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Happy to Be Here: Spring is in the air


Daffodils are poking through soil that didn’t quite freeze this winter. Temperatures linger between freezing and 60 degrees.

Winter is still with us – not so cold – but the Philadelphia Flower Show still beckons with its promise of spring. From Feb. 29 to March 8, Center City sidewalks will be blooming with tall forsythia and pussy willow bouquets on the arms of visitors.

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Philadelphia Flower Show is the largest and longest-running horticultural event in the United States. The show is only six years away from its 200th anniversary celebration.

More than 250,000 visitors from around the world attend the week-long show. But despite the international appeal the flower show is truly a Philadelphia event that highlights city and suburban people, schools and garden clubs. And it spills over into events and areas outside the building.

“PHS is committed to utilizing horticulture to advance the health and well-being of the Greater Philadelphia region,” said Matt Rader, PHS president. The society sponsors community gardens, garden competitions, lectures and training, and pop-up gardens in the city.

Leading up to the bicentennial year, the society has developed areas of impact it will focus on – increasing social connections and economic opportunity, creating more livable communities and addressing food insecurity are priorities.

“Riviera Holiday” is the theme this year, focusing mainly of Monaco, The Embassy of Monaco in Washington will pay tribute to the Grimaldi family and Her Serene Highness Princess Grace (Kelly), her Philadelphia roots, and her passion for flowers in a rose garden wedding tableau. The figure of Grace wears a replica of her wedding dress as she stands in the rose garden.

The Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation USA, named for Grace’s son, is sponsoring the “Gardening for Biodiversity Symposium, an all-day event Wednesday, March 4, a paid-admission event. Keynote speaker is Peter Raven, described by Time Magazine as a “Hero for the Planet” and awarded the 2018 Hubbard Medal by the National Geographic Society. He’s talk about the ways gardening influences biodiversity and ways that individuals can help conserve and foster biodiversity in the Mid-Atlantic region.

The spectacular major displays are only part of the show. Local garden clubs and their members show plants they’ve raised in the horticulture division. Strolling the aisles among hundreds of begonias, orchids and cacti you may see the names of people you know – at least you’ll see garden clubs and schools from your neighborhood. After the judges choose winners throughout the show, you’ll see the ribbons and the judges’ reasons for awards.

The Preview Party, a fundraising gala takes place Friday, Feb. 28. The black-tie optional evening includes food, cocktails and dancing among the gardens. Members’ preview day is also Feb. 28 and a family-friendly “Butterflies Live!” experience featuring more than a thousand butterflies, explores native plants that attract pollinators the same day.

“A Taste of Saint-Tropez” at a Riviera-inspired brunch will be served on the two Sundays of the show. And evening and early morning tours are an opportunity to avoid the crowds and experience the Flower Show before it opens to the public for the day or after it closes. The tours cover flower show history, design inspiration from exhibitors, and the challenges of putting on the show, a major undertaking, every year.

“Let’s Dance the 80s” promises adults exclusive access to the flower show after closing to the public on opening night. Live musical performance, cash bar and themed activities are included with admission.

The tree care seminar on Thursday, March 5, will highlight the latest research related to trees and insects, diseases, infrastructure, human wellness, and urban forestry.

Fido Friday, March 6, may be the most fun day, when dogs are free to enter with their owners’ tickets. PHS calls it the furriest day of the week.

PHS thrives because members, residents, volunteers, staff and partners work together. More than 3,000 Flower Show volunteers, over 5,000 Tree Tenders, more than 2,400 Garden Tenders, 164 Roots to Re-entry graduates, and over 15,000 young participants in Junior Flower Shows promote gardening for the greater good.

For the flower show, the horticultural society relies heavily on its volunteers to ensure the event runs smoothly – over the course of the show volunteers help exhibitors enter their plants and install their exhibits, manage the judging process, and also greet, assist and engage visitors.

People 18 and older can volunteer, and PHS membership is not required. All volunteers are able to see the Flower Show on the day of their volunteer assignment for free – an added benefit beyond the value of interacting with gardeners and those who are “plant curious.”

For answers to questions about volunteering or ticketing, call PHS at 215-988-8800, send an email to, or