Despite two nor'easters that brought not only snow but power losses and commuting nightmares to tens of thousands throughout the region, the Flower Show powered on, bringing tropical blooms to 250,000 visitors and raising about $1 million for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. The indoor respite from winter concluded Sunday just as the region prepared for yet another weather wallop.
"250,000 is what we averaged over the last few years, so we're happily surprised to have met that despite the two snowstorms," Kevin Feeley, communications manager for PHS, wrote in a text.
Flower Show officials have come to expect more than a few challenges each year, thanks to Mother Nature.
"If we held the show in July instead of March, it'll probably just snow then, too. Honestly we're used to it at this point," Sam Lemheney, chief of shows and events for PHS, said Sunday during a closing day that was complete with sun and prime conditions for the city's St. Patrick's Day Parade.
Inside the Convention Center, the Flower Show wound down "Wonders of Water," its nine-day spotlight on plants typically found in warmer, wetter conditions, and the importance of water conservation.
Despite an attendance drop on Wednesday, when the second nor'easter in five days shut down much of the city, along with the suburbs – although not the Flower Show – the event drew robust crowds over its final weekend. A region weary from days clearing driveways of snow and downed trees, and life without electricity and the gadgets it powers, seemed ready for a tropical escape.
The entrance garden, filled with 25-foot-tall palm trees, water lilies, and spectacular purple-and-red blossoms of New Guinea impatiens, drew "oohs" and "ahhs" from visitors as they walked through, cameras in hand.
"I feel like I'm in the Rainforest Cafe," one woman told her friend as they strolled across a suspended rope bridge.
To create such a sensation, lots of plants had to be coaxed into blooming in the dead of winter. Judging from visitor reactions, the hard work paid off.
"Wonderful," said JoAnn Carlin, who lives in Exton and visits the Flower Show every year. "They did a great job, and I thought the education aspect of the show was great, as well. I recently got into cacti and succulents, so I was able to gather a lot of info about that."
Nearly every exhibit contained a water feature this year, so containing all that liquid was, understandably, a huge priority for the staff. With thousands of gallons of water in the rainforest-themed entrance garden alone, that was no easy task.
"The rain curtain was a challenge because it was set up right under an air conditioning duct," Lemheney said. "So at first, it kept blowing water onto the visitors. They thought it was great. To them, it seemed like a part of the rainforest."
Besides that minor hiccup, the show ran smoothly, for the most part, said Lemheney, calling this year's Flower Show the most educational.
"My goal was for people to learn something they didn't know before as they walked through the displays," he said. "I'm glad we were able to achieve that."
In what many would contend is long overdue, next year's theme is "Flower Power" – its focus the role flowers can play in bringing people together in healing, celebration, peace, and community. The show is planned for March 2 to 10.
Lemheney said that the theme is a nod to the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, but that the show itself will not feature a 1960s theme. The event will also host the Florists' Transworld Delivery's World Cup, the most prestigious floral-design competition. Lemheney said he expects 25 to 30 designers from around the world to compete.