Inspired by the theme, “The Garden Electric,” today’s distinguished landscape, garden and floral-arrangement designers delighted attendees of the 2023 PHS Philadelphia Flower Show, held March 4–12, with dynamic floral displays. Their use of vibrant color, unique shapes and textures, rich fragrance and multimedia elements brilliantly captured the magic, celebration and awe that flowers and gardens provide.
“From peaceful landscapes to over-the-top floral installations, the Flower Show designers took the theme to heart and created electrifying works of art that thrilled judges and the public,” said Seth Pearsoll, Creative Director of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS).
Black Girl Florists, winner of a PHS Gardening for the Greater Good Award
Held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, the 2023 PHS Philadelphia Flower Show returned indoors after a two-year hiatus. During this time, the show was held outdoors at Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) Park due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
These two outdoor events were so well-received that this year’s show incorporated their most beloved aspect: the feeling of being immersed in nature. For the first time in the show’s history, the designers were asked to create gardens between 2,200 and 2,900 square feet, making them the largest gardens ever displayed at the event. This new design direction was meant to mimic for guests the feeling of being outdoors by offering a 360-degree blooming wonderland that could be viewed from all angles.
Also new to the Flower Show this year were several exciting attractions such as daily live music from popular local artists, a “Kids Cocoon” play area for children to explore and learn about show-themed topics, and an opportunity to create a “Garden Electric”-inspired floral arrangement while enjoying a light meal. A “Bloom Bar” walk-up experience was also on hand, offering guests the opportunity to purchase and wear a fresh-flower crown.
Laurel Brook Gardens, winner of The Kate and Robert Bartlett, Jr. Award for best use of trees
These attractions were added to the lineup of Flower Show favorites such as early morning and photography tours, an experiential hub where guests can create themed crafts side-by-side with artisans, and container gardening workshops with top floral designer Tu Bloom. ”Fido Fridays” were also back, allowing guests and their four-legged friends to experience the event, as well as a live butterfly exhibit and “Flowers After Hours,” an after-hours dance party among the floral displays.
The PHS also presented numerous awards at the show for horticultural excellence and mastery of this year’s “The Garden Electric” theme. Highlights include:
Landscape Design Winners
The coveted PHS Philadelphia Flower Show Cup—Best in Show (Landscape) was presented to ILLExotics, a Philadelphia-based boutique store that specializes in exotic plants such as aroids and orchids, as well as captive-bred creatures.
ILLExotics’s exhibit, titled “Studio Exotica,” was a Studio 54–inspired nightclub fully overtaken by tropical greenery and flowers, complete with a DJ, bartender and dancers adorned in bright blooms. ILLExotics also won the Governor’s Trophy for Innovative/Visually Stimulating/Unique Design and was one of 10 designers to win a PHS Gold Medal recognizing “creativity and exceptional execution.”
Mark Cook Landscape & Contracting LLC, winner of The PHS Philadelphia Flower Show Silver Trophy (Landscape)
Mark Cook Landscape & Contracting LLC of Doylestown, Pa.—which won the Best in Show Award (Landscape) in 2022 and 2020—earned The PHS Philadelphia Flower Show Silver Trophy (Landscape). The company also won a PHS Gold Medal and the Pennsylvania Landscape & Nursery Association Trophy for showing the most effective use of plants and best use of design in the landscape category.
First-time exhibitor Newfields of Indianapolis, Ind.—led by renowned designer Jonathan Wright, the director of The Garden and Fairbanks Park at Newfields—took home three awards, including The Philadelphia Trophy for most accomplished display of unique and diverse plants.
Newfields, winner of The Philadelphia Trophy for most accomplished display of unique and diverse plants
Newfields exhibit, titled “Art & Nature Illuminated,” featured custom art by Kyng Rhodes, projections by Blockhouse Studios and an incredible floral display by the Newfields horticulture team. Newfields also won The PHS Council Trophy and a PHS Gold Medal.
The American Horticultural Society Environmental Award was awarded to Treeline Designz for its exhibit, titled “In Search of Peace,” which best demonstrated the bond between horticulture and the environment, as well as inspired the viewer to beautify home and community through skillful design and appropriate plant material.
Treeline Designz, winner of The American Horticultural Society Environmental Award
The exhibit, a tribute to children of war, featured a “dry-river” path lined by exotic trees and flowers that led to a colorful, glass “fairy house” floating on a fog-coated lake.
Belleville, Pa.-based Laurel Brook Gardens, meanwhile, took home The Kate and Robert Bartlett, Jr. Award for best use of trees.
Floral Design Winners
In the floral design category, the coveted PHS Philadelphia Flower Show Cup—Best in Show (Floral) was presented to Harijanto Setiawan, an architect-turned-florist from Singapore and the creator of Boenga Floral Studio.
Harijanto Setiawan, winner of the PHS Philadelphia Flower Show Cup—Best in Show (Floral)
His installation, titled “Florid Electron,” combined cutting-edge floral design, lighting and experiential elements to create an immersive environment that merged the world of floral design with interactive art. Setiawan was also awarded The Mayor’s Trophy for the floral exhibit that demonstrated the most innovative or unique design or use of floral, plants or products, as well as a PHS Gold Medal.
Philadelphia-based Schaffer Designs took home three awards, including The Philadelphia Flower Show Silver Trophy (Floral), the Society of American Florists Flower Show Award for artistic presentation of flowers and plants for public enjoyment, and a PHS Gold Medal.
Schaffer Designs, winner of The Philadelphia Flower Show Silver Trophy (Floral)
The Phyllis M. Craig Award for the floral major exhibit demonstrating the best use of color in flowering and/or foliage plants went to Polycarp Flowers of Summit, NJ, which also won a PHS Silver Medal.
In response to “The Garden Electric” theme, Polycarp created A Book in Bloom, a story told in flowers.
“It serves to remind us of how the imagination can be ignited by nothing more than words on a page,” said Polycarp. “Unlike the pixilated graphics on a screen that show you what they want you to see, books express ideas, but inspire you to paint how they are illustrated. Our installation wants you to break out from the fears and limitations that we and others have set and embrace the world of color, bold choices and pushing ahead with your own, unique narrative.”
Polycarp Flowers, winner of The Phyllis M. Craig Award for the floral major exhibit demonstrating the best use of color in flowering and/or foliage plants
Black Girl Florists, meanwhile, another first-time exhibitor at the show, won a PHS Gardening for the Greater Good Award for their “United Through Our Pour" exhibit. The award is given to the exhibit that best exemplifies PHS’s mission to activate horticulture and gardening as a force for the greater good by advancing the health and well-being of people and their environments. The group also won a PHS Silver Medal.
Educational Exhibit Winners
Temple University, another major winner of the show, took home five awards, including The Alfred M. Campbell Memorial Trophy for the educational major exhibit that demonstrated the most successful use of a variety of plants in a unique fashion. In addition, the university also won The Bulkley Medal of The Garden Club of America for an exhibit of exceptional educational merit that increases the knowledge and awareness of the viewing public. Temple University was also awarded the Pennsylvania Landscape & Nursery Association Trophy, a PHS Gardening for the Greater Good Award and a PHS Gold Medal.
Temple University, winner of The Alfred M. Campbell Memorial Trophy for the educational major exhibit that demonstrated the most successful use of a variety of plants in a unique fashion
The University of Delaware, meanwhile, was given the PHS Sustainability Award for the educational exhibit demonstrating the best use of sustainable gardening practices to the public, as well as a PHS Silver Medal.
The PHS Philadelphia Flower Show is the nation’s largest and longest-running horticultural event. The International Festivals & Events Association has honored it as the best event in the world, competing with events such as the Kentucky Derby Festival, Tournament of Roses Parade, Indianapolis 500 Festival and other international celebrations.
The University of Delaware, winner of the PHS Sustainability Award
The PHS, an internationally recognized nonprofit organization founded in 1827, plays an essential role in the vitality of the Philadelphia region by creating healthier living environments, increasing access to fresh food, growing economic opportunity and building deeper social connections between people.
Top image: IllExotics, winner of the PHS Philadelphia Flower Show Cup—Best in Show (Landscape)