Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
March, 2008
Regional Report

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This piano waterfall and fountain of brass instruments won Best in Show for Landscape at the Philadelphia Flower Show.

New Orleans Swings Into Philadelphia

I had given in to my aching feet. Time to leave, they pleaded, taking me to the Philadelphia Flower Show exit. Wait, what's that sound? Trumpets, trombones, a tuba, and saxophones heading my way! A whirling Mardi Gras chanteuse in purple draped with a red boa handed me purple beads. A dancing swirl of sparkling gold, green, fuschia, and peach -- oh, it was a man not a woman -- offered a string of silver beads. Those twinkling strands slid over my head and around my neck to join emerald green and round purple pretties acquired once-upon-a-visit to New Orleans.

Tired feet forgotten, I pivoted. Then hustled to stay ahead of the UCC Royal Brass Band as those quick-stepping young folks played and marched their way to the French Quarter's Legend stage. I really wish you could have heard and seen them.

"Jazz It Up" was this year's flower show theme -- from glitz to Rhythm Rooms to a fountain of brass horns to faux alligators in misty bayous. And the flowers? What else but tropicals galore! Orange bromeliads with cream-variegated foliage, chartreuse elephant ears, pink ginger flower plumes, serpentine pink-orange birds of paradise, multicolor coleus, a rainbow of ornamental lilies. All this after entering under an arch of floating piano keys surrounding an oversized, orchid-stringed viola.

Just beyond, elegant urns brimming with bromeliads, yellow primroses, and asparagus ferns accented nooks in the stylish French Quarter. Overhead, greenery tipped with white and yellow flowers cascaded from balcony window boxes. Deep among the exhibits in whimsical Dixieland contrast, Irwin Landscaping featured a lush bayou with three mossy, ivy-covered alligator topiaries with blue, orange, and yellow pansy chests, playing trombone, sax, and trumpet for their tiara-topped turtle friend.

For clever recycling at its artistic best, Lee-Lynne's Music Repair Shop, with its piano waterfall and fountain of brass instruments, got my thumbs up. The shiny cluster of trombones and saxophones propped tall atop trumpets sprayed a glistening fan of water, just so high. They're cast-offs -- worn, unusable school instruments -- explained designer and creator Leo Lorenz. A friend was throwing out the piano so Lorenz, his friends, and a landscaping crew installed some plumbing: Viola! A showstopping water feature.

"I trash-picked the front and back doors. A neighbor gave me the roof. A client loaned me the shutters. Fairmont Salvage for fixtures. It was like a scavenger hunt, getting all this fun stuff," said Lorenz. "For a small contractor like myself, being awarded Best In Show for Landscape is like the Olympics."

At the exhibit Springtime in the Wetlands, young Alex Dobry darted in and out of the Williamson Trade School's straw-bale Kid's Observation Blind. "We've been coming to the flower show ever since he was born and in a stroller," said his mother, Faith. "It's become a tradition. Now he's taking his own pictures." They have a garden at their Hamilton, New Jersey home. Quickly moving his arms, hands, and fingers, Alex demonstrated his favorite gardening technique: "I like it when we grow tomatoes. I like picking them."

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