The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society welcomed spring 2023 by staging the Philadelphia Flower Show at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. The theme “Garden Electric” gave inspiration to growers and designers to stage a breathtaking display of plants and flowers.

Although it had been a few years since I had ventured into the judged design arena, my step- daughter, Betsy Richard, and I signed up for the last day of Artistic Class exhibits and entered The Galleria Class titled “Lit—a design inspired by a neon poster.” Galleria is an 8’ x 8’ space with a back wall going up to 10’. Each of four exhibitors was assigned a neon poster to interpret in the space.

Our poster, as you see below, was bright horizontal lines on a black background. Others you can see in the pictures below.

Inspiration 1 – Flower
My first inspiration was Gloriosa Zipang Sasayo! The color vibrates in golden yellow and moves to pink/red tones. When on its long stem it reaches a 4-4’ length. A flower design to me is always about the flowers.

Inspiration 2 – Technique
My second inspiration was to use iridescent paint on anthurium creating the “irithurium” a technique learned from Haus of Stems and Kristen Alpaugh. BUT the Philadelphia Flower Show does not allow painting of fresh flowers.

SO To stay within the rules of the show, we painted dried monstera leaves and wooded rods with iridescent paint. The iridescent paint worked better when a layer of flat acrylic paint was applied as an undercoat.

We built a horizontal structure with black painted rods attached to clear lucite poles. The poles were cemented into a black metal vase. Once the horizontal black rods were attached to the lucite, the colored painted rods were glued in three color groups, pink for the bottom, then blue with some green, and yellow at the very top. This mirrored the colors in the neon poster.

The vibrant gloriosa and iridescent leaves were used in each color group added to a flower that coordinated with the painted poles. Black dried materials and pink anthurium were used for the base, dried blue grasses for the middle sections (delphinium was too droopy to use), and craspedia for the top layer.

To support the flowers in water, small, rounded forms were sculpted from floral foam, dipped in pan glue so they would not leak when wet, and painted black with acrylic paint. This is a very usable mechanic for flower show when flowers look best floating and not grouped together in a vase. (In my book Flower Arranging Secrets, I recommend many eco-friendly design techniques, but for a flower show, using this small bit is how I am going to use up the floral foam in my workshop!)

A close up of the mechanic shows that the foam sphere held black painted sponge mushrooms, bright green dianthus ‘Green Trick” and a single orange pink/orange carnation (a color in the gloriosa) covered the sphere and allowed for fresh flower stems to be in water.

Here you can see the finished design with the poster in the space. We were awarded first place Blue Ribbon, the Best of the Day ribbon, and Best of the Week for the Galleria Class. Lots of honors.

Here are our ribbons, Blue for best of class, Blue and Gold for best of the day. The light blue ribbon is for “Class Commendation” which means that every design in the class scored over 95 points or could have been a blue ribbon winner. It is a great compliment to all of the designs in the class.

Second Place Award went to this fabulous interpretation of the Golden Gate Bridge. Judges Comment: “Amazing use of space which appropriately interprets the rhythm of the bridge”

Another Second Place Award. This is unusual but the judges felt that both designs were very strong. Judges Comment: “Phenomenal interpretation with clever addition of luminescent component. Design is slightly out of scale to space.”

And a fabulous Third Place Award. Judges Comment: “The striking color selection enhances the design. Placement of the midollino spiral interrupts the rhythm.”

Two happy flower arrangers. It was a wonderful joint project.