SHEFFIELD, Mass. — The idea came to us a few months ago when my friend and I, on yet another snow day, were sitting at her kitchen table watching our collective of children sliding down a giant snow pile. They were laughing, we were not.
"This just sucks," I said, shaking my head at the endless winter, sipping at my fourth cup of coffee.
"I need to get my hands in the dirt soon," she said. "Wanna look at some garden magazines?"
She commenced to chop avocados and tomatoes (for quesadillas) and I thumbed through the various varieties of perennials and new hybrid vegetables, the equivalent of porn for us gardeners who haven't smelled dirt for months.
"I really need to see some green," I nearly cried.
"Me, too," she said.
That's when we decided to take a road trip to the flower show in Philadelphia, one of the largest exhibitions in the world.
This year's theme, "Springtime in Paris" lived up to the promise of its title. The exhibitions ran the gamut of styles from modern Paris "Metro" floral creations set against concrete to entire sprawling park gardens laden with black tulips, ferns and, of course, a fountain.
The Philadelphia Convention center was transformed into vignettes of flowers and ideas, each representing the different horticultural and architectural faces of Paris itself, including the Eiffel Tower (a reconstructed base complete with lights and a maze of "steel" girders).
Unlike fashion week in New York City, determining the "style" of the show was difficult. There is the obvious French connection, but beyond that each creation stood on its own and within its own sense of flower and color balance. What we did notice, although I am hesitant to call it a theme or a trend, is that the star of the show was most definitely pink. Dark fuchsia astilbes shared the stage with delicate, baby pink "Lady Jane" tulips as well as the traditional comfort of vintage pink roses and the trendy pop of the hydrangea.
Of course, there was plenty of room for yellows and purples and textural greens as well. Fern-heavy displays used the leaf both for its textural integrity as well as its many varieties of green hues. Even the black-eyed Susan, the country bumpkin of perennial plantings, complemented the more sophisticated foliage of pink choral bells and, believe it or not, traditional fuchsia zinnias (an annual plant, mind you) with the standard bright yellow center.
It was a feast for these snow-weary eyes.
In addition to the impressive vignettes of Parisian parks, carousel animals, estate gardens and Victorian ballrooms, individual varieties stood on their own as judges place ribbon after ribbon on many of the hard-worked perennials including orchids, tulips, cacti and salvias to name a few.
"I don't want to leave but my feet are killing me," my friend said at 9:20 on Saturday night, just 10 minutes before the show closed its doors for the evening.
"I don't want to leave the smell," I said, breathing in deeply the sweet scent of hyacinths and wet mulch. "Do you think it'll be a little warmer when we get home?"
She just shook her head and gave a half smile as we both looked out over the city, marveling that it was 60 degrees and that one of us would have the makings of a sunburn when we got home.
"We're going to have to put these lily bulbs in sawdust for a few more weeks," she said, lifting a healthy bulb out of a plastic bag.
I just shook my head and breathed in the smell of dirt that was in the bag, imagining the day when I could plant these gorgeous creatures in the unfrozen ground.