It’s Show Time!
At the Philadelphia Flower Show, Temple University students
build an exhibit that more than holds its own against the pros.
By Susan Hines
Usually created around a theme, flower-show installations
can be hokey and over the top or tiny jewel box displays of craftsmanship,
plant knowledge, and attention to detail. The theme the Pennsylvania
Horticultural Society (PHS) set for this year’s Philadelphia Flower Show, The
Legends of Ireland, was as likely to conjure rainbows leading to fluffy pots of
yellow marigolds as it was to inspire intricate miniature landscapes.
This year, students of Temple University’s landscape
architecture program at Ambler College produced an exhibit that showcased the
diverse landscapes and plant communities of the small island and included
appropriate (and not too didactic) forays into the history and culture of the
Irish people. PHS’s highly trained judges awarded it “Best in Show” in the
academic category. This marks the sixth straight year that the Ambler campus
has garnered a major award at the Flower Show.
Titled Tírdhreach Fileata na hÉireann—The Poetic Landscape
of Ireland, the display showed a cross section of the Irish landscape—the
upland moors, the bogs, the drumlins, and the limestone Burren, along with
their plant communities, all represented in a 36-by-15-foot space. Each
landscape element featured an appropriate verse from Irish poets. The entire
exhibit was backed by a 10-foot by 35-foot mural wall, an extension of the
landscape within the exhibit. The focal point, however, was a sacred tree—a
lone specimen standing in a field, its trunk and branches shaped into
cragginess by the wind.
Temple’s landscape architecture students have been
participants in the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s annual flower show for
as long as anyone can remember. Although they show in the educational division,
this isn’t some feeble outreach effort: These students don’t stand around a
table piled with literature about invasive species or proper tree planting
practices urging passersby to enlightenment. Instead, they build an exhibit
aimed at matching or surpassing in beauty, creativity, and quality any display
in the show.
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