Philadelphia Flower Show 2020 Presents A Riviera Holiday

Tired of the cold? I recommend attending the Philadelphia Flower Show, where spring is always in season. The week-long exhibition offers a welcome break to the winter-weary, while providing endless inspiration for the garden. We recently joined an enthusiastic crowd for a little ‘Riviera holiday’, while soaking in the sights, colors and smells of the French Mediterranean.


Founded in 1829 by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS), the Philadelphia Flower Show is the United States’ largest and longest-running horticultural event. Each year, it showcases the work of some of the world’s premier floral and landscape designers. In addition to its themed installations, the show also hosts competitions in horticulture and plantsmanship, the results of which can be viewed by the public. 

Creation by Cora Williams, Ikenobo

This year’s exhibition, A Riviera Holiday, spotlights the plants of the French Mediterranean coastline. A sun-soaked paradise, the region teems with rugged cliffs, terraced hillsides, lush vineyards and olive groves along with about 550 miles of beaches. These exciting landscapes, coupled with year-round mild temperatures, provide fertile ground for a huge diversity of plants to grow. 


All visits to the Philadelphia Flower Show begin at the Entrance Garden, which sets the stage for the exhibit in terms of theme, texture and color. This year’s display showcases three key elements of the Mediterranean: Horticultural Specimens, A Feast of Textures and Iconic Moments. Follow me as I tour the exhibit.


Produced by Sam Lemheney, CFEE of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, the Entrance Garden displays the plants, colors and textures of a typical Mediterranean garden. Warm orange evokes sun-baked walls, while bricks, terra-cotta containers and bright white concrete steps celebrate its typical architecture. Native plants, such as olive trees, cacti, dracaena, Monstera deliciosa and colorful annuals provide horticultural interest.

To the right of the Entrance Garden, Stoney Bank Nurseries of Glen Mills, PA, presents Paraiso de Andalucia, a contemplative garden nestled among the remains of an old olive orchard. The tranquil space features a mix of finely-textured foliage and colorful native flowers woven into a scenic tapestry.

Mare Norstrum (Our Sea), was created by members of the American Institute of Floral Designers (AIFD) for the Philadelphia Flower Show. It exhibits floral representations of the sky and sea built from multiple layers of white and blue flowers. Below, waves of orchids appear to be crashing on the shore.

Close-up, the orchid ‘foam’ appears to include marshmallows.

Robertson’s Flowers and Events, one of Philadelphia’s oldest florists, created this enticing Mediterranean feast using a sun-kissed palette of orange, lemon, wine red and fresh green. A pair of iron candelabra complete the dramatic tablescape.


Epikos by James and Helen Basson of Le Bar-sur-Loup, France, presents an iconic moment from the epic tale of Odysseus’ return home. Bright white and architectural, the installation evokes the natural landscape of Greece, its tiered dwellings and their relationship with the sea. Stunted goat-pruned vegetation shows Mediterranean flora at its rawest in this dry garden design accented by annual flowers.

This colorful installation by Schaffer Designs entitled The Streets of the Five Lands was inspired by Italy’s fishermen who painted their houses in bold colors to easily spot them as they returned from sea. The geometric home fronts, which appear to descend from the rafters, display the designers’ interpretation of modern floral art. 

In my opinion, for sheer drama, this poolside garden by J. Downend Landscaping, Inc. was the Philadelphia Flower Show’s best. Subtlety lit, it depicts a hillside villa overlooking the Bay of Cannes. 


Jam-packed with heirloom roses, the Princess Grace Rose Garden pays homage to Princess Grace and includes Grimaldi family plants and fresh-cut arrangements in all shades of pink. It centers on a mannequin wearing a replica of Princess Grace Kelly’s wedding dress. 

Laurel-Brook Gardens created this inviting space entitled ‘Blue Holiday’, which calls to mind the whitewashed villages of Santorini. Soft grays and greens of the island’s native flora are embellished by a mix of annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs native to the United States and the Mediterranean.

Tulips your thing? Jacques Amand International Ltd, has them by the hundreds, representing virtually every color.


In the smaller exhibition area, I spotted this prize-winning floral sculpture by Jennifer Berkley. Composed of calla lilies, equisetum (horsetail), dendrobium orchids and wax flowers, it made for quite a statement against the blue backdrop. I see a sailboat, do you?

Still, for me, one of the highlights of the Philadelphia Flower Show has always been the unusually colored or perfectly formed plants found at the PHS Hamilton Horticourt. Following are some of my favorites from the Plant Competition. 

Narcissus ‘Orange Carpet’ 

Narcissus ‘Rainbow of Colors’ 

Scilla peruviana

Crocus biflorus ssp. Isauricus ‘Spring Beauty’

A brilliant fuchsia cyclamen

An other-worldly purple hyacinth

This and so, so much more await the visitor at the 2020 Philadelphia Flower Show, on view now until March 8. For more information, click here for the show’s official website


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About carole funger

I'm a landscape designer and Maryland Master Gardener living in the Washington, DC area. I blog about new trends in horticulture, inspiring gardens to visit and the latest tips and ideas for how to nurture your own beautiful garden. Every garden tells a story. What's yours?

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