Benjamin Snyder knows a little something about “Flower Power.”
A graduate of Temple’s Horticulture Program and Manager of the Greenhouse Education and Research Complex at Temple Ambler, Snyder has guided the plant cultivation for more than a few of the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture’s award-winning Philadelphia Flower Show exhibits as both a student and dedicated staff member.
With the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society embracing “Flower Power” as the theme for the 2019 Philadelphia Flower Show, Snyder said the plant palette possibilities were almost endless.
“With Temple’s exhibit this year it was almost anything goes — it was a much wider plant palette than during years where we were representing a specific geographic location or ecosystem. With that, however, our goal is to always demonstrate the use of plants in a sustainable way within the landscape,” he said. “Overall, we have 107 different species and 1,603 individual plants, about half of which are North America natives. All of the plants grown in the Greenhouse are being watered by our cistern, our rainwater collection system, which can store about 12,000 gallons.”
Temple’s exhibit, Hip Haven: Hangin’ Loose at a Home Refuge, is a tale of two environments, physical manifestations of the forces that were shaping the turbulent 60’s Flower Power era and the forces that continue to shape society today. The exhibit is divided into two distinct areas — the reflective, hard surfaces of The Machine and the colorful, free-flowing refuge found in The Haven. The Flower Show runs from Saturday, March 2 to Sunday, March 10 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, 12th and Arch streets. Purchase Flower Show tickets through Temple for $35 and support the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture! Purchases may be made online by visiting alumni.temple.edu/flower19.
As visitors first enter the exhibit, they will pass through The Machine. As all of Temple’s exhibits are meant to be experienced with all of the senses, Snyder suggests a look but touch gingerly approach to the plants found in this more harsh landscape.
“In the Machine, you’re going to find prickly things, evergreens, things that are still and static that don’t change very much, things that have a more formal appearance,” he said. “Some examples are Green Giant Arborvitae, a variety of hollies and Devil’s Walking Stick, which proved very popular in last year’s exhibit. The 2019 exhibit includes more than one.”
In contrast, Snyder said, the Haven “is much more laid back,” with loose, free-flowing plants “that spill everywhere.”
“We had a lot of fun with the seed catalog when it came to the Haven. There are a lot of flowering, colorful plants evoking the hippie aesthetic and the Summer of Love,” he said. “The food forage area of the Haven includes multicolored kale, red and green lettuce, Swiss chard and purple cabbages.”
Some new plants that are part of the exhibit this year include River Birch, Paw Paw, Mahonia japonica, Black Raspberry, Aralia racemose, Wetland Carex, Bushy Horsetail and Yucca, Snyder said. Returning favorites include skunk cabbage and the aforementioned Devil’s Walking Stick, one of which is 8 feet tall.
Temple University Ambler remains one of only a handful of exhibitors that forces its own plants for their Flower Show exhibits.
“We ready the plants through a process called vernalization — essentially we fool the plant into thinking it is time to bloom. We are using many different techniques to prepare the plants: humidity tents, supplemental lights, twine ‘trellises,’” he said. “At the end of October, when the temperatures can still reach into the 70s and 80s, we place many of the plants into coolers to mimic winter. We have two growing environments, so we move plants back and forth to control their growth rate. Slow blooming plants like Red Oak and ferns will come out before winter break while something like Daffodil, which are among the first to bloom in spring are some of the last plants to come out of the coolers.”
Six students, horticulture, landscape architecture and Master of Landscape Architecture majors among them, are assisting in preparing and caring for the plants this year.
“One of the reasons I transferred to Temple was so that I could have the opportunity to work with a team on creating an exhibit for the Flower Show — this is a dream come true. I look at our exhibit as an origin story of sorts, taking people back to when they were more connected with the land and nature; when there was far less bleak grays and rusty steel,” said Horticulture Junior Adam Zuzola. “I think primarily what I get out of this as a student is the experience of turning these concepts into reality. It’s amazing to see what Temple’s students and faculty can accomplish each year.”
Alyssa Hannigan, a graduate student in the Master of Landscape Architecture program, was drawn to Temple due to the programs ecological restoration focus.
“I’m currently an environmental scientist. I was seeking something where I could be a bit more creative while having a positive impact, something that incorporated my interest in plants, ecology and design,” she said. “I wanted to volunteer to assist with this year’s Flower Show exhibit because I wanted to learn more about the plants and the conditions required for them to bloom and grow. My hope is that visitors to the exhibit want to take their experience a step further; that they want to learn about the plants and the design work and planning that goes into creating these extraordinary exhibits.”
Langley Oudemans, a fellow Master of Landscape Architecture student, said she hopes visitors take away an appreciation for their local environment by learning from the sustainable initiatives represented in Temple’s exhibit.
“I have a background in environmental policy. I decided to pursue landscape architecture because I didn’t want to force people to think environmentally,” she said. “I want to help them get there on their own. I want them to learn to love the environment, plants, sustainable design by experiencing it first hand and developing a design to protect these things on their own initiative.”
As part of the Flower Show’s Gardener’s Hub, all of the educational exhibits were asked to incorporate examples of techniques that visitors could do at home, according to Adjunct Assistant Professor Michael LoFurno, who is coordinating Temple’s 2019 Flower Show exhibit with Snyder and Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture Rob Kuper
“Each year, we always work toward sharing concepts that people can take and use in their own home environments. Some of our educational themes this year include using cold frames to extend the harvest season,” he said. “People have become so distant from their food sources they may not really even think about berries growing on bushes and nuts growing in trees anymore; the food forage area of the Haven harkens back to when food self-sufficiency was common. With the reflective surfaces in the Machine, we’re also demonstrating what needs to happen to prevent bird/window strikes.”
Kuper said that while Hip Haven draws inspiration from the Flower Power movement of the 60s “it does not truly focus on a particular time period.”
“In the 1960s and 70s you saw some of the first calls to environmental action and some positive changes were made. One of the primary goals of the exhibit is to help people become more sensitive to their environment — the call to action today, if anything, is even more urgently necessary,” he said. “Humanity is at a critical point; as a people, as a species, as a country, we have got to change. It is so easy to just continue what you are doing — it’s comfortable, it’s convenient but it is also unsustainable not just in the long term but in the near term.
Kuper said his hope is that “visitors will begin to think more about how we interact and impact our environment, take some or all of the ideas we are presenting, and proactively incorporate them into their lives immediately.”
For more information about the Horticulture and Landscape Architecture programs at Temple University Ambler, visit tyler.temple.edu/programs/landscape-architecture-horticulture. For more information about the 2019 Philadelphia Flower Show, visit theflowershow.com.