Philly Flower Show highlights "Holland: Flowering the World"

Bil Bowden

This week's Philadelphia Flower Show is the nation's largest indoor show, and the vibrant colors and creativity will capture every gardener's attention, even with a foot of snow on the ground. We can dream, can't we?

This year's theme, Holland: Flowering the World, is appropriate and somewhat surprising. This tiny country shines in its week of floral glory, and it stresses that Holland isn't all tulips, but daffodils, roses, astilbe, etc.  Small signs boast of the Netherland's rich flower history, celebrating some amazing figures. The Dutch produce 4.32 billion (that's with a B) tulip bulbs each year, some 53% of which (2.3 billion) are grown into cut flowers. The Dutch are the world’s largest exporter of seeds. Each day it sells 34.5 million flowers and 2.3 million plants and conducts 120,000 transactions. This in a country a bit bigger than Maryland.

Getting to the show is amazingly easy on Amtrak. From its Lancaster station, take the train to 30th Street Station in Philly, and then walk-- always under roof-- to the SEPTA station. Two stops later at Jefferson Station, you're at the Convention Center. Cost is about $30, depending on discounts.  Gas and parking would probably cost that much, and there's no stress of driving downtown. Show admission is $31 for adults when purchased online, for children $15. The show continues through the week, closing Sunday at 6 p.m.


The cavernous Pennsylvania Convention Center hosts the show -- it dates back to 1829-- and it is expected to attract about 250,000 people this year. Tuesday's storm prompted postponement of 200 bus trips here, but most were rescheduled for later in the week. The Amtrak and SEPTA trains never stopped, making it easy for out-of-towners to visit. And today, the show continues without a hitch.

Last year's U.S. National Parks theme was a tough act to follow, but this year's main entrance is remarkable. Visitors enter through a large flower-covered bridge/archway, and are immediately walking under thousands of lighted flower arrangements that hang from the ceiling. Directly in front are trademark Holland windmills. A light show covers visitors and flowers alike.


From the extraordinary entrance, the show continues its usual excellent standards. Bikes are everywhere, decorated with flowers, lights, used as water features, in dining sets, canals. Landscaping ideas from nationally known companies, container gardening, gardening tools, books, flower arranging competitions are all here. As Pennsylvania Horticultural Society president Matt Rader points out, there is something here for everyone.