Landscape Designers Strut Their Stuff At The Philadelphia Flower Show

Philadelphia Flower Show; photo via The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

Philadelphia Flower Show; photo via The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

With the historic Philadelphia Flower Show moving to an outdoor venue in FDR Park, this year offered an opportunity for more space and garden focus for these designers and floral artists.

The crowd-pleasing reimagined show, which runs until June 13th, featured the most designers, gardens and floral displays in the show’s 193-year history with over 75 installations stretching 15 acres. That is 45% larger than the previous space indoors at the Philadelphia Convention Center.

As a result, landscaping trends that will shape homeowners around the United States as well as abroad were introduced with great fanfare and creativity.

Here are some of the trends you are likely to hear about and see in the near future.

Wild Plantings vs. Controlled English Garden Styles

Tightly composed boxwood hedges inspired by English design are no longer as in vogue, and now being replaced by a more earthy natural style.

“People are wanting a wild natural ambiance,” says medal-winner Iftikhar Ahmed, the owner and head designer of Treeline Designz, which has projects in 15 different countries. Known for designing gardens that cooperate with nature and wildlife, the oh-so-talented Ahmed says that grasses are being revisited with peaked interest for design.

“Many plants flower and mixing materials – especially green plants – with different textures and forms of leaves create surprises.” Ahmed is a master of finding different greenery and collecting them to create compositions that literally dance along with summer breezes.

In his prize-winning garden, traditional flowers such as Iris beds and hydrangeas were not the focal point, but still entertained with strategic pops of color and brightness What’s a favorite new plant to incorporate into gardens? “Ligularia,” he says, noting how the yellow or orange spiked colors add intrigue and delight to a shade garden.

Photo via The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

Photo via The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

Landscape phenom Wambui Ippolito created an award-winning installation called Etherea which “evokes light, air, and peace” and was reminiscent of memories of her East African roots.

Her thin steel arches added merriment to the garden as well as authenticity. The pink foxgloves and verbena were so pretty as well and were a big winner at the show.

Sculptures and Art Inside the Garden

Who says that art should be inside? Several landscape artists used sculptures inside the garden to create a fashion statement.

Dorothy Gillespie’s tall ribbony structures in blue and green were surrounded by purple nepeta and other simple flowers.

Another winner was the American Institute of Floral Designers (AIFD), who matched their inventive display with a burnished wooden frame of Van Gogh’s Starry Night since the colors complemented the display of hydrangeas and other flowers and succulents. The painting is literally hanging from tree limbs and the flora and greenery are built around it to create depth and surprise.

Ikebana artists took grass stalks, tubes and rope and twisted them like pretzels into interesting shapes. (This could be a great project to replicate with the kids!)

Photo via The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

Photo via The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

Here, Mark Cook Landscape created a garden of “budding opportunity” where “pollinators can frequent the many buds and moths can nest and hide among the grasses.” However, humans enjoyed this modern painting on the wall structure that offered an interesting contrast.

Aside from sculpture, perhaps consider taking a favorite painting and transforming it onto wood for a decorative garden boost.

Photo via The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

Photo via The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

Paint is Your Friend

Two great floral artists used painted leaves and flora for spectacular results.

Bill Shaffer and his floral team at Schaffer Designs had to use “tropical” plants that would last in the outside heat such as Birds of Paradise, orchids, baby’s breath, and draping amaranthus. The “challenge” he says was trying to replicate their signature use of color that stems from roses, lilies, asters, etc. to an outdoor environment since they are known as master florists. Big leaves became the focus along with sculptural poles. “The painted foliage in each color group are Monstera leaves,” he said. Check out the colors he used, including bright turquoise, apple green, and hot pink.

You could even use the painted Monstera leaves as placemats for outside dining as well as put them in big planters or sculptures.

Photo via The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

Photo via The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

Florist Jeff Leatham also used painted Plumosa Ferns and Baby’s Breath in bright pink and orange to create curved tentacles from the iconic columns of the Olmsted Pavilion at the park designed by Frederic Law Olmsted. A curtain of his favorite orchids – named for his mother – also swayed in the wind inside captivating the onlookers as another focal point.

A party trick that he used was putting a stick in the ground and wrapping a magenta “Pink Floyd” rose around it in a tube of water and lined it up in front for dramatic effect. Something to think about for your next big event. “I used 1200 roses for this,” he says. Though his team has to cut the stems each day and add water to make sure they last longer than a day.

Even landscapers utilized paint in interesting ways. Here, the entrance wall of Ahmed’s creation used painted tubes that match the floral inside.

Dried Flowers and Materials Are Welcome

Just like faux flowers are no longer dismissed since the quality has risen to new levels, mixing dried flowers with live vibrant blooms can create appeal. Furthermore, it is more cost-effective because flowers as we know last a short period of time in the garden since perennials stagger their blooms in short bursts throughout the summer. Annuals have been used to give more color for longer periods. Now more landscape artists are adding dried flowers to the mix as another artistic option as well as painted succulents and moss.

Photo via The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

Photo via The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

Brooklyn’s Nomad Studio sparked gasps of delight in using an ancient Japanese technique of using moss and soil to create root balls- instead of pots – to show the relationship between soil and plants. Two topics definitely trending right now. The crowds rooted for this installation that looked like an amphitheater of root balls.

The use of round topiaries is also a trend that we are seeing more and more. In fact, AIFD also used moss balls as a vase filled with dried flowers.

Make Your Mailbox a Focal Point

Not only painted mailboxes but perhaps a garden-like vista around it, which can be charming with a little effort. Whimsical can be fun so let your creativity roam wild and create a natural “Habitat” which was the theme of this show.


A version of this story originally appeared on FlowerPowerDaily.com.

Jill Brooke is a former CNN correspondent, Post columnist and editor-in-chief of Avenue and Travel Savvy magazine. She is an author and the editorial director of FPD, and a contributing digital editor of aspire design and home magazine.

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