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With Home Gardening Hub and More, This Year’s Flower Show Is the Most Interactive Yet

PHS shares with us the Flower Show’s new features and activities to bring out the gardener in you, no matter who you are!

Inspired by the world’s exotic Mediterranean gardens, the 2020 PHS Philadelphia Flower Show returns February 29—March 8 with “Riviera Holiday.” As the Pennsylvania Convention Center is transformed into a dramatic floral paradise, we caught up with Julia Thomé, Director of Gardener Engagement at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS). Julia shared more about this year’s Flower Show and how it will be more interactive than ever, as well as tips for getting started with gardening no matter how experienced (or not) you may be!


In addition to returning attractions like Make and Take experiences and the beautiful Butterflies Live!, this year’s Flower Show invites everyone from experienced gardeners to the “plant curious,” young and old, to the new Home Gardening Hub for tips, inspiration, and fun. This interactive section of the Show will have everything from gardening demonstrations to hands-on activities that will be fun for the whole family.


Thomé explains that the Flower Show is “meant to really kick-off spring for home gardeners,” but that group is much more diverse and fluid than one may imagine. From the seasoned gardener with a large backyard, monogrammed gardening clogs, and the greenest of thumbs to the apartment dweller who has a collection of windowsill house plants in their care, there is something for everyone at the Home Gardening Hub.


To reflect the expansive view of gardening and environmental stewardship that Pennsylvania Horticultural Society has advocated for nearly 200 years, the Hub will feature three very different “Demonstration Gardens,” which will expand visitors’ understanding of horticulture and how it can provide food, well-being, and a closer sense of nature.


The first demonstration garden is the Kitchen Garden, which will “help people see how easy it is to grow food at home,” Thomé tells us. Here gardeners will find tips for growing vegetables and edible flowers, including how to create container gardens for city dwellers who may not have a yard to speak of—you can easily grow microgreens and other plants right on your windowsill!


The Waterwise Garden addresses the importance of water management in gardens, and how even a small garden can have a big impact on our local environment. Topics include how to manage stormwater run-off, showcase demonstration rain barrels, inform which plants can handle drought conditions (so you don’t have to water them too much and waste precious water), and more. “It’s really about the environmental impact you can have in your own garden,” describes Thomé.


Finally, the Eco-Friendly Critter Garden teaches visitors how to make their gardens more welcome to certain creatures that may visit, or “create a little mini ecosystem in your garden,” as Thomé puts it. “Bee hotels” will show how to promote pollinators in your garden, and you’ll also learn how certain insects can be beneficial to gardens.


Photograph courtesy of Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.


In addition to the Demonstration Gardens, the Hub will host fun activities every day, including a photo station, a kids’ stamping station where they can design their own vegetable gardens, and even “Plant Tac Toe,” a giant tic-tac-toe style game that pits “wet” plants against “dry” ones to learn the concept of “right plant, right place.”


The Grow and Tell Center in the Hub is a garden shed with constantly changing interactive activities and volunteers available to answer questions and hold demonstrations. On its stage, find “Garden Chat” sessions, which are hourly demos and presentations of fun gardening ideas, advice to get people inspired, and a variety of gardening topics. One day you may be learning how to make seed bombs, the next day you may be doing garden yoga! Tips for gardening with kids, propagating house plants, and so much more will be explained with Q&A sessions throughout the day.


Pop-up carts featuring learning moments, appropriately titled “The Poppies,” will occur on the Show floor. One cart will be stationed at the Horticourt featuring topics on herbs, container gardening, how to win a Blue Ribbon at the Flower Show, and plant picks by the PHS staff. The other will move about the Design Gallery and feature topics on mini settings, wedding décor trends, upcycling and repurposing, and daily competitions. PHS horticulture professionals and other guest speakers will be available to give advice, tips, and answer questions from visitors.  


Want to be involved with gardening, but don’t have a garden? Thomé encourages visitors who are inspired by the Flower Show to seek out community gardens they can join, or just visit one of Philadelphia’s many fabulous local gardens and environmental centers which offer workshops, children’s programming, and more. Thomé explains, “Philly is America’s Garden Capital! Our area is so rich with gardens!” In that spirit, the final day of the Flower Show is America’s Garden Capital Day, where visitors can stop by the America’s Garden Capital booth to pick up a free garden Passport, meet experts from the 36 gardens located within 30 miles of Philadelphia, and get an exclusive, limited-edition 2020 Flower Show stamp to add to your Passport collection.


“Gardening has been part of my life since I was a child. It has been such an important part of who I am,” relates Thomé. “Starting young and getting people used to the idea that humans evolved alongside plants and continuing to do that is so important for our planet.” As Director of Gardener Engagement, she encourages people to find joy in gardening wherever they are, and to see gardening as both a way to engage with our natural world as well as a constant learning experience. She urges, “Figure out your conditions, keep trying!” And if you need some advice or a set of fresh ideas for your garden, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society is always available as a resource.


The Philadelphia Flower Show runs from February 29 through March 8 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, located at 12th and Arch streets in Philadelphia. Tickets are currently on sale at https://theflowershow.com/tickets/.


Lead photograph by Laura Swartz. Additional photography provided by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS). PHS supports the Philly Family Community.

Contributing Writer