You might not have 250,000 people walk through your next installation, need 14,000 stems and 22,000 foliage pieces or hang a 60-foot floating meadow overhead.
Regardless the size of the event, you’ll face the same challenge as this year’s Philadelphia Flower Show’s design team for the featured Flower Power installation: how to turn basics—flowers, foliage and mechanics—into an awe-inspiring visual that embraces the client’s theme and preferences.
And what you learn from smaller installs will benefit you as larger events come your way.
How many flowers? How much greenery? How to attach the designs? What about water sources, design weight, volunteer or staff schedules, safety for the team and guests with overhead designs, staging the install and how to keep everything fresh at multi-day events especially in heated buildings?
Renee Tucci AIFD, PFCI and the Valley Forge Flowers’ team have conquered these challenges at the Philadelphia show for more than a decade. Renee shares with us what takes place behind the scenes creating the central feature for the nation’s ultimate flower event: the techniques, resources and planning to transform those basic floral materials into a spectacular experience.
As the photos here show, for 2019 Renee and the team transported attendees to an enchanting 1960s vibe of peace, love and petals.
The theme Flower Power was chosen by event sponsor Philadelphia Horticultural Society (PHS) in tribute to the enormous impact flowers have on our lives.
The Valley Forge Flowers team embraced Flower Power to create a display that delighted floral enthusiasts, including the floating wildflower meadow with oversized flower pods, towering vine structures, larger-than-life flowers and butterflies, all in vivid pop art style.
And that was just the entrance garden!
The biggest challenge?
“The 60-foot floating meadow that would hang over guests’ heads as they entered the hall was the biggest challenge,” shares Renee.
“We knew the hanging part because we had done that before. The challenge was what materials should we use to give the feel of a meadow, work into a hanging design safely and stay within the budget.”
When the Valley Forge Flowers team arrived at the convention center, grids to which they would attach cords for the meadow were already in place.
586 cords were dropped from the grid to hold 22,000 stems of Israeli ruscus and pennycress foliages in addition to thousands of dried flowers.
“The foliage needed to be dried since we could not maintain it with water during the event. We got the foliages in fresh and let them sit for several weeks to dry before using them in the installation.” Drying also prevented the likelihood of mold.
In the next step, garlands were added to the vine structures.
How were the garlands made?
“Smithers-Oasis donated 35 of their 32.5-foot garlands that we cut into two, three, four and five-foot links like sausages,” explained Renee.
The garlands were loosely covered in fresh Spanish moss. “A mix of dried materials were plugged into the garland as if making a fresh arrangement,” she added. No glue or picks were used.
Garlands came from the ground up but were attached more than 10 feet in the air. A scissor lift, boom and tall ladders were brought in to carry designers up to attach the garlands to the vine.
“Staff was standing in the equipment in safety harnesses to attach the garlands with zip ties. The Philadelphia Flower Show is brought to you with zip ties! There’s a lot of them!” quips Renee.
On the ground level below the garland? More fresh flowers.
“The entire understory was fresh flowers,” explains Renee. “In the white tubes, we dropped 13” white display buckets filled with water to hold the stems of fresh flowers.”
How long did it take?
Just like staging any large event, the bulk of the work is done in advance.
Volunteers work from PHS design team renderings, schematics and vision boards to execute the show theme each year. The design team invests a year creating the materials.
“Almost every day for several weeks one to five Valley Forge designers worked on the flower show designs while also working around our shop’s Valentine schedule,” explains Renee.
In addition to the Valley Forge staff, 25 volunteers worked about eight weeks, from January 1st to the end of flower show, to install the meadow and pods.
“There was still a big push at the end to get it done,” confides Renee.
The dried install, which included the garland and the meadow, took three days to execute on-site.
Flowers were the focus
Some years, blooming plants and plant materials have been the show focus. This year, fresh flowers were the focus of the entrance garden.
“14,000 fresh flowers and thousands of dried materials were used,” says Renee.
That number doesn’t include the thousands of flower stems replaced during daily fresh flower maintenance.
PHS hosted the World Cup!
This year, there was added excitement as PHS hosted the World Cup competition.
Twenty-three floral design champions from around the world exhibited true flower power as they competed in the FTD-Interflora-Fluerop World Cup. It’s the first time since 1985 the floral industry’s most prestigious design competition was held in the United States and the first time for the Philadelphia Flower Show.
Valley Forge Flowers
Based in Wayne, Pennsylvania, Valley Forge Flowers has executed the Philadelphia Flower Show entrance garden for 12 years.
Shop owner Barbara King enlists Renee as her special events coordinator to help manage staff and volunteers each year.
“I would be nowhere without the time and talents of my team. They are awesome,” says Renee.
Her favorite part of the show? “Hiding in the crowd as guests enter and seeing their reaction to what my team and I have accomplished is priceless.”
What inspiring ideas can you share with us for using basic mechanics to create impressive event designs in your floral business?