Kevin Burke, of Burke Brothers Landscape Contractors of Wyndmoor, reviews the firm’s 2012 Philadelphia International Flower Show Design depicting a Fantasy Surfers’ Retreat.

by Barbara Sherf

The folks at Burke Brothers Landscape Contractors in Wyndmoor have a surfboard along with some tropical plants in their conference room to get in the spirit of their fantasy surfers’ retreat theme for the 2012 Philadelphia International Flower Show.

The exhibit will feature a lagoon, a simple abode for surfers to hang out and change in, and an outdoor shower, along with 1500 tropical plants.

Just down the road at the Mermaid Lane greenhouses for Robertson’s Flowers, Lead Flower Show Designer Erick Schellack is busy collecting clear vases that will be filled with blue-colored water and white orchids to depict the ocean in his beach destination wedding.

And over at Meadowbrook Farm in Abington, General Manager John Story is hoping for some colder temperatures, as the warm weather has forced a number of bulbs into bloom prematurely.

“When it’s cold outside, we can better control the temperature in the greenhouses to keep it at an even 50 degrees, but when it’s 50 or above outside, then we have problems from a temperature-control standpoint,” he said, while showing off an array of tropical plants his farm has been taking care of for two dozen exhibitors as part of this year’s tropical-themed show titled “Hawaii: Islands of Aloha.”

The March 4-11 event at the Pennsylvania Convention Center is sure to add some color to the otherwise dreary landscape experienced here in the winter months.

“The colors will be hot, hot, hot,” Schellack said. “Vibrant reds, pinks and oranges will be front and center. The majority of our plants will be flown in from Hawaii.”

Buyers at Burke Brothers and Meadowbrook Farm turned to Florida for most of their specimens.

Burke hand-picked 20 palm trees that will be part of the 1500 plants making up the firm’s annual exhibit. Once the Pennsylvania

Horticultural Society event is over, he and his team will gear up for the annual Macy’s Flower Show that runs from March 28 through April 11.

“It’s great, because we get to reuse the plants and keep the tropical feel going,” he noted, adding that the plants will then be sold at the firm’s annual fundraiser for the Sara’s Smiles Foundation at Burke’s Cheltenham Avenue location on May 4, 5 and 6.

Burke and his wife, Jennifer, created the foundation in honor of their daughter, Sara, who died of a brain tumor on May 9, 2008, following a 10-month battle. The couple decided to help other families deal with long hospital stays by making as many “happy memories” as possible, providing families with “inspiration kits.”

A display featuring an anthirium flower.

The Sara’s Smiles website ( offers links to ideas for arts and crafts, activities, social networking, emotional support, glossaries of terms and information on how to obtain a survival kit.

For now, Burke is trying to survive the back-to-back floral shows and learn something new about tropical plants.

“These plants are not indigenous to the Delaware Valley, so it’s been interesting to learn and understand something about tropical plants,” he said. “We always like learning something new, and you never know what ideas will develop for a landscape design locally. While we can’t use many of the plants in our installations, we can use many of the ideas.”

A new mobile application will be available for Smartphone users, providing free maps, schedules, special offers, and parking advice for those attending the flower show. Revenues from the flower show benefit the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and will support City Harvest, a program that brings together urban farmers and provides fresh produce to more than 1,000 families in need each week.

For more information or to order tickets go to or call 215-988-8899.