March 27, 2017

The Philadelphia Flower Show - Part 2: Horticulture

Dendrobiums can be so impressive when allowed to grow to a large size, this Dendrobium delicatum (or perhaps Dendrobium x Delicatum) raised by talented gifted grower David Fischer is just another one of the massive Australian species of dendrobium (which I love, ever since mastering the culture of D. speciosum). This is presumed to be a natural cross between D. tarberi and the common D. kingianum and one can see the resemblence.

While the landscape and design installations at the Philadelphia Flower Show provided theater for the crowds of people coming to see bold bedding schemes and mass-effect displays of spring bulbs, where the show really delivered for me was in the category of horticulture - in particular, the amateur horticulture (which seems like a silly term when on thinks about the many excellent specimens grown by knowledgeable enthusiasts and horticulturists at this show), but this show has a history of attracting some of the finest growers in the North East and Mid Atlantic who bring their most choice orchids, alpine and cacti to name a few, to display and to win ribbons and awards.

As if a designer went crazy, this almost unbelievable plant is an orchid - Oberonia setigera raised and entered by Christopher Satch, of the Rutgers Alumni Growers & Exhibitors.


Good flower shows are ideal places for seeing rare or unusual plants, and I can't help myself when I see a plant that is new to me. A few years ago while visiting the Tokyo Dome to see the World Orchid Congress exhibition, I left with a short list of orchids that I had to track down ( and, I few I did such as the massive Dendrobium speciosum which is in bud in my greenhouse right now - and could grow as large as my greenhouse!), but the Dendrobium x delicatum (seen above) is now tops on my must-get list. It's always a danger adding to ones must-get list when visiting a good flower show!

So, beginning with orchids here, I began building said wish list - because the horticulture at the Philadelphia Flower Show is so fine.

Cattlianthe 'Trick or Treat' 'Ty's Rutgers Triumph' CCE/AOS shows how crazy some orchid names can be as modern intergeneric crosses are names with variety names and awards.To simplify or translate this name a bit, Cattlianthe is a name known as a nothogenus( an inter-generic hybrid made from two distinct genus, in this case the genus Cattleya and the genus Guarianthe). Sometime, way back in this orchids history, the two genus were crossed to create Cattlianthe. 'OK, orchid 'Trick or Treat' may be a better name!

Barbara Inglessis a member of the South Jersey Orchid Society entered this beautifully specimen of Maxillaria sanguinea.

A rare and challenging to grow and force alpine, Dionysia aretioides captured plant geeks' hearts. Each  raised and entered by John F. Ray, a member of the North American Rock Garden Society.


I had heard about some of the alpine displays at the Philadelphia Flower Show, but I never expected to see what lay before me here - dionxysia's ( not the extremely challenging ones seen in the great UK shows, but any dionysia in North America is worthy enough to make headlines in any horticultural journal, surely something most show attendees here probably missed, but these little pots and troughs in the alpine classes impressed me greatly. There are some very talented alpine growers in the Philadelphia area!

I was thrilled to see that the local chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society (NARGS) not only had a beautiful display garden, but also one which one many top awards including the Gold Medal of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society as well as the prestigious Gold Medal of the Philadelphia Horticultural Society.

The NARGS garden  was designed and built by the Delaware Valley Chapter of NARGS, their inspiration and theme was DUTCH ALLOTMENT GARDEN, and it included some lovely troughs, a small vegetable plot, flowering bulbs and a tiny homemade greenhouse often found in small European allotments. It was very popular with show visitors.

The alpine plants in the NARGS Delaware Valley Chapter was superbly grown unusual and challenging species.
Congratulation to everyone from the NARGS Delaware Valley Chapter for their huge and prestigious win at this premiere flower show!

I am guessing that some of the growers of these alpine troughs with alpine plants in the amateur category were also members of the Delaware Valley NARGS chapter - I mean, how great are these? Troughs entered by both Clifton Webb and John F. Ray took top ribbons.

This trough by John F. Ray took a few top ribbons, but most impressive were the number of entries in this category. Rock gardening is experiencing a reprise, I think.

Mr. Ray labeled each plant ( a requirement) but a map helps the viewer!

Another well planted trough with authentic and well grown alpine plants entered by John F. Ray.

The striking blossoms of Edgeworthia chrysantha on a well-branched specimen. For some reason, I can never smell the scent on these yet everyone else can. Noses can be like that sometimes!


Edgeworthia chrysantha may be fine shrub for warmer zones, but it also is growable in containers in colder, northern gardens. My plant is just beginning to bloom in the greenhouse, yet spends the summer outdoors.

Exhibitors' collections of Hoya selections and varieties show how one should grow Hoya on ring forms, and demonstrates  what a nice collection could look like. I visited Logee's greenhouses this week, but resisted. I resisted. I did. 

This inspired me to amp-up my scented geranium training skills! Come on - really? A bit of France in a pot, right? 

This pelargonium caught my attention, a rather new cultivar of the lemon scented geranium but one with very dense foliage. Entered by grower Leslie Anne Miller, the variety is a patented one often sold under the cultivar name 'Bontrosai 'or 'Lemon Sculpture' according to her label (everything at this show is properly labeled). I haven't seen this in the trade yet, but it seems to be available in the UK (it was registered in Poland).

The star of the show for many horticulturists and designers was this planting scheme by the landscape design firm TOOP, founded by Carrie Preston a New Jersey native who moved to the Netherlands.
Sometime innovative design and innovative use of horticulture combines in a magical and wonderful way. Sure, this years' show offered plenty of wow - from Sam Lemheney's fantastically designed entryway with a floating flower field illuminated with LED lights and floating above more than 30,000 fresh tulips, to  windmills, wooden shows and most ever Dutch bike found in North America, but the real star might have been this garden designed by Carrie Preston (a New Jersey native designer who decided to open her own landscape design firm in the Netherlands after spending some time there on an internship while in college. Carrie's firm  STUDIO TOOP (along with a troop of local volunteers -mostly local area plants people) created an installation entitled 'Stinze'. A breathtaking treat which shocked some attendees with its bold understatement which included a wild-inspired planting in an urban setting complete with chainlink fencing and what looked to many like a lawn or abandoned garden with a lawn which never saw a drop of Roundup. This either delighted the plantsmen, or horrified the golf enthusiast.

Carrie Preston's 'Stinze' demonstrated how a more natural inspired landscape can be both beautiful and sustainable with grasses, ground covers, self-propagating bulbs like snowdrops, narcissus, crocuses and anemone blanda. I would imagine that finding non-sterile forms might be more helpful (as ironically, most Dutch wholesaler bulb growers sell sterile, non-seeding varieties).

Later, I read that 'stinze' is a term that the Dutch use for bulbs that self-propagate over many years (kind of like our ephemerals or woodland wild flowers.).  A very smart way to establish community-like plantings, similar to what other Dutch designers are creating with perennials which is changing the way many of us design gardens. Inspired by nature, these more 'natural' plantings may look 'weedy' to those used to the neat and tidy weed-free lawns.], but these sustainable plantings are changing how many of us garden.

The color and size of these two plants stuck me - the red oxalis and the big tuberous sinningia with silvery leaves. Who needs green with colors like this? Maybe it's time to raise the bar on your houseplant selection.

Speaking of houseplants, here was a new one for me - Begonia lanceolate, an lovely specimen raised and entered by Janet Welsh of the Huntingdon Valley Garden Club.


  1. So did you buy anything at the show?

  2. Very cool and unusual specimens. I loved the natural landscape too! Thanks for sharing the photos and your knowledge, Matt.

  3. Hans van den Broek1:42 PM

    A Stinze is actually a country mansion in the north of the Netherlands. These houses had big woodland gardens where imported plant species were allowed to self propagate. These plants are originally not native to Dutch nature but could spread from these stinze estates. For that reasen they were called stinze plants.
    Carrie Preston's design shows how a stinze garden could look in spring.


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