Landscape Architecture and Horticulture Programs Win Top Honors at the Philadelphia Flower Show

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

Their 2020 Flower Show Exhibit, Course of Action: A Radical Tack for Suburban Tracts, has been recognized with top honors. Course of Action 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; the Alfred M. Campbell Memorial Trophy, given to the "educational major exhibit that demonstrates the most successful use of a variety of plants in a unique fashion," and a PHS Gold Medal Plant Award, which is given for the best use of PHS Gold Medal plants in a major exhibit.

The Philadelphia Flower Show continues through Sunday, March 8. For a behind the scenes look at the making of Course of Action, view the videos on YouTube!

At the 2020 Philadelphia Flower Show, Temple University Landscape Architecture and Horticulture students and faculty are inviting visitors to "start the evolution at home and reset your tack," according to Adjunct Assistant Professor Michael LoFurno, who coordinatied Temple's 2020 exhibit with Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture Rob Kuper and Greenhouse Horticulturist Benjamin Snyder.

"When you take a look at most neighborhoods, they are very manicured. I think with a lot of people the idea of an 'unkempt' lawn means they're not a good citizen or a good neighbor," LoFurno said. "For many, it's 'mow, blow and go' without consideration for the other creatures we share the planet with. In that type of the environment, how do the earthworms or salamanders get around; how do animals move from place to place or find shelter?"

Temple's exhibit, "Course of Action: A Radical Tack for Suburban Tracts," portrays an "ungardened" suburban landscape that attracts wildlife, embraces chance, cultivates resilience through diversity, and appreciates restraint and the viability of repurposed building materials, said Kuper.

"We've taken inspiration for the idea of ungardening from the book Noah's Garden (Restoring the Ecology of our Own Back Yards) by Sara Stein. Ungardening requires deliberate action," he said. "With this exhibit, we are trying to introduce the ideas of welcoming animals and other organisms; reduce the use of resources, particularly fossil fuels; and enhance diversity and chance. You can have a meadow, you can have a corner woodland."

If a tree falls that doesn't create some level of impairment or obstruction on the property, "you can leave it to provide food and shelter for other organisms," Kuper said.

"We have to think about the bigger picture — what are we doing, why are we doing it and how does it impact the world around us? Much of what has been removed from the landscape has been traditionally relied upon by other plants, animals and organisms," he said. "Taking a radical tack is about changing direction and orientation, but also about changing particular intent; reorienting and stopping actions that may prove harmful, and replacing them with behaviors that are respectful of other people and organisms, now and in the future."

As part of the Flower Show's Gardener's Hub, all of the educational exhibits were asked to incorporate examples of "gardening for the greater good," according to LoFurno.

"Each year, we share concepts that people can take and use in their own home environments; we emphasize practicality. All of the aspects in the exhibit this year could be replicated at home," he said. "Some of our educational themes include creating hedgerows along property lines rather than fence after fence. A corner of the backyard could be transformed into woodlands with the hedgerows connecting them, providing safe avenues for animals to travel."

One of the primary water features of Course of Action is a "natural swimming pool." Rather than chlorine and other chemicals, a natural swimming pool relies on plants to filter and oxygenate the water.

"The natural pool is a European concept that has been around for decades that is slowly catching on here. It's essentially a pool that is free of chemicals that can be enjoyed by humans as well as other types of species," said Landscape Architecture Junior Abigail Long, who was part of the team creating the pool. "With our exhibit, I hope people are inspired to reconnect and get behind the ideas we are presenting — supporting nature and natural environments in general. I think there are many people who want to embrace environmentally friendly concepts, who want to help with the climate crisis, but they aren't sure how to get started. We are presenting concepts designed to be carried over into their own backyards."

This is the third year students and faculty have been able to create their Flower Show exhibit within the large dedicated design-build studio space in Bright Hall at the Temple Ambler campus.

"It makes coordinating the work that needs to go into completing the exhibit much more convenient. In years past, sometimes teams weren't sure what other teams were working on at any given time," said Kuper. "Now, for the most part, we're all together and able to collaborate on all aspects of the exhibit. It improves the teaching experience while also providing the program with greater visibility and a stronger identity and connection with the campus community."

Landscape Architecture junior Fiona Eickman said the "build" experience within the design-build studio "has been extremely beneficial."

"It is a tremendous experience to be able to build something with our hands and learn how to use the tools, creating an exhibit that potentially hundreds of thousands of people will walk through. The skills we are using allow us to bring ideas that we designed and make them a reality," she said. "As a student, it's one of the most rewarding and validating experiences I can think of. There is a lot of work put into what we are presenting, but we get so much out of it in return."

The 2020 exhibit continues a long tradition in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture of interdisciplinary and hands-on learning experiences. Temple University Ambler is one of only a handful of exhibitors that forces its own plants for their exhibits. At Temple University Ambler each year, Temple Horticulture staff and students use various techniques to "trick" the plants into thinking that late February/early March is a perfect time to put their best blooming face forward for the signature event's 250,000 guests.

According to Snyder, the four main aspects that go into forcing a plant to bloom out of season are length of cold treatment, heat, light and humidity.

"We need to trick plants into thinking that winter is over and spring is here. To do that, they need to have an early winter," he said. "We accomplish this through vernalization, which takes place in our three on-campus coolers. Each plant is then brought out of the coolers and into our growing zones according to the schedule. For certain plants, extra heat, light, and/or humidity is needed — this is facilitated by heat mats, grow lights and forcing tents. Overall, we are using 77 different species and more than 1,000 individual plants."

Change, Kuper said, doesn't occur in insolation.

"Change requires conscious intent," he said. "The acts of an individual can spread among and be adopted by a group of people. This should happen and needs to happen to address the climate crisis."

Building upon a rich history of environmental teaching that dates back more than a century, Temple University Ambler is home to Temple's Landscape Architecture and Horticulture programs. The degree programs are a unique blend of disciplines, providing students with the design and plant background necessary to succeed in any aspect of the Green Industry.

The Landscape Architecture and Horticulture programs, part of the Tyler School of Art and Architecture, is committed to excellence in ecologically based education. The goal of the programs is to train leaders in the art and science of horticulture (A.S., B.S., and certificate programs) and landscape architecture (MLArch and B.S. programs). The programs provide students with knowledge and understanding of the environment so that they can improve the quality of our urban, suburban and rural communities.

For more information on the Horticulture and Landscape Architecture programs at Temple University Ambler, visit For more information about the 2020 Philadelphia Flower Show, visit