Valley Forge Flowers’ staff listened as the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society’s design team described their plan for this year’s Philadelphia Flower Show’s theme “Holland; Flowering the World.” They shared renderings of bulbs, bikes, bridges, windmills and “what??” a hanging garden? In the convention center?
The Valley Forge Flowers team was stunned by the new ‘up in the air’ concept, but they were ready for the challenge. This year was going to be a real show-stopper!
Execution of the soaring Dutch garden would involve five weeks of cutting string, eight colors of materials, 16 miles of cord, 40 metal grids, 85 volunteers, 4,000 OASIS® Netted Spheres and more than 15,000 stems of preserved flowers. By comparison, the staff arranged 6,500 fresh flowers stems for the Holland-inspired bridge in only three days.
Renee Tucci AIFD of Valley Forge Flowers shares techniques used to turn these basic resources into the impressive entrance garden of the nation’s largest flower show.
Valley Forge Flowers
Based in Wayne, Pennsylvania, Valley Forge Flowers has executed the Philadelphia Flower Show entrance garden for the past few years. Shop owner Barbara King asked Renee to help coordinate the efforts of staff and volunteers this year in developing the PHS plan.
The PHS design team spends more than a year preparing renderings, schematics and vision boards of designs volunteers will use to execute the show theme in their assigned areas. This year, the Valley Forge Flowers team amazed 250,000 attendees with the spectacular hanging garden and opulent flower-laden bridge they brought to life from those plans.
Creating a hanging garden
More than just a hanging garden, this was a color-changing work of floral art “featuring undulating lines spanning both vertical and horizontal areas of the entrance garden,” says Renee. Valley Forge Flowers also decorated the entrance bridge and windmills with fresh flowers, but the amazing floating field of flowers was the main attraction.
The metal grid foundation of the garden arrived seven weeks before the show for volunteers to begin preparing the project for a March 3rd installation.
“It took nearly five weeks to cut the 16 miles of the colorful cord into varying lengths and attach them in just the right places on the forty10-foot by 4-foot grids,” Renee explains. “The Excel spreadsheet that helped us keep it all straight was a mind-boggling list of numbers.”
Each attached cord was rolled up and placed into a grocery bag tied off with a chenille stem to prevent tangling during transportation.
Decorating 4,000 flower spheres
“Smithers-Oasis donated the Netted Spheres and OASIS™ Bullion Wire needed for the project. We wrapped the spheres in coordinating colors of reindeer moss, fern-pinned the moss in place, overwrapped it with bullion to create a tailored look and then added flowers to finish it off,” continues Renee.
The team soon realized they would be unable to water or replace blooms in the 4,000 spheres hanging from the ceiling during the ten days of the exhibition. The decision was made to use 15,000 preserved flowers that looked fresh from a distance.
It took three to four minutes to create each decorated sphere. That didn’t seem like a lot of time until they multiplied by 4,000 spheres! They needed additional help.
Calling for more volunteers
“A month to go we realized we were never going to finish on time, so we put out the mayday to PHS and local garden clubs for help. We soon had a small army of volunteers helping us,” says Renee. “After Valentine’s Day, the majority of our staff was also available. It’s safe to say that over 85 people worked to get the spheres created and installed.”
When the Valley Forge Flowers team arrived at the Philadelphia Convention Center, the grids and strings were already hanging from the ceiling.
As hoped, the cords did not tangle when unfurled from their bags. The team trimmed each one to the proper length and began attaching a sphere to each cord working from the shortest to the longest strings.
Hooking spheres to cords
“We originally planned to zip-tie each sphere to its cord. One of our staff members came up with the idea of using a crochet hook to make a slip-knot attachment. It worked like a charm,” says Renee.
“The grids were raised a few feet at a time so designers could work comfortably beneath the design.”
The Valley Forge Flowers team’s spirits soared with the flowers when the grids were lifted and the impressive hanging garden hung from the ceiling rigging. It worked!
Designing the canal bridge flowers
Before tackling the hanging garden project, decorating the canal bridge with its abundance of window boxes, hanging baskets and garden pots of flowers, may have seemed like a big task. After accomplishing the airborne project, this down-to-earth job felt simple. It took the staff only three days to complete the Dutch garden designs.
CLICK HERE for link to the howtohangingbasket.pdf
Thousands of flower enthusiasts are inspired each year by the floral artistry showcased by the Philadelphia Flower Show. Valley Forge Flowers helped deliver the ‘flowers in the air’ excitement
of this year’s event.
How can you use these basic techniques to create floral show-stoppers for your customers?