Joe Cugliotta Returns to His Italian Roots For Flower Show’s Central Feature

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Artist's rendering of the entrance to the Flower ShowJ. Cugliotta Landscape/Nursery has been a vital part of the Philadelphia Flower Show since the early 1980s, and owner Joe Cugliotta explains that he keeps coming back for a variety of reasons:

“From a business standpoint, it’s a great form of advertising, and a great way to showcase our work. Plus, there’s all the prestige of being in the largest and longest running show of its kind in the world.“There’s also the sense of family between the exhibitors and the show management. There’s a feeling of commitment to Jane Pepper and the Show designers, and my fellow exhibitors.

“And from a personal standpoint, I’m a bit of a show-off. This gives me an opportunity to try something new and express myself – it’s like painting.”

Cugliotta’s artistry in landscape design puts a strong emphasis on hardscape,what he calls “the bones of a garden. Hardscape makes a strong architectural statement,” he says, that extends the walkways, driveways and the home. His recent innovations for clients include the use of “Old World elements,” Cugliotta explains, such as Belgian block mixed with brick and bluestone.

Greenscape is the complement to hardscape. “We have to be aware of our location – whether it’s sunny or shady, and you need to know which direction the light is coming from. We always want to give our clients four seasons of interest, even winter. And you always try to have happy plants. The garden may also be formal or natural, depending on the type of home. The plant palette depends on the desires of the homeowner. All this fits into the whole of good design.”

For the 2009 Flower Show, Cugliotta, whose parents came from Sicily and Naples, will create the Show’s Central Feature, an evocation of the formal gardens of Ancient Rome. Visitors will enter through bold Roman arches covered in blue and pink flora and look down a long vista of fountains, pillars and urns. Distinct gardens will line either side of the walkway, using low hedging, sculpted plants, and bursts of colorful annuals and roses. Tall palm trees, cherry laurels, and oleander will bring a true Mediterranean feel to the scene.

Cugliotta’s exhibit will culminate with a multi-tiered stage that will reach about 28 feet high, where opera and traditional Italian music will be performed. Masses of bougainvillea and tropical plants will fill the upper levels. Cypress trees will anchor the corners.

“Bella Italia” will be a giant canvas for one of the region’s great landscape designers.

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