Butterflies, model rail lines, art entice visitors to Philadelphia Flower Show

Submitted photo
Submitted photo

Live butterflies, a garden railway and the fanciful “make and take” exhibit are special feature exhibits designed to delight the young at heart at the Philadelphia Flower Show in March.

Visitors can experienced more than 2,000 live butterflies, some of them especially hatched for the exhibit, up close inside the specially constructed butterfly enclosure, said John Dailey, the “butterfly wrangler” and president at SkyRiver Butterflies of Pleasanton, Calif.

“Over 2,000 butterflies from all over the world, including rare species, will be displayed inside,” Dailey said. “People will be able to come in and feed the butterflies. These are butterflies that you will not see anywhere else.”

Dailey said a chrysalis chamber that holds 1,200 chrysalis will be brought to Philadelphia two weeks before the show opens, and adult butterflies that are put into a hibernated state at 45 degrees will be brought from two farms in California and Kissemee, Fla.


“We will have a lot of plants and rocks from the Grand Canyon in the exhibit, which is 42 feet wide and 90 feet long. It will be very stimulating,” Dailey said. “Visitors will enter through two vestibules and exit through two vestibules.”

The plant habitat will feature native plants that attract butterflies and encourage pollination. Pollinator gardens with milkweed provide Monarchs a place to lay eggs, and nectar flowers like coneflowers and gomphrena supply nourishment to the pollinators.

Six staffers from SkyRiver Butterflies and an army of volunteers will staff the “Butterflies Live” exhibit, which has a $3 admission fee, to explain the varieties of butterflies.

The butterfly exhibit, returning for a second year to the Flower Show, will be located in Room 204, B and C, at the convention center.

“This is our fifth year doing outside exhibits,” Dailey said. “We will be doing one at the Disneyland Hotel in April as a celebration of Earth Day.”

Railway Garden

The Railway Garden display constructed by Bachmann Trains of Philadelphia and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Garden Railway Society in Bucks County features tributes to 11 national parks. The display in the concourse area will showcase the Philadelphia Independence Hall; Gettysburg National Military Park; the Smoky Mountain National Park; Promontory Point, Utah; Mt. Rushmore; the Santa Fe Historic Landmark District; Yellowstone National Park with an erupting Old Faithful; Natural Bridge, Utah; the Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton; the Statue of Liberty; and the National Mall with the Lincoln Memorial.

“We are representing several national parks,” said Doug Blaine, the vice president of marketing at Bachmann Trains. “The railroad lines were often used in transporting early travelers during the early development of the national parks.”

Thomas the Tank Engine trains are prominently displayed in the G-scale train displays. G-scale engines are 8 inches high and about 24 inches long.

“There are four large train layouts that fill the room,” Blaine said. “People can roam around all of them. An operating Old Faithful will erupt at regular intervals.”

Blain said the rolling stock of trains will be a mix of both vintage railroad cars and modern railroad cars with Amtrak one of the sponsors of the display.

“Model railroads are a great family activity that can be enjoyed 365 days each year,” Blaine said.

Mike Tolbert, a spokesman for Amtrak, said, “ Amtrak is excited to be a part of this great Philadelphia tradition. Amtrak was a sponsor of the display.

“We hope the new Railway Garden exhibit gives attendees an additional appreciation for the role America’s Railroad has played in helping connect travelers with the wonders of the National Park System,” Tolbert said.

Make and Take Room

The most fanciful, “wearable art” is created in the “make and take” room of the flower show on the bridge that crosses over 12th Street. About 25 staff and volunteers will assist with the art projects during the show. The art projects and wearable art cost $10 for materials.

“This is the fourth year we are doing this for the children. It is aimed at all ages up to 118 years old,” said Sally McCabe, the associate director of community education for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. “Although we encourage kids, it is mainly adults that come in and do it. Most people choose to do headpieces, corsages, wrist corsages or neck ties.”

McCabe said the room will be stocked with national park-oriented accessories such as Mt. Rushmore cardboard silhouettes and Yogi Bear from the 1950s era. Picture frames measuring 4-by-6 inches can be decorated at the show. Park critters can be made from pine cones, glue, wire and string.

Small glass terrariums can be made for a $20 fee with terrarium soil and sand, small plants and miniature accessories.

“The accessories will be wild animals and little tchotchkes,” she said.

The terrariums are about 6 inches in diameter with a 3.5-inch hole in the top, McCabe said. The Flower Show staff provides small carrier bags so the terrarium projects can be taken home without breaking them.

“This is the most fun place to be in the entire show,” McCabe said.