Pennsylvania Convention Center and attracts about 250,000 people annually from all walks of life. The show presents massive installations from tropical jungles, temperate forests, native woodlands and desert landscapes. The show also includes interactive workshops, designer guest speakers, blue ribbon plant competitions and so on. The show can easily get very overwhelming with the amount of things to see and attendees trying to fight for the best photo-op. PRO TIP: plan accordingly beforehand and map out areas to see, otherwise risk wandering everywhere (like us). Try coming in later in the day to avoid the huge crowds. We went on opening day, and the last 3 hours before closing were the least crowded.

Upon entering the show at the 2nd floor of the convention center, we were greeted by a magical tropical rainforest garden. It was a labyrinth of bamboo scaffolding with a cornucopia of tropical ferns, exotic flowers, vines, mosses and trees. It was the biggest installation in the show and it was a maze of an entrance complete with a waterfall and a lagoon that rained throughout the day.

Did you know that wet equatorial rainforests can receive 2 inches of rain per hour and up to 400 inches of rain per year? This precious water feeds an explosion of trees, ferns, flowers and other plants that work together to create nature's own filtration system!


Ariocarpus Fissuratus

Grand Old Plants

This rare succulent is called 'Ariocarpus Fissuratus' or more commonly known as a living rock cactus or false peyote. This fascinating plant is over 20+ years old, they're usually solitary and have been used by Native American tribes as a mind-altering substance, usually as a substitute for peyote.

Bonsai Stand

A Pieris Japonica Bonsai, more commonly known as Japanese Andromeda. This tree blooms in late winter to early spring and is a perfect specimen for a miniature bonsai.


The show was complete with a blue ribbon competition of plant varieties and other living arrangements. Some of the categories were so specific such as Herbaceous (non-woody) rock garden plant, or Submerged(underwater designs). Needless to say it's a haven for plant lovers to geek out over and discover new plant varieties to obsess about. It was a great opportunity for us to find inspiration from architectural plants to transform into  miniature bonsai landscapes.

This installation perfectly illustrated changing seasons from the melting snow of winter to the meadows of springtime.

On the opposite spectrum of a tropical rainforest is a dry desert landscape complete with martian looking barrel cactuses.

In addition to individual blue ribbon plant variety competitions at the flower show, another feature offers conceptual ideas for indoor and outdoor green living. This particular installation won 1st prize, however their water feature seemed to be under maintenance. Surely an issue that a lot of installations faced having water as a feature. The best part of these competitions are the comments from the judges . The biting critiques would put SNL's Aunt Linda to shame!

Japanese White Pine

Japanese Maple

A cascading style Japanese Maple Bonsai

Japanese Black Pine

A horticultural show would not have been complete without a bonsai garden. We always find inspiration with the traditional style of bonsai and finding a way to make it accessible to someone with little to no experience and to making it less daunting to our customers. We also love learning and exchanging information with other bonsai folks with how they approach the art.

The Philadelphia Flower Show is definitely a mind blowing experience wether you're a plant enthusiast or just someone who appreciates nature as an art form. We left the show with even more questions about how it all came together, how long it took to put together and how they built specific installations that included a pond and a forest. We'll surely make a point to make this part of our yearly experience to come!