Flowers in bloom in Philadelphia

February 29, 2008 4:07:51 PM PST
Music and flowers go hand-in-hand in romance, but Philadelphia Flower Show organizers believe the sultry sounds of jazz and southern florals are a happy pairing that showcase life in the Big Easy. "Jazz It Up!" is the theme of this year's flower show, an eight-day event that begins Sunday. Floral exhibits range from mansion interiors in the French Quarter to jazz clubs to a juke joint in the bayou.

Giant arching piano keys with waterfalls, flanked by a cello and saxophone radiating orchids, grace the entrance to the exhibits. Elaborate stone walkways cutting a path through tropical florals lead to swanky interiors, complete with gold candelabras on formal tables, and ramshackle shacks purportedly on the Mississippi River.

About 1,600 bromeliads in 13 varieties - native to New Orleans - are part of the show. Magnolias, azaleas, crepe myrtles, lilacs and camelias peek out from cast-iron balconies and courtyards while orchids, heliconias, cannas and crotons bloom in Mardi Gras colors of purple, gold and green.

Sam Lemheney, director of design for the flower show, said he came up with the jazz theme after recognizing that jazz musicians often put their individual stamps on pieces of music. Gardeners create horticultural pieces of art that suit their personal tastes as well, whether they're reminiscent of a cool English garden or the humid tropics in the Amazon.

"It's really about inspiring people to do something new, something creative," he said. "It's taking the garden to the next level."

Leo Lorenz said it took a lot of effort to find musical instruments to place around his exhibit, called Lee-Lynn's Music and Repair shop. The instruments were salvaged from a school and a friend gave him the old piano.

His space is surrounded by over 40 perennials, a fountain made of saxophones, trumpets, tubas and trombones and a piano from which a waterfall cascades.

"It's been an adventure getting this stuff together," said Lorenz, of Lorenz Landscape Contractors in the Philadelphia suburb of Glenside. "It was a treasure hunt."

Lorenz is one of hundreds of exhibitors at the show, which has been a Philadelphia tradition since 1829. Revenues from the show support the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's Philadelphia Green program, which encourages residents and groups to make the city more green.

While the influence of New Orleans is everywhere at the show, the Chester County Art Association chose to interpret the jazz theme with a French twist.

The West Chester group recreated Vincent Van Gogh's "Cafe Terrace at Night" featuring an outdoor cafe surrounded by rosemary, chives and parsley plants as well as topiaries. It's a scene that could easily be found in Paris, also a jazz hotspot.

"Everyone does New Orleans," said the group's executive director, Darcie Goldberg. "We did Paris jazz."

For more information about the Philadelphia Flower Show, click here!