A Coronavirus And Philadelphia Flower Show Story

These are tough times. I’ll mention but three of many calamitous situations: War, raging in Syria and Yemen, has displaced millions of people from their homes and homelands. Ocean levels are on the rise as a result of melting Arctic and Antarctic glaciers and ice shelves. And coronavirus, emerging like a demon from a dark, dark corner, is throwing mankind into a tailspin. The virus is the story, so far anyway, of 2020.

Most of us might be fortunate and not contract coronavirus. But how can we not pay attention to it and worry about it? We can’t. As I began to compose this essay on March 11, I relived the conversations I’d had with the ten relatives and friends that I’d spent time with in the six days before that date. Coronavirus was, and remains, heavy on their minds. And on mine too. How far will this renegade spread? Just how deadly might it become? Will an effective vaccine or other treatment be developed, and if so, when? Will coronavirus mutate into other strains that will raise the human condition’s havoc level to even higher heights?

Before March 11, the virus hadn’t infiltrated my region too much (I live near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA), or so it was thought. How quickly things have changed since then, though. As of this article’s publication date (March 16), there are many confirmed cases of coronavirus in Pennsylvania. And, as we all know, numerous national and local governments, worldwide, have increased restrictions on travel, and have ordered schools and certain businesses and other organizations to close until further notice (this is true for my region). Much of the same has occurred via voluntary restrictions and closures too.

As a result, over the last few days my wife Sandy and I have made big adjustments in regard to what we do and don’t do. So, it’s sobering to think that until recently pretty much everyone around here was living life fairly normally — the population was aware of the virus, but was only starting to act cautiously. Sandy and I certainly weren’t exercising a whole lot of caution when, on March 6, we boarded a train in our suburban town and rode it into the heart of central Philadelphia. A short walk away was the Pennsylvania Convention Center, a huge-as-hell structure that for nine days this month was home to the Philadelphia Flower Show. We bought tickets for the show at one of the Center’s box offices and entered the exhibition hall.

The Philadelphia Flower Show is an annual, world-famous event. It began modestly in 1829 as a project of the Philadelphia Horticultural Society and has become, by far, PHS’s most noted endeavor. Millions of people have taken it in over the years. Now, I’ve lived in or near Philadelphia since the mid-1970s and have been aware of the Flower Show all of that time. But I didn’t give a shit about it, and never went. Until a few years ago, that is. “What the hell, let’s go to the Flower Show,” I said to Sandy in 2016, and we did. We liked it. We returned in 2018, took 2019 off, and decided two weeks ago not to extend that non-attendance streak to two consecutive years.

One of the reasons that I didn’t give a shit about the Flower Show is that I wasn’t keen on looking at exhibit after exhibit of flowers. If I had investigated what the show really is about, though, I’d have discovered that it features all sorts of flora, not just flowers, and often replicates natural and man-made landscapes and waterscapes too. Hell, I’m down with all of that, so I should have given the Flower Show a shot way before I eventually did. I don’t live and learn all that often, but in this case it happened.

Almost needless to say, I found the 2020 version of the show to be absolutely a-ok. As did Sandy. Each year the Flower Show is centered around a theme, and this year’s was Riviera Holiday. Meaning, displays inspired by Mediterranean life in Spain, France, Monaco and Italy took up much of the hall (horticultural-competition areas and booths selling this, that and the other thing grabbed the rest of the floor space).

The themed section, filled with movie-set-like constructions, was where I spent most of my time. The gardens, some formal, some not, were lovely. As was a villa, and a modest cottage beside which a motor scooter was stationed, and the whimsical, color-drenched representations of Italian fishermen’s houses.

I dug the recreation of the Princess Grace Rose Garden. The original garden is in Monaco, the itsy-bitsy nation where, in 1956, the actress Grace Kelly became a princess by marrying Monaco’s Prince Rainier. A mannequin, clothed in a copy of Kelly’s wedding gown, stood in the garden. Grace, I’m sure, would have approved of the tribute.

Yes, the Flower Show had atmosphere. It brought me back to 1977, the only time I was on the Mediterranean coast. I spent six weeks in Europe in the spring of that year, travelling solo, before returning to a job in Philadelphia that I foolishly had quit two years before. One of those weeks was passed in southern France and in Monaco. A very good week it was. And the Flower Show gave me the urge to return, this time with Sandy. But the coronavirus situation will have to be under control before we step onto a plane. And who knows when that will be?

The crowds at the Flower Show on the day we attended were noticeably smaller than those we encountered in 2016 and 2018. One of our friends, a Flower Show aficionado, went twice this year. She told Sandy that attendance was less than usual on the days she visited too. Part of the shrinkage was due I’m sure to the hefty ticket price increases that PHS instituted in 2020. But the main factor, I’m also sure, was the threat of coronavirus posed by being in crowds.

That threat was understood on March 6 in my area, but nowhere near as well as it is understood today. That’s why the Philadelphia Flower Show was lucky, in a sense, that it was able to complete its run (last week, government mandates in Philadelphia and throughout Pennsylvania banned large events such as the Flower Show.) On the other hand, it’s more than possible that some amount of virus transmission took place at the show. And that truly sucks.

Coronavirus ain’t playing. It already has killed thousands. And its course is unpredictable. Hang on tight as best you can, girls and boys.

(Please don’t be shy about adding your comments. And if you’re in the mood for sharing this article, go for it! I thank you.)

(The photos, duh, are from the 2020 Philadelphia Flower Show. If you click on any photo, a larger image will open.)

117 thoughts on “A Coronavirus And Philadelphia Flower Show Story

  1. eden baylee March 16, 2020 / 11:02 pm

    Timing is everything. The Flower Show was lucky to complete its run. You and everyone else were lucky to see it. Things are changing quickly with Covid-19. We have to adapt – and do what is good for the public good.

    Stay safe and take care of yourself.


    Liked by 1 person

  2. dfolstad58 March 16, 2020 / 11:12 pm

    The show looks kinda neat but I suspect you disapprove of the event in hind sight.

    Reading first hand accounts from Spain and Copenhagen those countries are wishing they had taken the virus seriously much quicker because in one week it became uncontrollable.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Laurie Graves March 16, 2020 / 11:16 pm

    That flower show looks fabulous, but what a time we are living in. Stay safe, be well!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. saucysandpiper March 16, 2020 / 11:40 pm

    “A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.” – Goethe

    Liked by 1 person

  5. tanjabrittonwriter March 17, 2020 / 1:16 am

    You are right, Neil, these are tough, trying times. We are being pushed to the edge, and this new situation shows us how little we are prepared for calamities. I sincerely hope that life for humans will return to some degree of “normalcy” after coronavirus.
    I wish you and Sandy the best. Stay healthy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 17, 2020 / 1:10 pm

      Thanks, Tanja. All the best to you and your family too.

      “I sincerely hope that life for humans will return to some degree of “normalcy” after coronavirus.” — I’m with you on that.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Alyson March 17, 2020 / 2:25 am

    This time last week we were living our lives as normal – All that has now changed. We’ve been blindsided by an invisible enemy.

    Glad you enjoyed the Flower Show as there won’t be much to go and see for quite some time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 17, 2020 / 1:12 pm

      Hi. Yes, pretty much everything has been closed, cancelled or suspended. This is the strangest of times.


    • Rivergirl March 19, 2020 / 4:02 pm

      How wonderful… I would have enjoyed that show immensely. Maybe the joy of beautiful living things will sustain you and your wife while we all struggle with this new threat.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Lynette d'Arty-Cross March 17, 2020 / 2:26 am

    If there’s anything at all good about this virus, it’s that world-wide pollution levels are dropping rapidly. Maybe this virus is the Earth’s way of making us slow down, and as we know, Mother Earth can be a tough teacher.

    Liked by 2 people

      • Lynette d'Arty-Cross March 17, 2020 / 3:51 pm

        It will end; we just don’t know when. And I have every confidence that we will move forward. Maybe things will be a lot different, but we will eventually accept that too.

        All the best to you. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Paddy Tobin March 17, 2020 / 5:33 am

    I am aware of the Philadelphia Show but, perhaps obviously, haven’t visited. I’d certainly enjoy a visit and your report makes it even more attractive. Stay safe, stay indoors! All the best.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Paddy Tobin March 17, 2020 / 3:32 pm

        I read a notice today that the Chelsea Flower Show, and other similar shows in the UK, are cancelled for this season. Somebody posted a set of shots from our local town this afternoon and it is almost completely deserted. Everybody is staying at home. I’ll drink a glass of whiskey later for the day that’s in it.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Sheree March 17, 2020 / 6:48 am

    The flower show is on my bucket list having seen a programme about it earlier in the year. However, as we’re in lock-down in the south of France, I’ll be indulging in some virtual travel for the time being.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. sloppy buddhist March 17, 2020 / 8:15 am

    🌷☺️🙋‍♀️ our flower show has been cancelled here in Alberta…we too are in lockdown mode…make more art! Stay strong Neil and Sandy ☺️~ smiles Hedy

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Cindy Bruchman March 17, 2020 / 8:32 am

    I ♥ botanical gardens and flower shows. Your pictures were beautiful. Yeah, earlier in the month we all were going about our businesses. I flew. My daughter took my granddaughters to Disney Land. Now, schools are closed and we hide indoors except to walk the dog. I hope you stay safe, clean and calm.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 17, 2020 / 1:19 pm

      “I hope you stay safe, clean and calm.”

      Hi there, and thanks. I wish you and yours the same.


  12. joyce hamilton March 17, 2020 / 9:10 am

    Love your pictures as usual and description of flower show! Keep safe!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Debra March 17, 2020 / 9:23 am

    Although I don’t attend anymore, I was glad the Flower Show was able to go on this year and you and Sandy could enjoy it. Maybe the only positive from climate change is that we have an earlier spring.The trees are really in full bloom already. We need as much beauty in our lives as possible right now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 17, 2020 / 1:22 pm

      I saw a few trees in flower about a week ago. That’s at least two or three weeks earlier than usual.


  14. Ally Bean March 17, 2020 / 10:42 am

    I enjoy going to flower shows, so your photos make me smile. I don’t know that I could ever grow those flowers, but it’s fun to pretend that I could if only for a few minutes while wandering around a show. Interesting observations about attendance.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. dugoutdiscs March 17, 2020 / 10:43 am

    Great post! I went to the Hampton Court Flower Show here in the UK for the first time last year and really dug it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 17, 2020 / 1:25 pm

      I guess that flower/horticultural shows take place all over the world. After all, what’s not to like?


  16. Jacqui Murray March 17, 2020 / 10:44 am

    That carefree time of attending gorgeous flower shows does seem long ago. Things could be so much worse but I so miss what we used to have.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Anonymous March 17, 2020 / 11:09 am

    I know what you mean. On March 6 I was in New York at the NY Antiquarian Book Fair. Things have changed very quickly since then, and I’ve mostly been self-isolated.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Des March 17, 2020 / 11:25 am

    Neil, I enjoyed looking at the full-sized photos. The Flower Show shots were amazing, obviously much more than floral arrangements. Glad you two were able to go and enjoy yourselves this year.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. tylerus March 17, 2020 / 12:39 pm

    Lovely blooms . . . one of the many things we often take for granted. May life get better / return to “normal” so that we may once again enjoy flowers, grass, clouds, the moon and sun. Maybe we’ll learn something and maybe we’l actually thank Nature for all the [wonderful] things in life that, yes, we often take for granted. Stay safe and healthy, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. gypsysoulsun March 17, 2020 / 1:34 pm

    I am not particularly green thumbed. Thankfully for the kid and creatures, I seem to be more talented at keeping humans and animals alive. But I can appreciate and admire the breathtaking beauty of a flower show. The skill and thought and all other things having to do with dirt, temperature, sun and water I know nothing of. We live close to Epcot in Florida and have been to the flower and garden show there several times. It is really a special treat. Thanks for the photos and best of luck hunkering down.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Ann Coleman March 17, 2020 / 3:07 pm

    Thanks for sharing the photos of the flower show! Since we’re going to be limited to traveling in our imaginations for a while, I especially appreciate it when people post photos of beautiful places. We all need a little cheering up these days.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. talebender March 17, 2020 / 3:40 pm

    Flyers, Phillies, and flowers…..all done now because of the virus! Glad you got to see the show before the reality really struck home for all of us.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. FuzzYdicE March 17, 2020 / 5:11 pm

    Scary times. You did a great job covering it. But there are opportunities here.

    I wrote about them recently. Got to make the most out of what we are dealt. Everything has trade offs, some more immediate.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Anabel @ The Glasgow Gallivanter March 17, 2020 / 5:41 pm

    Things have really escalated here in the last week. Everything we were planning is cancelled – but if isolating ourselves what it takes to get through it, that’s what we’ll all have to do. Thank goodness for all you virtual friends!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. andrewcferguson March 17, 2020 / 7:01 pm

    When all this local inconvenience is over, Neil, we need to meet up in Spain. Forget pale French and Italian imitations – Espana’s the real deal! Maybe the south, Seville and Cordoba, for an introduction, although northern cities like Salamanca and Leon are fantastic too.

    Meantime stay safe and keep entertaining us with your posts.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Cristina Crawford March 17, 2020 / 7:13 pm

    Stay well…this too shall pass…right?! Until then, thank goodness for good wine, coffee…and best of all, the internet so most of us can still be virtually connected. 🍷🙏🥰

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 17, 2020 / 8:02 pm

      Evening, Cristina. Yeah, in crazy days like these, we have to try and find enjoyment. I’m already looking forward to tomorrow morning’s coffee. See ya!


  27. JT Twissel March 17, 2020 / 9:14 pm

    I agree, there are many horrible things happening in the world right now. We complain about being asked to remain isolated when many refugees would die for that option. A flower show seems a wonderful escape into another world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 17, 2020 / 10:04 pm

      It was a good show. The amount of work involved in organizing it had to have been incredibly immense.


  28. LTodd March 17, 2020 / 9:18 pm

    Nice to see so much color. Thanks for sharing your photos.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Cindy March 17, 2020 / 9:51 pm

    My only consolation for this dreadful but necessary self-quarantine is imagining how much worse it would be without our houseful of books to read. Oh–and Netflix, too! Hang in there, you two…

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Fictionophile March 18, 2020 / 8:34 am

    Great post Neil. It is true that we are living in a scary world right now. I worry about how it will impact everyone, and most especially my son, daughter, and grandson…

    Liked by 1 person

  31. ellie894 March 18, 2020 / 10:42 am

    The Philadelphia Flower Show looks to be quite an amazing event. I’m inspired and wish there was something like it near me. I’ll have to do some research.

    On a more serious note, You and Sandy stay well and safe,


    Liked by 1 person

  32. alhenry March 18, 2020 / 11:47 am

    Well, at least you risked your life for something noble and beautiful, Neil. I risked mine running around to a dozen retail outlets last week, searching for toilet paper because corona-virus pandemonium had caused shoppers to load their carts with dozens of 12-roll packs, leaving the shelves…empty. I’ll put in a plug for CVS here because they were the only store to limit customers to two packages of any paper product–a very smart and fair policy–and that is where my quest succeeded. I have accepted that I will have to celebrate my upcoming b-day without the usual cake-and-champagne gathering of the neighbors, but really, like all of us, all I want is another year, another decade, more life. Take care. Stay well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 18, 2020 / 1:18 pm

      Yeah, two days ago I was at the huge supermarket near my house. Zero toilet paper and paper towels. Zero eggs. Very little sliced cheese. Etc.

      All we can do is hang in there and hope for the best. Very, very strange days.

      Liked by 1 person

  33. Isabelle March 18, 2020 / 5:26 pm

    I love the “Riviera Holiday” theme and I’d love to wander around and take good time to explore the flowers, plants and Mediterranean life. Like many other European countries, Norway is on a lockdown. The impact the strict measures on the society and economy is evident. How long it will last, no one knows. Please take care and stay safe.
    – Isabelle

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 18, 2020 / 7:34 pm

      Thanks for your input, Isabelle. The USA is pretty much in a lockdown too. Certain stores are open here, but many are not. My wife and I went out today to a large store called Target, looking for toilet paper. Much to our surprise, we found some there.

      Liked by 1 person

  34. Mellow Curmudgeon March 18, 2020 / 8:06 pm

    The justly famous Philadelphia Flower Show got in just before the door closed, and U covered it beautifully.

    In my own small way, I also got in just before the door closed.  Shopped on Monday, got most of what I wanted, and ate out.  (Restaurants are restricted to delivery and takeout now.)  My yard hosted its own small flower show today, just before predicted rain and warmth will probably end the crocus season. It was a consolation to see plants and critters that do their thing w/o fretting about feckless “leaders” who exacerbated the COVID-19 disaster.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 18, 2020 / 9:42 pm

      Hi there. It’s good that you had a normal restaurant meal this week, because it might be ages before life returns to normal. We’re all part of a sci fi movie right now.

      Liked by 1 person

  35. Robert Parker March 18, 2020 / 10:52 pm

    I can’t believe how much stuff they built and planted for a temporary show, it looks like a full-sized tree behind the fairy girl balancing something on her forehead. Wow. It actually looks pretty great, nice flowers & cacti, etc. and a nice break from the gray/brown/beige routine around here. Working from home, but getting out to take walks along the river, and looking forward to seeing some green. Nice photos, Neil, I’d go to this event now that I’ve seen them. Stay well, zei gezunt.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 19, 2020 / 7:17 am

      I’m glad that your job can be done from home. I wonder what percent of the work force is doing that.

      It’s important I think to get out of the house. River walks are a perfect activity.

      All the best.

      Liked by 1 person

  36. carolinehelbig March 18, 2020 / 11:54 pm

    We need some pretty flowers in our lives right now. Nice post! All the best to you and Sandy.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. George March 19, 2020 / 1:26 am

    Glad you got to visit an inspiring exhibition before the lockdown kicked in. Let’s hope we can all stay sane now and come out of this with health and jobs in tact.

    Liked by 1 person

  38. Bryntin March 19, 2020 / 3:51 pm

    Hello, I’m not commenting on your post exactly, just letting you know I visited here – and so might others who hadn’t before now – on my latest BLT (Blog Leap Tour). You may see a pingback link if you want to see how it went.
    Anyway, sorry to intrude.
    Carry on… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  39. johnlmalone March 19, 2020 / 4:29 pm

    an entertaining and frightening post, Neil. Of course, things are at a similar stage in Oz. And it wears one down continually hearing about it. Flowers — and sandals — brighten anyone’s day :)keep well, Neil; good to hear from you

    Liked by 1 person

  40. selizabryangmailcom March 20, 2020 / 4:19 pm

    I love the make-up Italian fishermen’s houses too. Such creativity!

    My mother LOVED flowers and my father would stoically go with her to shows and whatnot. As long as he had a stogie to smoke outside, I think he was good.

    Good health to you and yours, Neil!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 20, 2020 / 6:09 pm

      Thanks, Stacey. I wish you the same.

      The fishermen’s houses might have been my favorite exhibit at the show. I gave them a good looking over.

      Liked by 1 person

      • cincinnatibabyhead March 20, 2020 / 7:59 pm

        The new biz so we can all get back to the old biz.
        I think you might have cracked the ‘Common Sense’ book. Lets get the word out on that one.
        Later fella.

        Liked by 1 person

  41. America On Coffee March 22, 2020 / 2:19 am

    Good strong and faithful story Neil. I suppose the flower show reoriented a bloom of health. Stay safe! 💕☕️☕️

    Liked by 1 person

  42. cath March 23, 2020 / 12:34 pm

    What a beautiful event. I’m fascinated by the woman balancing a blue flower on her nose – is she a butterfly?

    Liked by 1 person

  43. K E Garland March 24, 2020 / 6:17 pm

    The Flower Show does sound a bit boring. Maybe they could work on the name a little. The photos are very nice though, and I have to reiterate, they don’t reflect the name very well lol

    As far as corona is concerned, I hope you and Sandy are as safe as possible. I know how much you like to walk Neil, so I’m also hoping that’s been curtailed to some degree ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger March 24, 2020 / 8:06 pm

      Evening, Kathy. For health reasons, I’ve been walking more than ever for the last few months. Supposedly, it’s ok to be outside these days, as long as you keep plenty of space between yourself and others.

      All the best to you and your family.

      Liked by 1 person

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