After the Blast wins major awards at the 2016 Philadelphia Flower Show

Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture students, faculty and staff worked for months to create Temple's award-winning Philadelphia Flower Show exhibit.

Months of hard work by Temple University Ambler and Tyler School of Art students, faculty and staff paid off with a nearly unprecedented seven top honors for Temple’s 2016 Flower Show Exhibit, After the Blast: Recollecting Roots and Resources at Hopewell Furnace.

After the Blast was presented with a unique honor, the National Park System Director’s Award, presented to the exhibit with the best interpretation of a national park in the 2016 Flower Show. The 2016 show theme is “Explore America: 100 Year of the National Park Service” — only one “Best In Show” Director’s Award was given.

“We were presented with the award by United States National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis after he had viewed all of the exhibits at the show. He said it was the best representation of a national park not just because it effectively looked at the historical nature of the park, it also looked forward and emphasized themes of environmental stewardship and conservation,” said Adjunct Assistant Professor Michael LoFurno, who with Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture Rob Kuper, Horticulturist Kathryn Reber and Horticulture Supervisor Anne Brennan, coordinated the 2016 exhibit. “Parks aren’t static things; they are constantly changing. (Director Jarvis) was particularly impressed that the exhibit was created by students, that the next generation was looking to the future of our national parks.”

Temple’s exhibit was also awarded a Gold Medal by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, presented to a major exhibit that receives 95 or more points out of 100 in the criteria of design, horticulture, plantsmanship and educational value; a PHS Gold Medal Award, for best use of PHS Gold Medal Plants in a major exhibit; a Special Achievement Award of the Garden Club Federation of Pennsylvania, presented to an exhibit of unusual excellence in the category of conservation; the Pennsylvania Landscape and Nurseryman’s Association Trophy, awarded for the most effective use of plants and best use of design in the Education category; the Philadelphia Unit of the Herb Society of America Award for outstanding use of herbs and a PHS Sustainability Award, for the educational major exhibit demonstrating the best use of sustainable gardening practices to the public.

“I think this recognition shows that our message was clear and that our intentions were understood and achieved. It’s certainly a validation of our efforts,” said Kuper. “Our exhibits are completely collaborative efforts. Our students are given a schematic design and they work together to make the exhibit their own. I think one thing about our exhibits each year is that they are always unique — advancing ideas with different construction and plant materials.”

Presented by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, the 2016 Philadelphia Flower Show continues through Sunday, March 13 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, 12th and Arch streets.

Students have spent months developing After the Blast’s environments, from old growth and remnant forests to a root cellar and green roof to a rainwater race and the furnace, the fiery heart of Hopewell’s 19th century iron plantation, which provided the inspiration for the 2016 exhibit.

“We visited the Hopewell Furnace National Historical Site and researched what types of plants and trees would have been growing in that area of Pennsylvania at the time that Hopewell Furnace was in operation,” said Reber. “It’s a very diverse plant palette and we are able to represent many of them in the various ecosystems contained in the exhibit.”

Horticulture senior Dhan Parker said the opportunity to work hands-on with the plants is a tremendous asset for horticulture majors.

“This is the third Flower Show that I’ve worked on. Each year provides us the opportunity to expand our knowledge base as we work with new plants or implement new techniques,” he said. “The practical knowledge that we get combined with what we’re doing in our classes, I think, gives us a particular edge when we graduate. To see all of this come together — the plants and the construction — is amazing each year. I always look forward to seeing how the design incorporates the plants and trees that we’ve cared for to help tell the exhibit’s story.”

After the Blast is comprised of more than 1,500 plants from 100 species, all forced in the Ambler Campus Greenhouse and Hoop House facilities.

“Our students are learning about the plants and forcing techniques throughout this process. For the students in the junior (landscape architecture) studio, they are seeing all of their planning and construction come together — so many different aspects of this project have to work together seamlessly,” said Reber. “Suddenly, there it is, at the Flower Show seen by tens of the thousands of visitors. It’s a tremendous experience.”

LoFurno said he ultimately hopes that Temple’s exhibit will inspire people to take the trip to visit the 848-acre Hopewell Furnace National Historical Site, encircled by the 73,000-acre Hopewell Big Woods in Elverson, Pennsylvania.

“The rangers from Hopewell Furnace visited the exhibit and were thrilled by the exposure it is giving to the site. We are hearing some visitors saying ‘Oh, I visited Hopewell once,’ but I think this is giving them a reason to go back and explore this historical site once more; for other visitors this might be the first time they’ve heard of Hopewell but we hope it makes them want to learn more about it,” he said. “Our students working together as a group have created something tangible, something that we want people walk through and experience firsthand. We want them to touch the plants, feel the textures, smell the flowers, ring the bell!” 

Kuper said a design-build project of this type leads to “an advancement in thinking” for students when they approach projects in the future.

“They are realizing ideas — taking something in their head, putting it on paper, and then actually building it. Students often design in bubbles separate from the work around them, but this experience pushes them to work together and help one another to achieve a common vision,” he said. “They are resolving problems that crop up and finding solutions that are functional and structurally sound. These experiences set our students apart from students in other programs throughout the country, if not the world.”

The students that participate in the Flower Show each year, Kuper said, “become part of something bigger.”

“They are part of Temple’s history and the Flower Show’s history,” he said. “They take pride in their work as landscape architects and horticulturists and they realize that what they are learning in the classroom is meaningful when they are able to see and compare their work to the work of other exhibitors.”

For more information about “After the Blast: Recollecting Roots and Resources at Hopewell Furnace,” contact 267-468-8108 or

For more information on the Horticulture and Landscape Architecture programs at Temple University, visit For more information about the 2016 Philadelphia Flower Show, visit