HughE Dillon: Flower Show Preview Party

A look inside the Hawaii-themed event.

Nearly 1,000 notables, dignitaries and socialites enjoyed the tropical paradise that is the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s 2012 Philadelphia International Flower Show at the Pennsylvania Convention Center at a preview party on Saturday. The theme of the 185th flower show—“Hawaii: Islands of Aloha”—was reflected well as the convention center was filled with an aroma of the islands, Polynesian dancers, storytellers, musicians, a 25-foot waterfall, and a new floor plan. Below: Eric Lochner, president, Global Talent Management at Kenexa, developer Carl Dranoff and Roberta Dranoff (both on the preview party committee), and Drew Becher, president of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

Below: The party was one of the few moments Kate Wilhelm, senior vice president of business development at PHS, will have to relax during the week-long show. She’s here with fiance Chris Chimicles. There’s so much to do this year at the Flower Show: Besides enjoying the beauty of the displays, there’s the new Designer’s Studio where the nation’s best floral designers show their work live on stage; the Studio will also host head-to-head competitions among design professionals. There’s the behind-the-scenes tour, the garden tea party, entertainment from performers of the Polynesian Cultural Center in Oahu and Halau o Keikialii in San Francisco, family attractions and so much more.

Below: Dr. William Tasman (ophthalmologist-in-chief at the Wills Eye Institute until 2007) and Alice Lee Tasman. This year, the Flower Show decided to forgo the red-carpet entrance in favor of letting guests spend time roaming the many exhibits in the two hours before dinner.

Below: I caught up with Mrs. Dorrance H. “Dodo” Hamilton checking on the plants she’s entered into the competition. Mrs. Hamilton has been entering the plant contest for more than 30 years and often wins several blue “first place” ribbons. To be eligible for the competition, plants must be ready for “prime time,” meaning in bloom or matured. At the Flower Show, plants are judged on healthy growth, grooming, distinctiveness and maturity. The rarity of a plant, or how difficult it is to grow, may also factor in the judging.

Below: Handing out leis to the arriving guests are Jen McGowan, founder of the Pediatric Toy Closet Foundation, and Stephanie Ingersoll, PHS party preview committee. McGowan filled me in on the upcoming Devon Hat Luncheon, which is an event in connection with the Devon Horse Show in May. The lunch will be held on Ladies’ Day, May 30th, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the new Devon Club. It’s going to be a “return to our roots” with silver service, tea sandwiches and hats.

Below: As a nod to Hawaii’s Asian influences, many women wore Asian-inspired designs. Christine Henisee (second from right) told me that her dress is a Peggy Jennings Design, while her mother, Mrs. Schiller (right) wore a kimono brought back from Japan by her husband, George Henisee (left). Jackie Henisee (second from left) is wearing BCBG.

Below: Sabrina Tamburino Thorne and Steve Thorne enjoy the orchid wave at the entrance. Thanks to PA Wine & Spirits stores, two Bravo Real Housewives reality stars will appear at the show. On Friday, March 9th, Melissa Gorga will be signing bottles of Voli Lyte Vodka, the first line of low-calorie flavored vodkas. On Saturday, March 10th, Flower Show visitors will meet entrepreneur and television personality Bethenny Frankel, who will be signing her Skinny Girl products. Other than your Flower Show entrance ticket, no special ticket is required for either signing.

Below: 6 ABC’s Adam Josephs and Cecily Tynan shooting a segment for FYI Philly with Drew Becher, PHS president. They are standing on a stage that will be used for performers and is next to a 25-foot waterfall surrounded by orchids. It’s one of the many exhibits created by Sam Lemheney, PHS design director.

Below: Sally Gendler and Laurie Marshall, of the Philadelphia Garden Club, which holds the first-place blue ribbon for the club’s entry, “The Phillies Flying Hawaiian,” celebrating Maui’s number-one son Shane Victorino’s World Series win (and the deluge of fanmail that followed). Sally tells me that the idea came to her when she vacationed in Hawaii last year wearing the outfielder’s #8. Many people came up to her asking about it, and shared their love for Victorino with her. Together these two women, along with the club, came up with the concept for the display. The display’s bat was turned by David Thal, and the ball was hand-sewn with dance tights.

Below: The last time we saw Dasha Yermakova and Richard Pruett was at the Union League for the gala to celebrate the opening of the 48th season of the Pennsylvania Ballet last October.

Below: Jason Villemez, Mark Segal, Maria Papadakis, and John and Christina Saler. Mark and John have known each other for nearly 20 years as they served on the board for the Philadelphia International Airport. (Currently, Saler is chairman of the board.) Maria loves the new floor plan this year, and told me, “There’s a better flow to the space, guiding the guests through each exhibit without the bottlenecks that used to occur.”

Below: At 8 p.m., an announcement came over the loud speakers inviting everyone upstairs for dinner. Below: Dennis Wint, president & CEO of the Franklin Institute, and Ann Meredith enter into the tropical rainforest of the Grand Ballroom to dine on Hawaiian cuisine and watch the PHS awards ceremony. I headed downstairs for the Second Annual Young Friends party, which was starting at 8:30 p.m.

Check out my photos from the Young Friends party and the night’s after-party at