This Week's Podcast: The Greatest (Garden) Show on Earth -- Sam Lemheney
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This week’s guest couldn’t be timelier. It’s Sam Lemheney, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Chief of Shows & Events. He oversees the planning and creation of the PHS Philadelphia Flower Show, the largest flower show in the U.S. The expected attendance over the nine days of the show is 250,000 visitors. If you’ve never gone, put it on your bucket list. But don’t imagine a gentle, understated affair – it’s an extravaganza, which is why visitors come from all over and comprise amateurs and non-gardeners all the way to professional floral designers and horticulturists.
Sam’s experience gives an idea of the scale and character of the production. He began his career at the Walt Disney World Company as an intern at the Land Horticulture Science Program in 1989. He received a B.S. in Plant Science from the University of Delaware in 1991 and began his full time career at Disney in June of that year, eventually becoming the Area Manager of the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. He came to PHS in 2003.
The theme of the 2016 Philadelphia Flower Show will celebrate the centennial of the National Park Service and our country’s majestic natural landscapes, rich history and vibrant culture. From March 5 to 13, 2016, the Pennsylvania Convention Center will come alive with “Explore America.” Visitors will see dozens of displays inspired by iconic natural and historical places like Acadia, Cape Cod, Valley Forge, Shenandoah, Yellowstone and Yosemite National Park.
Started in 1829 by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, the Show introduces the newest plant varieties, garden and design concepts, and organic and sustainable practices. In addition to the major garden displays, the Flower Show hosts world-renowned competitions in horticulture and artistic floral arranging, gardening presentations and demonstrations, special events and a mammoth indoor Marketplace. (below, the main exhibit from 1935)
My favorite part of the show is the “Horticort,” where amateurs exhibit individual plants that they have grown in greenhouses, under lights or on windowsills. These are the most perfect examples of their species and varieties. Everyone hopes to get an award, and best of all – the blue ribbon in their “class” – categories from orchids to succulents to forced bulbs and more. (right, blue ribbon cactus from 2011)
I have to say that I ask Sam some questions he doesn’t always get. For example, how are judges chosen? How are thy prepared for their tasks? Sam himself is a judge for flower shows in Singapore, Japan and South Korea, and has judged the floats at the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California.
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