Over the past year, the outdoors has become a place that’s safe and a place to escape.
For the first time in nearly 200 years, the Philadelphia Flower show has moved outdoors.
This week, dozens of huge horticultural displays fill 15 acres of FDR Park, a living canvas exploring the theme “Habitat: Nature’s Masterpiece.”
Past flower shows plans may have been thwarted by snow. This year, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s big show has to deal with heat and rain.
Rain or shine, the show runs through Sunday, June 13.
I checked out the show on opening day, June 4.
Here are my takeaways, from 5 can’t-miss exhibits to tips for parking and preparing for weather.
Grown in Lancaster
Dozens of the planters throughout the park were made in Lancaster.
BloomBox, a Lancaster company, was given a simple theme: make it colorful, says David Zablocki, founder and co-owner.
The BloomBox team put together the planters a few weeks ago. Many of the arrangements have a tall alocasia plant, or Elephant’s Ear.
“They are giant, imposing tropical leaves that command your attention,” Zablocki says.
BloomBox’s arrangements are in two types of planters. Some are tall and black, with signs including a QR code to scan. Each one of those planters will be delivered to a winner. The other BloomBox planters are in tall metal drums painted in two bright colors. Many of these are in the design district.
The company is a sponsor and has an exhibit filled with plants and swag near the flower show entrance.
The show will follow Philadelphia’s newest mask rules. Fully vaccinated people are recommended but not required to wear masks outdoors and required to wear masks indoors. People who are not fully vaccinated are required to wear masks except when eating and drinking.
The show is outdoors, and this week brings high temperatures and rain.
Just as you may have bundled up for the wintertime flower show, be prepared this week.
An umbrella works double-duty in the blazing sun and the rain.
A raincoat will help you stay dry and still explore the park. Several vendors sold ponchos on opening day.
If there’s lightning in the area, it’s a good idea to find shelter in the boat house (especially if you just watched the lightning scene in “Those Who Wish Me Dead.”) Another great spot to hide from the rain is the horticourt, filled with award-winning plants, botanical art and delightful miniatures.
Leave your fancy shoes at home. You’re going to be walking around a 15-acre park. And you’ll be walking around with thousands of people on rain-saturated ground. Things were already squishy and muddy a few hours into opening day.
For decades, the flower show has been next to Reading Terminal Market. If that has been a go-to spot for food, thing are different this year.
There are no re-entries. If you plan on eating at the show, there are food and drink stands throughout the park. There’s a beer garden under the shade of trees. There’s sit-down dining at the boathouse and you can order a picnic meal.
For drinks, you can bring your own water, but there are no places to re-fill water bottles. Leave your bulky bottle at home if you don’t want it clanging around in your bag for hours.
Even if you’ve gone to the flower show for years and have a favorite place to park, this year, the flower show has moved. It’s at FDR Park in South Philadelphia, near Wells Faro Center and Citizens Bank Park.
If you’re driving, there are three official parking options:
- Naval Hospital Lot at 1561-1999 Pattison Avenue (1,500 capacity)
- Lots T (1,001 capacity) and U (1,086 capacity) at Citizens Bank Park
- Lots A (359 capacity) and B (359 capacity) at Wells Fargo Center
- Visitors are asked not to use street parking in the nearby neighborhoods.
Pre-COVID, the show brought in 250,000 people over the week. There are also Phillies baseball games on almost every day during this year’s flower show. I looked at the capacity numbers in those lots and decided to park at a SEPTA regional rail stop on the Paoli/Thorndale line and pick up the Broad Street line at Suburban Station. It was convenient, not crowded and about the same price as the $20 parking charge.
The SEPTA station and the parking lots can be seen from the park entrance. There’s also a shuttle.
If you use Uber, Lyft or a taxi, make sure you go to the show entrance at Broad and Pattison streets.
More gardens (and art)
Pick up a free garden passport at the show to continue exploring plants in the region.
Greater Philadelphia Gardens is a collaboration of 37 public gardens. Each garden has a different passport stamp. Fill up your passport and you have a chance to win prizes. The flower show will have special stamp at the group’s booth in the garden district. You can also pick up a passport at any of the public gardens or download it at americasgardencapital.org.
Through the end of June, the Barnes Foundation has “Barnes in Bloom,” showcasing the floral still life art and landscapes of Matisse, Renoir, Cézanne, Soutine, Monet, Manet and Rousseau. Visit the museum at 2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway. There are also virtual tours ($15) on June 19 and June 23. Learn more at lanc.news/BarnesFlower.