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Philadelphia Flower Show Opens On Sunday With 'Springtime In Paris' Theme (PHOTOS)

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Kathy Matheson/Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA — It's time to say "au revoir" to the winter blahs.

The annual horticultural extravaganza known as the Philadelphia Flower Show opens Sunday with the theme "Springtime in Paris," welcoming visitors with 25,000 tulips arrayed under a faux Eiffel Tower. (*SEE PHOTOS BELOW*)

Tourists will mingle with mimes and musicians strolling amid 10 acres of colorful, French-themed floral exhibits, while artists set up easels to paint in re-created Parisian gardens.

"The show is astounding," said exhibitor Jamie Rothstein. "It overwhelms the senses."

A warm respite from the perennial dregs of winter, the spectacle attracts both green thumbs and snow-weary souls eager to soak in the fragrant, vibrant blooms. Nearly 250,000 people are expected at the Pennsylvania Convention Center for the eight-day event, which is billed as the world's largest indoor flower show.

This year's displays include a "Phantom of the Opera" tableau, a wedding at Notre Dame, floral carousel animals, a mini-Arc de Triomphe and Centre Pompidou, and a scene from the Paris cemetery where rocker Jim Morrison and composer Frederic Chopin are buried.

Rothstein, who owns a floral design company in Philadelphia, worked with John Whitenight to design an opulent 19th-century salon with period furnishings and "parlor domes" – flower arrangements under glass.

Rothstein acknowledged a soft spot in her heart for the French motif. For a similar theme in 1998, she re-created the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles and then married her fiance in the exhibit. They remain the only couple ever to wed at the show.

But beyond the pretty petals, the Flower Show provides a $61 million boost to the city's economy and serves as an educational and fundraising event for its sponsor, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

Organizers work with suppliers to showcase new and interesting plants, which this year include the latest colors of Gerber daisies, Code roses from Colombia and an orange variety of Oncidium orchid, said show design director Sam Lemheney.

The event has also become more commercial, with shopping channel QVC broadcasting live and exhibitors for the first time allowed to use technology like flat-screen TVs "to really help them sell their business," Lemheney said.

It's a showcase for growers as well. Meadowbrook Farm in suburban Abington, Pa., which is operated by the Horticultural Society, supplies flowers and plants for 30 exhibitors in addition to selling to the public.

Clients come to the farm each summer with ideas for their show displays and wish lists of desired plants. Some requests are old hat – zinnias, delphiniums, begonias – but occasionally the staff is asked to force a new type of flower.

This year, an exhibitor wanted 90 "pink flamingo" celosia plants that the farm had never before grown out of season. General manager Jessica Story described the challenge as "do or die," meaning either the flower blooms, or there better be a Plan B.

"It's really nerve-wracking. It'll keep you up at night," Story said. "Thank goodness it came out beautifully."


If You Go...

PHILADELPHIA FLOWER SHOW: Opens Sunday and runs through March 13 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, 12th and Arch streets, Philadelphia. Tickets range from $15 for children to up to $30 for adults, depending on the day and point of purchase. Details and hours can be found at .

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