When the Philadelphia Flower Show shifted outdoors to South Philly due to COVID-19 concerns the past two years, the temporary showgrounds at FDR Park were designed to explore how flowers and gardens can help us make peace with our spaces — and their connection to our mental health.
Despite the bounty of dazzling distractions and soothing scenes, some of the more iconic elements of the floral extravaganza, which has called the Convention Center home for nearly three decades, were impossible to reproduce amid the South Philly tranquility. Not the least, the treasured tradition for many of trekking into the grit of Center City every winter, only to behold the majesty of a massive garden world blooming to life within the Convention Center.
On Friday, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society officials announced a theme and upcoming ticket sales for the 2023 Flower Show, designed by planners to present a more joyful contrast than the pandemic offerings.
Delightfully themed, “The Garden Electric,” the show will feature bigger, bolder, and more vibrant and eccentric floral creations and color pairings — and feature plenty of fresh cut selections deemed too delicate for the South Philly elements, said Seth Pearsoll, the show’s design director.
“The Garden Electric’ is meant to encompass the feeling of magic, celebration, and awe we get when we encounter gorgeous flowers and gardens,” said Pearsoll. “We are creating a truly immersive experience…with an element of surprise that will ignite a sense of wonder and excitement.”
Returning home upped the floral ante, Pearsoll said.
“The indoor show in March is such an iconic brand in people’s mind — such an iconic Philadelphia experience,” he said. “People know right where to go. They have expectations as they go through those doors. So we know we have to deliver on those expectations but better.”
And now that means reminding guests of the sheer joy plants and gardens can bring.
“Part of the flower show needs to respond to what’s going on in the world at large,” he said. “We’re trying to make sure that we’re relevant in this space. Going back inside, it’s what people know and expect. So we need to be the absolute best version of ourselves.”
Show officials announced the decision to head back inside in June, only two days after wrapping up the 2022 show, after working closely with city health officials.
And while many guests enjoyed the outdoor show’s improvised charms and natural splendors there were initial stumbles with parking, transportation, and ticketing that planners worked to overcome. There was the weather — wilting heat, flooding rains, and morning chills — and vendors who lamented smaller crowds and scanter sales.
Sin Gogolak, a spokesperson for the show, said officials will not release attendance data on the outdoor events since they differ so widely in size, scope and programming from the Convention Center shows. (On average, about 250,000 guests attend the Flower Show at the Convention Center each year.) And though next year’s show will not include any events away from the Convention Center, Gogolak said discussions remain open that possible outdoor components could be a part of future shows.
“There’s a lot of love for the outdoor component,” she said, with Pearsoll adding that organizers gleaned valuable lessons roughing it in South Philly, including from detailed guest research collected after the early outdoor complaints.
“Going outdoors gave us a good excuse to shake things up,” Pearsoll said, noting that some of the more popular additions to South Philly shows will now be a part of the Convention Center experience. .
Like the winding, garden path that guided guests through the labyrinth of exhibits tucked inside FDR Park (“Previously, it was sort of pick your own floral adventure,” Pearsoll said of the Convention Center. “The layout is totally different and going to transform the guest experience.”)
There will be more amenities spread throughout, like the small parklests and natural seating clusters added to the outdoor shows so guests had places to rest among the flowers.
But most of all, Pearsoll said guests should overall expect a joyous theme next year.
“Have you ever seen something so beautiful that it literally jolts you? Shocks you?” Pearsoll asked. “Flowers and gardens can do that. This show needs to be that.”
Tickets for the 2023 Flower Show: The Garden Electric, which runs from March 4-12, will go on sale starting October 3rd at PHSonline.org/the-flower-show. A special introductory discount offer, featuring the show’s lowest and best prices, will be available for a limited time.