Archive for the ‘Through Laura’s Lens’ Category

Through Laura’s Lens: Not the Light at the End of the Tunnel

March 23, 2012

Serendipity sometimes leads to beautiful photos at the Flower Show. The stars certainly aligned when I stood at one side of the Jacques Amand exhibit, which had a winding path surrounded by spring bulbs. At the opposite end was the Kepich & Associates exhibit, a woodland setting filled with azaleas and rhododendrons.

From this perspective, it’s difficult to tell where the one exhibit ends and the next one begins. And with creative cropping, you almost forget this photo was taken indoors!

Take a walk through the spring-flowering bulbs to reach the azaleas and rhododendrons

Other times, the juxtapositions are more surreal. Take this picture of Abraham Lincoln High School’s imaginative re-creation of a subway station. Uh-oh—what’s that at the end of the tunnel? Oh, dear, it appears to be a giant foot right out of Monty Python. Stay off the tracks!

Yikes! Is the Giant Foot o' Doom going to squash the subway like a bug???

Through Laura’s Lens: Stalking the Pandanus

March 10, 2012
Picture of Pandanus tectorius roots

Seen during setup week, this plant's roots look like something out of The Lorax.

When I saw these incredible prop roots during set-up week, I stopped dead in my tracks. What sort of plant could this be? I couldn’t find anyone who knew, so one of my fellow guides and I stopped Drew Becher, president of the PHS, to ask him.

Drew knew exactly the plant we meant and was very pleased about having it in the Show. In fact, he told us gleefully that he and designer Sam Lemheney had been on a shopping expedition at a Florida nursery and spotted it over in a corner. Ignoring the big royal palms the nurseryman wanted to sell them, they said, “we want that one.” It took Drew a couple minutes to pull the name off the tip of his tongue—don’t you hate it when that happens?—but he took the time to find it and get back to us.

Ppicture of Pandanus tectorius

Pandanus during a pre-show lighting test.

Pandanus tectorius, also known as hala or thatch screwpine, is one of the few surviving native Hawaiian plants; evidence of the tree predates the arrival of the first Polynesian colonists. Its leaves were used to make sails for sea canoes and fiber for weaving (the craft of lauhala refers to weaving baskets, mats, and other objects from the leaves of the hala).

Pandanus is a “floater”—its seeds are buoyant and can tolerate salt water. No wonder it can be found on islands and atolls all over the South Pacific. Here at the Flower Show, you can find the Pandanus in Pele’s garden, near the Hale (thatched hut). There’s another, smaller specimen on the rear side of the Men’s Garden Club exhibit, near the Marketplace—illustrating that you should always look for hidden gems on all sides of the displays.

The Pele’s Garden Pandanus sheds its usual grey-green color when it becomes a canvas for the fabulous light show. You can find many items woven from the Pandanus in the Hawaii Village in the Grand Hall. Check the schedule on your Flower Show app for weaving demonstrations in the Village as well.

Through Laura’s Lens: Small Landscapes, Big Impact

March 6, 2012

Tucked behind the big showcase exhibits are jewel-like small landscape displays that are packed with great ideas on ways to approach your own backyards and landscapes. Here are three; all very different, but all with something to offer the non-tropical gardener.

Picture of 2012 Kepich Display

For color, Hawaiian tropicals have nothing on the azaleas and rhododendrons seen in the Kepich & Associates display

For years, Kepich & Associates has presented a vision of springtime in the Delaware Valley with knockout displays of azaleas and rhododendrons at the Flower Show. (One year Dan Kepich even dug up two mammoth rhododendrons from a neighbor’s yard and forced them in his greenhouse!) Dan passed away shortly before the 2011 Flower Show, but his son Chris carries on the tradition with this year’s exhibit.

Dan’s long-time friend and fellow landscaper Pete Romano also pays tribute to Dan by re-using one of Dan’s props from an earlier show—a bar and snack shop—in his own display.

Picture of snack bar in Romano display

Dan Kepich's bar makes another Flower Show appearance in the Romano's Landscaping display, "Tropical Chill."

Is it Hawaii? Or is it New Jersey? Actually, it's a bit of both.

Pete Romano loves to present his beloved New Jersey Pine Barrens in his exhibits, and there are several sly “Jerseyisms” in the Romano’s Landscaping display. The surfboards all belong to friends, and the red and green lanterns over the bar are from the tugboat Active. “Tropical Chill” presents the getaway aspects of New Jersey.

Picture of Irwin Landscaping's 2012 Flower Show Display

This tropical patio started life as an old silo in Irwin Landscaping's display.

Irwin Landscaping takes inspiration from the old silos that dot the Pennsylvania landscape and the lush tropicals that flourish in Hawaii to design a backyard patio that works in the Delaware Valley. All the plants in the ground are suited to our temperate climate; all the tropicals are in containers. The tropicals can winter over in the house or a greenhouse, or the rhizomes and corms can be stored in a cool (but not freezing) place such as a basement. It’s the best of both worlds!

These are just three of the landscape displays that can inspire you to create your own backyard paradise. Visit the Philadelphia International Flower Show, Hawaii: Islands of Aloha, now through March 11.

Through Laura’s Lens: Terrific Tropicals

January 31, 2012

Hospitable Hawaii opens its arms to thousands of tropical and semi-tropical plant species in its many public and private gardens. To get you ready for Hawaii: Islands of Aloha, here are some photos of tropical beauties from the 2010 and 2011 Shows.

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Terrific tropicals are also good plant companions in colder climates—in greenhouses and in flower arrangements, on windowsills, in containers, and in the landscape. Grow some as annuals, winter others indoors. You’ll find hundreds of tropical inspirations at Hawaii: Islands of Aloha, March 4-11, 2012. For more information or to order tickets online, visit

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