Text and photos ©Nancy J. Ondra
Last night, thanks to a very generous friend, I had an opportunity to see the Philadelphia Flower Show. I can’t even remember how long it’s been since my last visit, but I’m sure it’s the first time I’ve seen it in its “new” venue.
My memories of past shows include a whole lot more color and fragrance (you know how powerful paperwhites and hyacinths can be in enclosed spaces), and many more exhibits in general. As always, I admired the amount of work and dedication it took to put each exhibit together. Overall, though, I was surprised at how much more emphasis there seemed to be on the retail side. Well, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised: I completely understand the lure of acquiring more garden stuff.
(If this horse sculpture had been for sale, oh yes, it would have been mine!) And the retail side certainly appeared to be more welcoming; for some reason, the area with the exhibits seemed rather gloomy, with uneven lighting, while the retail area was far more bright and cheerful. I’m not used to taking photos indoors, so it didn’t occur to me to think about using my flash (and a lot more patience) when trying to photograph some of the exhibits. Unfortunately, most of the few pictures I took didn’t turn out well.
I do want to show you what I considered the gem of the show: A stunning variegated version of southern bush honeysuckle (Diervilla sessilifolia) that’ll apparently be released in a year or two under the trademark name Cool Splash.
The straight species has been a dependable performer for me, thriving pretty much in any place I put it (wet, dryish, full sun, morning sun only, baking afternoon sun: you name it). Even when voles ate most of the roots of this clump, the stem bases of this gently suckering deciduous shrub rerooted themselves and survived. The species grows about 3 feet tall here, with bright yellow blooms well balanced with clean, bright green foliage through most of the summer, plus red fall color late in autumn.
I can find very little information about Cool Splash right now, so I have no idea if it will differ much in the essential traits. But with its dramatically white-splashed leaf edges, I wouldn’t care if it never flowered or turned color in fall. This is definitely a plant I’ll be looking for in nursery catalogs next year. The other highlight for me was one of the horticultural classes: Dog Show. The life-sized dog topiary forms were staged on a grassy area, complete with fire hydrant.
I was a little disappointed that they didn’t have a Sheltie, but despite that lack, the collection was very cute and fun to see. Here, at least, the lighting was quite good; my focus, however, was not. Still, I hope you can get the general idea. I’m thinking I’d really like to do one of these for my garden. Or…hmmm…I wonder if anyone makes alpaca topiary forms?