When the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society moved the Philadelphia Flower Show outside to FDR Park in South Philly last year, amid ongoing concerns about the coronavirus, the annual event blossomed into more than just a show — it became an immersive floral experience.
This year, the Flower Show returns to FDR Park. Running from June 11 to 19, the theme of the 15-acre show is “In Full Bloom,” an exploration of the “restorative and healing power of nature and plants.”
Here are five not-to-miss experiences we found to be restorative, healing, or just plain fun (and one experience we think you can skip) at the 2022 Flower Show:
The Smelly Tunnel
Misting stations at an outdoor summer event are always a good idea, but “The Smelly Tunnel” at this year’s Flower Show takes the concept to a whole new level by infusing misting waters with essential oils.
Visitors are encouraged to walk through three consecutive misting archways, each of which emits its own fragrance — lavender, citrus, or eucalyptus. It’s an experience that cools down the body and wakes up the olfactory senses.
It’s no surprise that the Smelly Tunnel comes from the Bok Collective by Scout, the folks who were also behind one of the coolest exhibits of last year’s show, a little pink print house where posters were created and given away for free each day.
Tericka Leonard, 33, of Levittown, who came to the Flower Show for the first time this year, loved watching her children run through the Smelly Tunnel.
“I think it’s amazing and they put it right by the bathrooms, so the placement is perfect,” she said.
DJs and mushrooms
From a life-size DJ made of plants who’s spinning tunes in a “Bloom Room” to a mound of mushrooms that can be smelled 20 feet away, this year’s garden-and-floral displays will delightfully challenge your perception of what a flower is and what it can be.
“Rhythm in Bloom” by Jennifer Designs of Mullica Hill invites visitors to step onto a colorful dance floor surrounded by flowers and disco balls where a mannequin DJ with a green thumb — and body — plays such songs as “Forget Me Nots” (we see what you did there).
At the “Are Mushrooms Flowers?” exhibit by Martha Schwartz Partners of New York City, where a giant mound of mushrooms is topped with flowers and greenery, visitors learn all about how mushrooms are “the flowering of fungus.”
Self-proclaimed “mushroom lovers” Michael and Mandy Koch of Bethlehem, who’ve come to the Flower Show for 13 years, were delighted to see the first exhibit they could recall at the show devoted to fungi.
“It’s a really nice addition and it’s still in the realm of what the Flower Show is all about,” said Michael Koch, 38.
And they loved how the earthy smell of the mushrooms wafted well beyond the exhibit.
“You just need to add some rice noodles,” said Mandy Koch, 33.
Conrad Benner, founder and editor of StreetsDept.com, a popular blog about Philly street art, curated an exhibit for this year’s show featuring two Philly street artists — crochet bomber Nicole Nikolich, aka Lace in the Moon, and muralist Cindy Lozito.
Lozito’s mural, Celebrating Growth, is about who gets access to green spaces in a city, while Nikolich’s piece, The City Cracks, features massive crocheted flowers you just want to hug.
Sophia Palmisano, 22, of South Jersey, and her mother, Ruth, 53, are fans of Benner’s blog and specifically sought out the exhibit.
“Even though it doesn’t have plants in it, it has the same energy as other installations,” Sophia Palmisano said. “It’s very Dr. Seuss. There’s a surreal playfulness about it.”
The “Bloom Boom” is a heartwarming exhibit featuring paintings and drawings of flowers from area students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
Do not miss the artist’s statement next to each piece, such as first grader Tylynn W.’s comment about her flower: “It can make you fall in love!”
If you’re so moved (as I was) you can also scan a QR code at the exhibit and send the young artists a message about their work.
Botanical booze bags
In 2021, the Flower Show introduced cocktails in press-and-seal bags. Last year, the featured drink was “Strawberry Basil Lemonade,” but it really should have been called “vodka in a bag with a splash of lemonade and a single sprig of basil.”
I had two and have never had so much fun at the Flower Show.
This year’s cocktail is the “Botanical Lemonade,” which is Ketel One Botanical Grapefruit and Rose vodka mixed with Minute Maid lemonade and a single slice of lemon (I was able to get a lime and a cherry thrown in, too, after I befriended the bartender). Spend $13 to get a tasty cocktail served in a traditional plastic cup.
Upgrading to the “double sipper pouch” will cost you $17, but it comes with more booze — and the security of knowing you can’t accidentally spill your drink on an exhibit, or on yourself.
Fun fact: You can put your fingers through the holes at the top of the bag and swing it about if carrying it the old-fashioned way becomes too laborious.
Skip it: Butterflies Live!
Now that the Flower Show is outdoors, it seems strange to have an exhibit that keeps living things inside. Although the butterflies are plentiful and beautiful, many seemed to dot the netted walls, looking for a way outside (or an escape path from the kids who were trying to bat them).
Save your money (there’s a $5 entry fee) and instead take joy — as so many visitors do — in spotting the wild butterflies when they serendipitously land on the floral displays outside.