Mar 1, 2024 - News

These exhibitors really are "United by Flowers"

Visitors at the Philadelphia Flower Show.

The Flower Show is always a spectacle to behold. Photo: Courtesy of Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

Behind the plants and petals are quirky and triumphant origin stories for exhibitors of the 2024 Philadelphia Flower Show.

Why it matters: Hundreds of thousands of visitors flock to the iconic event, which starts Saturday at the Pennsylvania Convention Center and runs through March 10.

Behind the scenes: Axios got a sneak peek ahead of the opening of the Flower Show and spoke with three exhibitors, including two first-time participants.

  • Their stories resonate with this year's theme, "United by Flowers."

Tanesha Sample runs Tissarose Florist, a nod to two of her greatest loves — flowers and her late mother.

  • Sample, born and raised in West Philadelphia, worked as a cosmetologist before opening the shop. She always sought refuge in flowers, a form of "therapy" that helped her through the grief of losing her mother.
  • Sample's first solo exhibit, "The Need for Ceremony," is a commentary on the dinner table, a place of gathering where people share meals, celebrate holidays and broker important agreements.

Zoom in: Her own fondest memories around the table are of her husband's 30th birthday and her daughter running inside clutching a college admittance letter.

Flashback: Sample attended her first Flower Show more than a decade ago and now is in it.

  • "I'm actually walking by faith," she tells Axios. "It's like a full-circle moment."
A rendering of Kelly Norris' "A Beautiful Disturbance."
A rendering of Kelly Norris' exhibit. Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

Renowned horticulturalist and best-selling author Kelly Norris' exploits have taken him around the world, but never before to the Flower Show.

  • His exhibit, "A Beautiful Disturbance," gets people thinking about the imprints they leave on their world. It reimagines an abandoned urban lot as a wondrous landscape and community hub.

Between the plants: Interspersed throughout the exhibit are rusted materials, massive concrete blocks and plants from different regions, including the Southwestern yucca and the common mullein, a towering plant bearing yellow flowers found in Norris' native Iowa.

  • Norris began gardening with his grandmother at age 4, then at 15 convinced his farmer parents to buy a nursery.

What they're saying: "You can decide at that point who is crazier — me or my parents?" Norris tells Axios.

  • He turned his passion into a prosperous career, all because his parents leaned into his "cockamamie" plan.
  • "A boy from a town of 1,500 people and a high-school graduating class of 52 had the chance to see the world with and through plants," he says.
A family takes a selfie at the Flower Show.
Selfie time! Photo: Courtesy of Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

Valerie Crisostomo founded Black Girl Florists in 2020 amid a racial reckoning following the murder of George Floyd.

Flash forward: Black Girl Florists debuted at last year's Flower Show and has quickly become one of its most powerful voices, winning the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's Gardening for the Greater Good Award in 2023.

  • Their exhibit this year is of a hair salon, something Crisostomo says has special meaning for Black women.
  • "We're trying to make our exhibit as Black as possible — Black mannequins, the Black experience, Black hairstyle," she says. "It's something you're going to know, that Black people made this exhibit."

If you go: Open daily 10am-8pm at the ​​Philadelphia Convention Center. Closes at 6pm on March 10.

  • Tickets: $49.99 for adults, $35 for students, $25 for kids.
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