Less Flower Power

Folks mill about the main exhibit at the Philadelphia Flower Show March 5, 2013. ( DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer )

The bloom is somewhat off the rose at the venerable Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, founded in 1827.

As The Inquirer’s Virginia A. Smith reports  today, almost 17 percent of the staff was laid off this week.

PHS President Drew Becher has blamed much of the organization's woes on inaccurate weather forecasts that, he claims, battered ticket sales at the this year's Philadelphia Flower Show. The loss was $1.2 million, the amount the layoffs are projected to save.

But as I wrote in this column, an organization that is so financially dependent on one fundraising event in March — vulnerable to lousy weather forecasts or simply lousy winter weather — should plan for an alternative revenue source. Or several.

After all, PHS is run by gardeners. They know how weather can ruin the loveliest of intentions. If one plant dies, you pull it out, and plant a few more.

The article notes that in 2009, then PHS president Jane Pepper cut her salary to $190,000 during a previous deficit crisis. Becher’s salary is $248,506 (with benefits of $16,504), an increase of more than 30 percent during a time when the organization has seen a a drop in government, foundation and individual support. Several key personnel have also departed.

Here's hoping there are better, more bountiful days ahead for PHS and, to paraphrase Voltaire, leaderhship can cultivate its financial garden.

-- Karen Heller

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