In Philadelphia, It’s Springtime in Paris

General / Places / Products / March 8, 2011

Only the Philadelphia International Flower Show could pull this off on so grand a scale and so gracefully too.

This year’s presentation, “Springtime in Paris,” features a 33-foot-high base of the Eiffel Tower, with 60 large-scale garden exhibits, including Parisian parks in full bloom, gardens of lilac, lavender and roses, and blooming topiary animals.  Then there’s the Carousel Stage, where live performances  include can-can dancers, singers and musicians set among iconic images of Paris.

Predictably, the landscape designers inside the Philadelphia Convention Center are taking it very seriously.

“I want strollers and pedestrians to be transported to the Parisian world of Monet,” said David Firabend of Groundswell.  “I want it not to be seen, but to envelop you with evocative lighting and the cleansing smell of rain after a rainstorm.”

He worked with a fabricator to create painted water lilies, 18 to 24 inches in diameter, floating in troughs of water on top of recycled glass on the bottom, for impressionistic swirls when the light strikes them.

He’s also created “Monet’s Allee” out of a series of trees of faux bois, or false wood. “It was a French fashion back in the ’20s, almost like concrete trees,” he said.  “It’s early French formal design, when designers were attempting to bend nature to their will.   We used pleaching for a regular, precise pattern that’s very geometric and rectangular.”

Ron Muray of the American Institute of Floral Designers has recreated the Paris Underground featured in last month’s National Geographic and A+A.  “We’re recreating the catacombs,” he said.  “People have created there all kinds of art underground.  There’s graffiti, murals and street art.  It’s all more respected in France than here – it’s not defacing, but a kind of high art.”

His walls appear to be strata of rock and stone, 60 feet long, with avant garde, cutting edge floral sculptures placed along the way.  He used builders’ sonic tubes cut in 15- 18- and 24-inch lengths to create the sculptures placed on pedestals.  Above, the view looks to the street level.  “It’s a little to the darker side,” he said.  “We used theatrical lighting, for a dark, damp and beautiful atmosphere.”

Coming to floral design from a fashion background, it seems only natural that Donna O’Brien of Beautiful Blooms would want to work with a Coco Chanel theme.  “She’s my idol,” Donna said.

So she stacked boxes in a Swiss Army cross throughout her exhibit.  They’re different sizes, wrapped in the fabrics that Chanel was known for – patent leather, tweed, hounds tooth and quilted materials.  “They’re covered in flowers that are tightly compacted,” she said.  “They’re very even, very modern and clean, with no space between the flowers.”

For more on the Philadelphia International Flower Show, go to


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Mike Welton

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on March 8, 2011

The AIA (American Institute of Architects) Bookstore is pleased to be the official bookstore of the 2011 Philadelphia Flower Show. We are hosting the show’s official book signings and selling books by all of the scheduled lecturers at our satellite location on the second level of the Convention Center concourse, just at the top of the escalators! Check out our home base at the Center for Architecture, 1218 Arch St, just steps across the street from the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

on March 8, 2011

The displays look amazing. I go to the flower show each year and somehow it seems to get better every year. I can’t wait to see it in person this weekend.

on March 8, 2011

This is our third year participating in the Philadelphia Flower Show and we had an awesome time yet again!

Come check us out!

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