Groundswell Design Group’s Sustainable Exhibit at the 2011 Philadelphia International Flower Show
by Gene Underwood

In summer 2010, Groundswell Design Group (Groundswell) of Hopewell, New Jersey, was selected to be one of only three new exhibitors in 2011 at the highly competitive Philadelphia International Flower Show, the world’s oldest and largest indoor garden theme show. The theme of this year’s show, which took place March 6-13, 2011 was “Springtime in Paris.”

Groundswell’s exhibit, “Monet’s Allee,” is depicted in the accompanying images. The exhibit won PNC Bank’s “The People’s Choice Award.” and The Philadelphia Trophy.

Groundswell Image 1
Largely using salvaged and recyclable materials, Groundswell’s exhibit exemplifies the experience of a walk in a Paris park. Image courtesy of Groundswell Design Group.

The exhibit featured two rows of specially commissioned 16 foot tall fiberglass trees topped with a canopy of living greens, including zebra grass, peace lily, blue star fern, rosy maidenhair fern, Delilah fern, and golden club moss.

The exhibit also provided over 1500 square feet of green walls that were created in collaboration with EcoWalls, of Bordertown, New Jersey, which specializes in greenwall design.

Groundswell Image 2
Careful selection of leaf color, shape, and texture create a tapestry effect reminiscent of the stilt hedges seen in Paris parks. Image courtesy of Groundswell Design Group.

Fountains concealed in the tree canopy sprinkled rain into 36-foot long stainless steel troughs that were hand painted with water lily motifs inspired by Monet’s explorations of the flower. The troughs were lined with boxwoods that had been selected months in advance, then trimmed and groomed over the winter in a heated greenhouse.

Groundswell Image 3
Painted with impressionistic water lily motifs, the water troughs recirculate rain water falling from the green canopy. Image courtesy of Groundswell Design Group.

Groundswell, which is devoted to sustainable landscapes, created this exhibit with sustainability in mind. While the project was designed to be used for a limited time, it was constructed without waste. The features included:

  • trees that will be used later in a permanent installation, that featured recycled metal components for the trunks and branches,
  • a living wall canopy that featured plants recycled from another use and that will be auctioned off for charity after the flower show is over, and
  • a floor made of recycled barn wood, which will also be used again.

David Fierabend, Associate ASLA, who is the principal of Groundswell, notes that, “Creating sustainably is a challenge, but then once you tackle it, it becomes a game, finding the materials and thinking of their past life, their current life, and their future life as a big continuum. Besides, you meet a lot of cool people in the process. So it’s win-win.”

For more information about Groundswell, go to our Web site or the Flower Show.

Gene Underwood operates Bluest Sky, LLC, which helps businesses reach their potential through promotional communications and marketing strategy implementation. Reach Gene at

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