Members of the Abington High School Garden Club arrived at the Pennsylvania Convention Center at about 8:30 a.m. on Thursday. The club would be working — transforming its “front porch” into a Hawaiian day care center — for about eight hours. And the schedule would be the same on Friday.
Garden club sponsor, and Abington Senior High School history teacher Kate Freeland said the group was happy with the real estate it received from the folks at the Philadelphia International Flower Show; the crew got a corner porch at what looked to be a busy intersection.
The Philadelphia Flower Show is more than a seemingly unnatural array of plants arranged inside. (What makes it more strange is that the high school garden club’s small porch is standing where several Porsche 911s were parked less than a month ago.) The show is a competition, and the Abington High School Garden Club is going up against several other amateur garden clubs from the region — and none of them is a high school garden club. In fact, Abington’s club is the only high school represented at the show.
“We’re not against other high schools … which is why the first year we won they were really angry — really angry,” Freeland said. “[Other clubs] do look down on the kids. We’re often counted out.”
The Abington club is no stranger to the show; this is the fifth year in which it has participated. And its sponsor has a pretty good “garden-club pedigree.” Freeland has been involved in garden clubs in one way or another since she was a toddler. Her mother, a teacher at Lower Merion High School, was the garden club sponsor there when Freeland attended. Freeland and teacher Jill Sandler-Ligi created a garden club at Abington.
The first year the club participated in the show it came home with some hardware, a blue ribbon. The following years … well, “we’ve been getting a lot of second-places lately,” Freeland said.
The group is probably looking to change its luck with its latest offering — the aforementioned Hawaiian day care center. Though it was only early afternoon on the first day of setup, the club’s day care center was shaping up nicely. Pastel-colored recycled tires adorned the front yard and wooden yellow-orange “pencils” acted as pillars for the porch. At about 1:30 p.m., a bulldozer dumped off a load of granite.
“We picked a day care because of the colors and stuff … we can make them very Hawaiian looking,” Freeland said. “We’re bringing in a bunch of tropical plants — no plants native to Pennsylvania — and the garden will be intertwined with the tires. There will also be a big tire planter and a big tropical bird made out of a tire.”
Abington High School Garden Club President Sophia Waldstein, a senior, said of the show’s theme, “It’s really cute, and looking around, there a lot of different ways to represent it, and it’s really fun to look at.”
“Our thing is super fun — it just really brings out our fun side,” garden club member Elana Waldstein, a tenth grader said.
Freeland added that the Abington tech students added to the display by creating wooden flowers and shutters.
“It’s wonderful that we integrated more kids this year,” she said.
The club comprises about 20 students; six students made trip down on Thursday; and another six threw dirt around on Friday. Incidentally, the club does fundraising to pay for the flowers it uses in the show; the Philadelphia Flower Show provides free dirt and a small stipend.
Judging went down Saturday; each club will be re-judged Wednesday.
“We hear from higher-ups that they love having kids involved in the show,” Freeland said. “They see our high school students as the next generation of gardeners. They’re all very great to our kids.”
The students seem confident — especially the president.
“As for the competition, we’re going to crush the competition — and we’re the only high school here,” Sophia Waldstein said.
For more information on the Philadelphia International Flower show, click here, or visit theflowershow.com