Nieuwpolders wins major awards at the 2017 Philadelphia Flower Show

Temple University's 2017 Philadelphia Flower Show exhibit won several major awards.

Take a behind-the-scenes look at the Making of Nieuwpolders: Regenerating the Dutch Custom of Land Recovery!

Months of hard work, dedication and teamwork have certainly paid off for students and faculty in Temple's Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture in the Tyler School of Art.

Their 2017 Flower Show Exhibit, Nieuwpolders: Regenerating the Dutch Custom of Land Recovery, was recognized with a treasure trove of awards.

“I think this recognition confirmed the suspicions that we had about our exhibit, that our message was clear and that our intentions were understood and achieved. It’s certainly a validation of our efforts,” said Rob Kuper, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture, who with Adjunct Assistant Professor Michael LoFurno, coordinated the 2017 exhibit. “Receiving awards that specifically relate to conservation and sustainability, it’s an affirmation of our department’s mission of ecological design. I think one thing about our exhibits each year is that they are always unique — advancing ideas with different construction and plant materials.”

Nieuwpolders was presented with: a PHS Gold Medal, awarded to a major exhibit that receives 95 or more points out of 100 in the criteria of design, horticulture, plantsmanship and educational value; and the Bulkley Medal of the Garden Club of America; awarded to a special exhibit in the fields of horticulture, botany or conservation — the exhibit must be one of exceptional educational merit that increases the knowledge and awareness of the viewing public. Only one Bulkley Medal is given out at the Flower Show each year.

The exhibit also received a Special Achievement Award of the Garden Club Federation of Pennsylvania, awarded to an exhibit of unusual excellence (under 1,000 square feet) in the category of conservation; the Pennsylvania Landscape and Nurseryman’s Association Trophy, awarded to the exhibit showing the most effective use of plants and best use of design in the educational category; and a PHS Sustainability Award, presented to the educational major exhibit demonstrating the best use of sustainable gardening practices to the public.

Presented by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, the 2017 Philadelphia Flower Show was held from March 11 through March 19. The Flower Show welcomed more than 250,000 visitors to the event each year and every one of them had the opportunity to see the talent and creativity of Temple’s Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture students and faculty on vivid display at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

“I think people enjoyed being able to walk through our exhibit. They were impressed with the level of detail that went into Nieuwpolders, the materials we used, the variety of plant material, and they way we were able to incorporate orange — a color of great significance in Holland — into several aspects of the exhibit,” said LoFurno. “Ideas about sustainability resonate with a lot of people. The exhibit is a postcard view of Holland of a different era but it takes the traditional — the windmills, the dams, the polders — and reinterprets them.”

Temple students and faculty took their inspiration for Nieuwpolders from Dutch traditions to reconnect with and restore the land, approaching the exhibit with a focus on what land can be reclaimed for cultivation in the Philadelphia region.

Four primary themes comprised the Nieuwpolders 23-foot-by-33-foot exhibit, according to Kuper. Each theme was depicted in an area that reflected a different kind of reclamation: “Regenpolder” (reclaimed rain), “Groenmuurpolder” (reclaimed walls), “Droogpolder” (reclaimed pavement) and “Weidepolder” (reclaimed lawn).

“Our students have a chance to see and experience with all of their senses their design come to life. They encounter the unanticipated and work through problems that inevitably arise, which is very healthy for their understanding of the field — they learn to justify the decisions they make, why they are doing what they are doing,” said Kuper. “Working on a design-build project for the Flower Show, the students are able to experiment and explore ideas and materials that they might not otherwise for a permanent, outside construction. They are allowed to be more creative and take more risks.”

The 2017 exhibit continued a long tradition in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture of interdisciplinary and hands-on learning experiences. In the Ambler Campus Greenhouse, horticulture staff and students worked for months to help select the plant palette for the exhibit and ensure the plants and trees were ready for the Flower Show. Temple University Ambler is one of only a handful of exhibitors that forces its own plants for their exhibits.

“We use a process called ‘vernalization.’ Certain plants need to be subjected to different lengths of a cold treatment to simulate winter,” said Horticulture junior Jenny Klimowicz. “Then we move them into different temperature environments on campus — the greenhouse, the hoop house, the shade house — to continue their growing cycle.”

This year also provided students working with the plants to incorporate more exotic species, which populated the exhibit’s greenhouse section, according to Landscape Architecture junior Robert Gladfelter.

“As landscape architects, our biggest medium is plant material. Knowing the plants, being able to place the plants and being able to ensure their survival, I think is extremely beneficial,” he said. “When building a sustainable environment, you want to know what types of plants will work best within that environment. I hope what visitors took away from our exhibit this year is a realization that you can take every day materials and use them in creative and artistic ways to build truly unique spaces.”

LoFurno said he has been “very impressed with the quality of our students who came together as a team for a common goal and made this exhibit what it is.”

“They are working at a professional level,” he said. “All the details, the meticulousness that goes into creating an award-winning exhibit, they might not understand that in January or February, but they certainly understand and appreciate it now.”

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 on the Horticulture and Landscape Architecture programs at Temple University, visit