Here comes the Show!

Here comes the Philadelphia Flower Show (, that is. Running from February 29 to March 8, Riviera Holiday will be my 40th Show. It should represent my 41st, but Jupiter Niveus and his wintry blasts in 2015 broke my uninterrupted streak that began in 1980.

Before I go on, allow me to offer a suggestion to any green-thumber out there: GO TO A PHILADELPHIA FLOWER SHOW. If you can’t attend this one, start making plans for next year’s spectacle. It’s a bucket-lister, without question. You’ll thank me.

As far as I’m concerned, the beating heart of the Show is the area known as the Horticourt. That’s where hundreds of enthusiasts like me enter (or help to enter) thousands of plants, mostly in pots, in the hopes of winning a shiny piece of satin ribbon or perhaps bigger awards. It’s also where, on average, 250,000 Show visitors can admire all those plants in their prime.

I first made entries in 1990, and by the 2012 Show I had made hundreds of entries. Some day I’ll count all of those entry cards and ribbons, every one of which I have lying around my house in various spots. From 2013 to 2018, I made no entries, but I kept the metaphorical fires burning by serving as a judge of cacti and other succulents (except for that dang 2015). Last year, no longer bound by my teaching calendar (retirement does offer its own special benefits), I decided to make a few entries; you can check out the post on this website for more info about that.

In recognition of my 40th anniversary, so to speak, I’m hoping to make at least 40 entries over the course of the three entry/judging days. Of course it takes more than simply hopin’ and wishin’ to get those entries into the Show, and that brings us to the picture at the top of this post. A few hours ago I plugged in the new light setup in my basement, and some of my potential entries are now basking in 18-hour high light and 80 degrees. Well, just below the lights it’s that balmy; the air temperature drops down to 60 degrees or so near the table. If all goes according to plan and many ducks line up in a row over the next four weeks, the Gasteria seedlings (all hybrids made by yours truly), Sinningia leucotricha (an African violet relative and a favorite that has served me well in competition), Erythronium ‘Pagoda’ (a gorgeous hybrid trout lily), and Massonia pustulata (an unusual but beautiful South African bulbous species) will all burst forth from their current near-dormant state and be in seductive bloom for the judges and Show visitors.

We’ll see.