This year, with a "Celebrate the Movies" theme, the Philadelphia Flower Show is a sensory indulgence: the smell of popcorn, the sight of famous cinematic kisses on a giant screen, and sounds as varied as Tarzan's tinny call of the wild and the soaring score of Gone With the Wind.
The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, the show's producer, had a private preview Friday for its members, who can be tough critics. But a dozen random interviews on Friday produced a long list of "likes" and one - mild - complaint about a seating shortage inside the show, which runs at the Convention Center from Saturday through next weekend. This is a perennial gripe that PHS has tried to remedy by adding hundreds of seats outside the show hall.
Few seemed interested in tarrying at the preview. IPhones in hand, members methodically wound their way around the large entrance garden and exhibits, checked out the competitive orchid entries and green-roofed dog houses, and went speed-shopping for seed bombs and lily bulbs in the Marketplace.
Jane Krumrine, 77, a retired public relations executive from Merion, couldn't find a chair to sit on, so she parked herself on a low wall in the show's elaborate entrance garden, which resembled an Art Deco movie house with popcorn stand, red carpet, and searchlights.
She hadn't seen most of the Disney movies that were evoked by the show's landscape and floral designers, but that was OK. "I know the stories and I love flowers, so I just enjoy the pretty gardens," Krumrine said.
Her favorite? "The one with chickens in it," she said.
That belonged to Burke Bros. of Wyndmoor, which put together an unusual "junkyard garden" inspired by Tow Mater's Towing & Salvage from the Disney movie Cars. It features a genuine salvaged tow truck with lights blinking and vines and moss growing under the hood, and a rusty old car converted to a coop for several chickens, who seemed oblivious to the small crowd they attracted.
Also on the landscape side, Stoney Bank Nurseries' "Chinese Blossoms" exhibit, fashioned after Disney's animated Mulan, was a hit with many, including Marcie Grokulsky, 70, a homemaker from Westwood, Mass., and her goddaughter, Karen Morrissey, 42, a lawyer from Wayne.
"Beautiful," Grokulsky said. "I've taken so many pictures."
Other crowd-pleasers were Pennsauken florist Michael Bruce's Frozen display, in which a snowy staircase leads to a floral version of the movie's ice castle, and the American Institute of Floral Designers', which artfully interpreted Disney's 11 princesses, from Cinderella and Pocahontas to Rapunzel and Tiana.
Nine-year-old Grace Wickens of Wilmington, who came to the show with Nan Steketee, her mother's cousin, knew immediately what had inspired Bruce's effort.
"It reminds me of Frozen," she said, looking up at the ice castle. "I like seeing all the princesses at the show and how you get to see everything in flower form."
Grace sounded almost scripted by PHS, which hopes the Disney angle will bring in more families and young people.
But the older folks at the preview were enjoying themselves, too, especially on their way out, as they caught sight of a large screen showing KLIP Collective's montage of memorable movie kisses and dance scenes.
First up: Rhett and Scarlett in a clinch. Then Lady and her besotted Tramp, and Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet on the Titanic.
Then Gene Kelly came spiraling by, and Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, and soon people were calling out the names of the stars and their movies.
All for a good cause.
The Flower Show is the major fund-raiser for the nonprofit PHS, raising about $1 million for programs such as City Harvest, which provides organic garden produce for food cupboards, and Plant One Million, a regional tree-planting initiative.
In 2011, a KPMG study estimated the show's economic impact to the Philadelphia region at $61 million per year.
Where: Through March 8 at the Convention Center, 12th and Arch Streets.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday; 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. next Saturday; 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. next Sunday.
Admission: Adults, $31 online/$32 at the door; students 17-24, $21/$22; children 2-16, $16/$17.