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Philadelphia Flower Show partners with museums, brings canvases to life with 'ARTiculture'

Beau Mora with Michael Petrie's Handmade Gardens works in preparation for the annual Philadelphia Flower Show at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014, in Philadelphia. The nation's largest flower show will feature huge horticultural displays inspired by the work of artists such as Matisse, Mondrian, Calder and Kandinsky.

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Beau Mora with Michael Petrie's Handmade Gardens works in preparation for the annual Philadelphia Flower Show at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014, in Philadelphia. The nation's largest flower show will feature huge horticultural displays inspired by the work of artists such as Matisse, Mondrian, Calder and Kandinsky. "ARTiculture" is the theme of this year's Philadelphia Flower Show, which runs from March 1 to 9. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

PHILADELPHIA - Winter-weary gardeners and painters alike may find inspiration in the colorful palette of the Philadelphia Flower Show, which uses plants and petals to pay homage to work by artists like Matisse, Calder and Kandinsky.

The main exhibitors partnered with major U.S. museums to produce "ARTiculture," this year's floral extravaganza which opens Saturday and runs through March 9.

A perennial harbinger of spring, the flower show will be perhaps more fervently welcomed this season after the toll of an unusually cold and snowy winter along the Eastern Seaboard.

"Living in the Northeast ... everyone is so sick of snow that coming in and seeing colour, and seeing the flower show, it's going to be a welcome respite this year," said Drew Becher, president of the show's sponsor, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

Previous themes for the 10-acre show have been places: England, Hawaii, Paris. But this year's museum-related theme is more abstract, in some cases literally.

Schaffer Designs of Philadelphia partnered with the Guggenheim Museum in New York to come up with "Kandinsky's Canvas," a floral representation of three abstract paintings by Wassily Kandinsky: "Circles in a Circle," ''Little Accents" and "Dominant Curve."

The "circles," for instance, have been transformed into colorful balls of carnations and other plant material. They look randomly placed until viewers stand on a premarked spot and see them a through an empty picture frame.

"They will actually see the painting come to life as it was originally meant to be," said designer Bill Schaffer.

The show's colorful entrance garden pays tribute to Alexander Calder, a sculptor and painter whose work can be found throughout the city. Visitors are greeted by a huge floral mobile and three oversized picture frames, the largest measuring 30 feet high by 50 feet wide (9 by 15 metres). The aerial dance troupe Bandaloop will perform regularly within the multi-dimensional display.

Other exhibits take inspiration from the Philadelphia Museum of Art's new "Treasures from Korea" exhibit; the Wyeth family collection at the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, Pa.; and outdoor aspects of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

Rarely seen prints from Andy Warhol's "Flowers" series, from the Bank of America Collection, will also be displayed.

Billed as the world's largest indoor flower show, the Philadelphia Flower Show dates back to 1829. It also includes plant judging, a butterfly garden, interactive exhibits and craft workshops.

Attendance will be carefully watched after last year's ticket sales fell 17 per cent from 2012. Organizers said many groups cancelled due to overhyped weather forecasts for snow, which never materialized. About 270,000 visitors came to the show in 2012.

Becher said Thursday that ticket sales were trending 30 per cent ahead of last year.

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If You Go...

PHILADELPHIA FLOWER SHOW: Opens Saturday and runs through March 9 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, 12th and Arch streets, Philadelphia. General admission tickets range from $15 for children to up to $32 for adults, depending on the day and point of purchase; VIP packages are available. Details and hours can be found at http://www.theflowershow.com .

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Follow Kathy Matheson at www.twitter.com/kmatheson

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