Temple Ambler ready for its close-up at the 2015 Philadelphia Flower Show

Temple University Ambler will present “Star Power: Casts of Light that Stir and Spellbind" at the 2015 Philadelphia Flower Show

A walk through Temple University Ambler’s 2015 Philadelphia Flower Show exhibit is a walk through environments that are as different as night and day.

With “Star Power: Casts of Light that Stir and Spellbind,” students and faculty in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture will take visitors on a journey through the blue-tinged, shadowy world of the blue hour, about an hour prior to sunrise and after sunset, and the sun-dappled magic hour, about an hour after sunrise and prior to sunset.

Through lighting, inventive use of shadows, creative architecture and water elements and, of course, a broadly diverse plant palette, Star Power effectively illustrates why filmmakers choose to shoot outdoors during these contrasting times of day.

Presented by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, the 2015 Philadelphia Flower Show — with its cinematicLights, Camera, Bloom!” theme — will run from Saturday, February 28 through Sunday, March 8 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, 12th and Arch streets.

According to Temple University Ambler Horticulturist Kathryn Reber, Star Power’s more than 1,500 plants from about 60 species are just about ready for their close-up.

“Since the focus is on light this year and not specifically ecosystem based, our plant choices were determined by color, texture and form rather than whether they were native to the region. It opened up a lot of possibilities for us — we’re using plants from all over the world,” said Reber, who is overseeing the preparation of the plants, which began with discussions about the exhibit in August with fellow coordinators Rob Kuper, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture; Adjunct Assistant Professor Michael LoFurno; and Horticulture Supervisor Anne Brennan. “We were able to focus a little more on the aesthetics of the plants — using more non-hardy plants, for example — and species that we’ve never used before. That’s been a lot of fun.”

According to Reber, the blue hour will be filled with dark or neutral foliage combined softer textures — blues, silvers, purples, whites.

“One of the plants in the blue hour will be Cercis canadensis f. alba, a white form of our eastern redbud; it will be gorgeous! Others include Heuchera ‘Rave On’ and Dichondra argentea ‘Silver Falls,’” she said. “We’re also using some fragrant flowers, things that you would notice more in the evening.”   

The magic hour presents a decidedly different canvas to work with, Reber said.

“When you are out in the gardens at that time of day, it’s so striking. The colors just glow,” she said. “For the magic hour, we’re using more warm colors — oranges and yellows — and some plants with taller flower stalks as well as trees and shrubs whose foliage and form are accentuated by that light.”

Some of the magic hour’s stars will include Acer griseum, also known as paperbark maple; Bletilla striata, a hardy orchid; and several types of daffodils, including Narcissus ‘Minnow’ and N. ‘Tahiti.’

For the 2015 exhibit, Star Power takes its inspiration from a variety of film artists and ideas — both past and present — from the earliest experiments in moving pictures by Thomas Edison and his assistant, W. L. Dickson, to the Lumière brothers’ theater-filling, hand-cranked adventures and the glass-roofed Lubinville Factory in Philadelphia, which in its heyday produced a film a day.

“Our exhibit captures the experiences presented during both the blue hour and magic hour through a combination of beauty, action and illusions,” said Kuper. “The sun, as the closet star to Earth, has a great deal of power over our lives — it makes plants grow, it drives the hydrologic cycle, it stirs animals to action. The idea is to explore sunlight and how it relates to the movies while also examining how sunlight and the landscape affect plants, people and places.”

In Star Power, the blue hour environment will be comprised of an enclosed space “where we can create diffused light,” said Kuper. The plant palette is being selected to be easily visible in diffused light, he added. Each environment may also include a “living world” of plants and animal habitats indicative of the types of creatures that would be active during these times of day, such as a bat house in the blue Hour and bee habitats in the magic hour.

Water elements will also reflect the different environments — a quiet pond setting in the Blue Hour and fountains that dance in the light during the Magic Hour. And rising above it all is the 20-foot-tall “Golden Spire” that glows during the Magic Hour.

“One of our goals is to present ideas, concepts and materials that visitors could then bring home to their own gardens,” said Landscape Architecture Junior Albert Park, who is the team leader for the exhibit’s path and water elements. “Everything that we are using is sustainable and recyclable.”

Temple University Ambler remains one of only a handful of exhibitors that forces its own plants for their exhibits. Much of the plant material will return to campus after the Flower Show to find a home in the Ambler Arboretum, Reber said.

“Each year we try to hone our forcing techniques. With only two growing areas — our greenhouse and hoop house — we get creative with finding or making additional temperature zones and use every resource available to us to keep our crops on schedule,” she said. “Almost every temperate plant genetically needs to have a period of cold so that it knows to grow again. Specific plants have specific needs and it changes from cultivar to cultivar. The Cercis canadensis that we’re growing this year won’t necessarily behave like the redbud that we grew last year.”

With the gray winter, “we’ve been using a lot more lights in the greenhouse this year,” Reber said.

“Light can be a big factor in how things emerge and their color as they emerge,” she said. “This year has been all about less heat and more light and I think that’s really helping. That combination is working very well for us.”

For more information about “Star Power: Casts of Light that Stir and Spellbind,” contact 267-468-8108 or duffyj@temple.edu.

For more information on the Horticulture and Landscape Architecture programs at Temple University Ambler, visit www.ambler.temple.edu/la-hort. For more information about the 2015 Philadelphia Flower Show, visit www.theflowershow.com.