A Flower Show Front Porch…Indoors?

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Flower Show exhibitors across the country are already hard at work preparing for 2010’s Passport to the World. I had the opportunity to speak with Margaret Hennes of the Spade and Trowel Garden Club about her group’s exhibit. Enjoy!

“Whether it’s your first or fifteenth time exhibiting, the Philadelphia International Flower Show is always a thrill,” says Margaret Hennes of the Spade and Trowel Garden Club. In past years her group has entered table displays, hanging baskets, and urns, and in 2010 they’re embarking on a new venture by exhibiting a front porch setting.

The 13-person team began their preparations in April, aspiring to create something bold and dynamic that would still resonate with the average homeowner. They first had to select a theme or motif, which happened rather quickly. (Note: Details of the exhibit cannot be disclosed to ensure its anonymity during judging at the Flower Show.) The next decision, however, proved to be a bit more difficult.

Co-chairs (L - R) Jane Owen, Margaret Hennes and Sharon Small

“We needed a place to stage our in-the-works exhibit. Unlike classes such as balconies or window boxes, front porches require a sizable space; the exhibit is allowed to be 12 feet tall!” Margaret says. “At first we were going to use someone’s basement, but the ceiling wasn’t high enough. Next someone kindly offered use of his barn, but without heating or plumbing it wasn’t practical.”

Just as the Spade and Trowel people were scrambling for a solution, John Swan (a longtime PHS member and consummate volunteer) stepped up and saved the day. “I was so touched that he volunteered his [14-foot-high] living room! We actually constructed the front porch over and around the sofa!” Margaret reports.

Next the team had to choose plants that would correspond with their theme and perform well in the tricky Convention Center conditions. Beyond that they had to consider color, texture, and placement. “I look for exciting plant pairings and ways to position certain specimen plants so they stand out,” Margaret says.

After visiting nurseries all summer, the group made a long list of favorites; partook in some lighthearted deliberation; and selected the best of the best, which are now over-wintering at Meadowbrook Farm.

About three months from now, when both plants and people arrive at the Convention Center (only a few days before the Show opens), there will be no time to waste. Margaret says this is when the months of preparation pay off. “Each member of the team has a designated task. Some install the large set pieces, others meticulously groom the plants, and so on,” she says. As co-chair, Margaret’s role is to ensure no details fall through the cracks. “But I don’t look at it as a job,” she says. “It’s really a fun challenge and a chance to collaborate with wonderful people in a creative environment.”

Spade and Trowel member Kurt Wolter sits on what will become the club's front porch setting (currently being constructed in a living room).

Margaret’s favorite Flower Show moment comes when the team looks at one another and realizes their exhibit is complete. After months of dreaming, designing, planning, and preparing, there is nothing left to do but stand back and admire the finished product. “Seeing it all come together is so gratifying. I always ask myself, ‘does this match what I envisioned?’, and sometimes it even surpasses it!” she says.

Look for the Spade and Trowel Garden Club’s front porch creation when you visit the Philadelphia International Flower Show, February 28 to March 7.

One Response to “A Flower Show Front Porch…Indoors?”

  1. Kris Qualls Says:

    Wow, you really are celebrities! You still kept the “theme” very much a secret!

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