Art, horticulture graft together for Philadelphia Flower Show
By Meghan Ross
“I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers,” Claude Monet once said.
This year, the Philadelphia Flower Show has taken a cue from Monet. From March 1 through March 9, attendees will see variations on the theme: “ARTiculture” — merging art and horticulture.
“The past few years or so, we’ve been sort of place-based,” said Alan Jaffe, director of communications for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. “The shows have taken guests to Ireland, to London, Hawaii. So this time we wanted to have a more universal theme. … Gardens, flowers, plants and landscapes have always inspired artists, and in turn, now we are having our flower show exhibitors getting inspired by partnerships with museums that are looking at the great art of the world.”
One of these partnerships blossomed between Stoney Bank Nurseries and Brandywine River Museum of Art. Vice president of the Glen Mills nursery Joseph Blandy said they dug into the museum’s Wyeth collection to find inspiration for their exhibit.
“We had hoped that they would [pair us] since they’re very close to us,” Blandy said. “But that’s not the real reason. We specialize in a lot of native landscapes, and we’ve done a lot of woodland gardens, so with the Brandywine River Museum and their program with conserving natural lands in the Brandywine Valley, it seemed like a perfect fit.”
The Brandywine River Museum of Art is famous for its collection of three generations of Wyeth artwork and the family’s depictions of the Brandywine River Valley.
Those familiar with Wyeth paintings will recognize the iconic sycamore trees often represented in the Wyeths’ work within the nursery’s exhibit. The nursery foraged for an old sycamore stump, which will be placed in the exhibit with branches suspended in the air to give the illusion of looking through a canopy.
Views through a window to an open field, as in Andrew Wyeth’s painting “Wind from the Sea,” have also inspired the nursery’s exhibit.
In one corner, there will be a rustic, abandoned art studio loosely inspired by Andrew and N.C. Wyeth’s own studios. Broken-down walls of the studio and a window will provide a view from the inside out, onto an open meadow decorated with a wooden wagon.
And nestled in the studio will be four high-quality reproductions of Wyeth paintings, on loan from the museum. The studio will also feature some old cigar boxes — a nod to Andrew Wyeth, who stored his paints in cigar boxes.
A gurgling, slow-flowing tributary of the Brandywine River will lend movement and sound to the exhibit. And along the tributary will be mostly native woodland plants: ferns, evergreens, grasses, sedges and azaleas for a pop of color.
“We’re trying to create a real, lush natural setting one might find if deer hadn’t ripped through it,” Blandy said.