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American Society of Landscape Architects


May 2007 Issue

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

It.s Show Time! Bill Kelly

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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