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This past March, the Philadelphia Convention Center was in full bloom as it hosted the 2020 Philadelphia Flower Show. Started in 1829, this annual event attracts more than 250,000 flower enthusiasts who enjoy massive, themed displays created by floral artisans at the top of their careers.
Bill Schaffer, AIFD, AAF, PFCI, has been exhibiting at the Philadelphia Flower Show for 20 years, 14 of which have been with Kristine Kratt, AIFD, PFCI, his partner at Schaffer Designs, a Philadelphia-based floral design studio.
This year, Schaffer Designs’ exhibit, “Le strade delle Cinque Terre,” took home the Flower Show’s top prize, Best in Show, as well as five other awards. Those awards were: The Philadelphia Horticultural Society (PHS) Gold Medal; the Special Achievement Award of the Garden Club Federation of Pennsylvania; The Emile H. Geschick Award for distinctive orchid display; The Phyllis M. Craig Award for the best use of color in flowering plants; and The PHS Gardening for the Greater Good award honoring the exhibit that best exemplifies PHS’s mission to activate horticulture and gardening as a force for the “greater good” by advancing health and well-being of people and their environments.
The name of Schaffer Designs’ top-prize-winning exhibit translates to “The Streets of the Five Lands” and was inspired by the Italian villages of Corniglia, Manarola, Monterosso, Riomaggiore and Vernazza, where ancient Italian fisherman painted their homes in bold and pastel colors so they could be easily seen when they returned from sea.
This amazing location in Italy inspired Bill and Kristine to create their 1,800-square-foot exhibit, which towered 26 feet tall. Bill and Kristine along with a team of 28 florist volunteers from all over the world used about 15,000 stems – with 8,000 showing at any given time – to create this massive installation.
“This is the largest indoor flower show in the world, and we’re very fortunate to have it in our backyard,” Kristine says. “Many people don’t ever get the opportunity to work on something on this scale. There are so many florists out there who really want that experience, and we’re really lucky that they want to help us produce something on a larger scale than anything we could have produced by ourselves. We need lots of people to make this vision happen.”
Bill adds: “As educators, Kris and I enjoy sharing this experience with others. What makes the Philadelphia Flower Show special is the energy that comes from exchanging and exploring creative ideas together with other floral artisans.”
Attending the show for the first time was Jackie Lacey, AAF, AIFD, CFD, PFCI, National President of the American Institute of Floral Designers. “One of the things that stood out to me as a first-time attendee was how each of the groups or companies working on the exhibits supported every other group and showed them respect,” states Jackie. “They all had a common goal of sticking to timelines, guidelines and directions with the ultimate goal of completing the exhibit, getting cleaned up and preparing to provide a great week-long show to thousands. I cannot wait to go again next year.”