Carlo’s Top 5 Designs from the 2019 Philadelphia Flower Show

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Hi everyone! My name is Carlo and I am social media intern for Bullock Garden Project Inc. Like Teresa, last Saturday was also my first time attending the Philadelphia Flower Show.

When I first walked in the smell was the first thing that really got to me. The smell of the whole venue just reminded of all the times helping my aunt and mother garden in the summertime. Once I started to walk around everything almost felt so surreal. To be around all of the landscapes, gardens, designs, and everything else in between, it just put me in the best mood. Inspiration was all around me. With every single design, you could tell how much love and passion each designer put into their creation. While I enjoyed everything about the Philly Flower Show, I have to show extra love to some of my favorites. Here are my top 5 designs/creations from the Philadelphia Flower Show.

Honorable Mention:  Flower Power Truck / Flower Peace Symbol / LOVE


Whenever I make lists or rank things, which is very often, I always make sure to start off with an honorable mention. My honorable mention goes to the Flower Power theme truck, Flower Peace Symbol, and the iconic LOVE creation.  

For one thing, getting these pictures was actually incredibly difficult just because everyone wanted a picture in front of it or was trying to get that perfect angle to create that picture that you show off on Instagram to your friends and family that didn’t get to go. Personally, I don’t blame because I kind of have that same mindset. And I’m not the tallest person in the world so it wasn’t like I could just raise my camera up and take a picture over everyone. Nonetheless, I was patient enough able to get the pictures I needed.

I loved this year’s theme of Flower Power acting as tribute to the impact that flowers have in our lives as well as celebrating the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. These 3 designs hit the home run on the theme and even got to incorporate Philly’s famous LOVE statue. As for the flowers in the hood of the truck and on the peace symbol, they were so just vibrant and just meshed well with the design as a whole

5. Interiorscape


This design combined two of my favorite things, interior design and flowers/plants. What I love most about these designs is that I was able to picture people in each different space. In first room with the striking yellow back wall and sunflower plants, I pictured a young, fashion forward woman who’s ready to take on the fashion world with her love filled optimism and unique fashion sense. In the second room I pictured a young male who is often judge as a guy who could care less about the environment, but in fact is a huge green enthusiast. He appreciates the world of plants and furniture made though earth materials. In the final room, which was my favorite I imaged a much older man who has been an educator his whole life and uses his plants and gardens as metaphors and symbols to teach his students about life as a whole. Yes, that was a reference to Mr. Feeny from Boy Meets World. Shoutout William Daniels.

4. Mark Harding, White Rabbit

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While this is just one half of the whole design, this area really caught my eye. With inspiration taken from Grace Slick’s “White Rabbit”, which draws imagery and inspiration from “Alice in the Wonderland”, the design was both wild and beautiful.

Using more dark tones than majority of the creations, Mark Harding really nailed this one for me. Even though this was number 4 on my list, it is my top design for creativity. Another aspect of this design that really amazes me is every inch of this design you got a different vibe. All the way around you felt that this was creation was something special. Finally, I have to show love to hypnotic floral circle. Through Haus’s instagram post he describes it as, “stories behind this element will forever remain in my repertoire of reminders that together we can can do anything.” Beautiful.

3. Katharina Stuart 


I apologize for not knowing the name of the design, but I do know the name of the designer if that makes up for it! Katharina Stuart absolutely crushed it. The pink velvet and white shag pile carpet create such a beautiful combination, while the flowers bring the whole creation to life. Everything kind of just pops out to you when you first catch sight of it.  Also, the letter C is the best letter in the alphabet, so I mean it’s almost destiny that my eyes were able to catch sight of this elegant design.

2.  Hans Zijlstra, Netherlands International FTD Design


The devil is in the details. Being the detailed freak that I am, it was awesome to see how much detail there was.  From a first far away glance it looks like a very simple design (, no disrespect intended). But as you got closer, you saw how incredibly detailed it was. From the placement  of the flowers surrounding the cups to orange/rust pink shade of the glossy-like rock, I feel like Zijlstra really made sure the details would be noticed.

Another reason why this comes to be number 2 on my list is because I feel like a design like this is so overwhelming by the how beautiful and amazing the final product is, we forgot to see that the small details is what creates the final product. That statement doesn’t just go for this design, it goes for really everything in life. Life lesson #231 by Carlo B. Vargas, take time to smell the roses, but take even more time appreciating the details of the roses.

1. Leopoldo Gomez Caf, Geodesics Architectural Design, International FTD Design


Geodesics is a technique Leo discovered and decided to test with his floristry. I’m happy he did, because his design was hands down my favorite design out of everything from the flower show. He used wood and other natural sources to create the structure and sphere and then embodied it with flowers.

With this creation he described it as, “The world surrounded by flowers, it doesn’t matter which color, shape or race we are, all of us can live together in a happy world!” I love the message created through his floral and architectural artistry because not only does it beautifully fit in with the theme of the whole show, the details with the creation, the flowers, and the colors all just blend so well together. Not only was the centerpiece incredible, his table was a part I was not going to leave out of the discussion. His table was a creation of armature of hand made paper with bougainvillea petals to create and evoke  romantic emotion. Everything about his design was just incredible. Shout-out Mexico and shout-out Leopoldo.

Overall, the Philadelphia Flower Show was probably one of my favorite experiences. I really recommend everyone try to visit a show either next year or some time in their life. You won’t regret it. Flowers are meant to bring joy to our lives. Even in the darkest moments, flowers find a way to bring a small ray of optimism and happiness and to be encompassed by it last Saturday, I still feel the euphoria.  Much love to Sonya, all of Bullock Garden Project, Philadelphia, and NC.

Peace and Love, Carlo B.


To Every Season…or Welcome Winter?

As my love of gardening has grown, I’ve come to despise cold weather.  Watching plants shrivel and die is akin to watching someone you love walk away.  Sure…you know they’ll be back, but the knowledge of their departure hits you in the feels.  Although I know winter is a time for planning (and indoor gardening), there’s nothing like digging your fingers into soil, warmed by the sun, as a breeze swirls around the wisps of hair surrounding your face…

(*sigh) I miss it so much already.

But as the song says, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven, (turn, turn, turn)…”  So as the seconds, minutes, and hours pass…as we change the calendar, and the darkness covers us earlier, I exhale and accept the change of seasons.  Not only in nature, but within myself.

I began this blog as a record of my transition to becoming a gardener.  I was a woman obsessed with shopping for shoes & clothes, but as that season came to an end, a new season including began to rise.  I began to realize that my life was NOT going according to plan. I began to realize that change is inevitable. I began to realize that no matter how much I hate it, there will be cold days. There will be cold days & icy days & rainy days. There will be tornadoes & hurricanes & blizzards…but that it is a necessary happening. I am realizing that this season is only at its beginning, and I will only rise to welcome it.  So, as the weather grows colder outside, and as I cringe every time I look at the forecast (HOPING for an unusually warm day) the clouds are clearing, and the purpose under heaven is making a turn as I encounter this new season as my “…time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together.”

So walk into this new season with me.  Perhaps you will find your new season as well…

Turn, turn, turn…

You’re never too busy to garden…6 gardening ideas that don’t take a lot of time

By Teresa Brown

Excuses are like belly buttons–we all have one. The most frequent excuse I hear for why someone doesn’t garden, is lack of time. But, being a busy working single Mom of two, I easily pop a pin in that balloon of an excuse.

Yes, some plants and crops require more attention than others. Yes, some plants are needy and require consistent watering to get established. No, that doesn’t mean you need to avoid gardening all together.

Here’s a few ideas to try if you want to garden but feel you might be too busy.

Meadow or Pollinator garden– This garden is a lazy gardeners dream and often require minimal commitment and investment. Your yard doesn’t have to be just a lawn which lacks the ability to absorb considerable water, doesn’t provide food, and doesn’t provide habitat to our needed pollinators. You can set aside an area as small as 10×10 (100 square feet) and choose not to mow. This area will often repopulate itself with local native plants, simply through you not mowing. If you want to rush the process, and increase the diversity of the plants, you can spread soil directly over top of your lawn (some people choose to use a sod cutter to get rid of the grass, others choose to put cardboard down and pile new dirt directly on top of the cardboard) and sow native seeds. Depending on your area, you can plant various nectar sources and host plants, such as butterfly weed, milkweed, spicebush, yarrow, carrot, fennel, parsley, and coneflower. Once seeds germinate or plants are established, they need little attention, aside from a Spring clean up if needed. Plants native to your area, are likely to need less attention.

Planting en masse–This year we sowed poppy seeds en masse for the first time ever. It was such a striking sight and required little attention.

We spread soil at least 4 inches thick over the soil and grass. We then lightly raked the area and scattered poppy seeds in both the winter and the beginning of spring. Our poppy garden was incredibly striking, and all we did was occasionally put the sprinkler on it, paying more attention to young poppy seedlings. In summer, we planted an array of cosmos and zinnias. There are so many possibilities with planting seeds en masse!

Portable gardens– Our partner Gardenuity offers multiple options that offer flexibility. Do you use lots of garlic? Or maybe you love salad and want to grow a salad container garden? With the temperature extremes in NJ, you can lose crops if you don’t have the right set up for hot and cool weather plants. But if you plant salad or garlic in movable bags and containers, you can keep your crops healthier and assure they don’t die out with a premature frost or extreme weather event. We’re really excited to try Gardenuity’s Garlic planter!

Microgreens–Have you ever tried microgreens? These nutrient packed baby greens are popping up in upscale and trendy food markets and restaurants everywhere. You can literally plant microgreens after soaking seeds, water daily, and harvest for salad in 10 days or less–all from the comfort of a sunny windowsill in your home. We grow our microgreens in our porch pots throughout the summer, adding them to salads, sandwiches, and eggs. Radish and leafy greens are our faves so far!

Hydroponics– There are a ton of hydroponic systems out there! Now, many do require more of an investment up front, but considering it is reusable and does the watering for you, what’s not to like? You can even save money if you prefer to make your own system, but that will require time to research and build to your needs. This can be used indoors or out, depending your set up and location.

Self watering greenhouses– Have you seen our partner Vegepod? They offer self-watering greenhouses of different sizes. We love this option in NJ where the weather can be extreme at times. Our garden club kids sow seeds, water, and harvest food from our Vegepod like pros! The greenhouse helps keep moisture in when needed, but also allows rain and sunlight in. Bonus feature is it protects food from critters and deer.

These are just a few ideas to get the creative wheels turning for Fall and beyond! We can’t wait to show you more! Keep following @bullockgarden across social media for more details!

Learning While Growing | Interview with Sonya Harris of the Bullock Garden Project – THE SAGE

We talked to Sonya Harris, founder of the Bullock Garden Project, to discuss our Garlic Garden Giveaway program and the importance of growing in schools.
— Read on

The Importance of Engaging Children with Nature – A few observations from experiential learning

By Teresa Brown

Children are wonderful teachers.  With the experiences they have in nature, they are able to help understand the world around them, how they fit into this world, and the complexity and evolving connectivity of Earth and all living and non-living things.  The understanding they have of the world around them, translates to often-immediate observations, behavior, and teachings to whoever is closest to them.

Children love to share what they learn about nature.  Teaching an adult how seeds grow into plants and food, or why one turtle has webbed feet but another has flippers, not only develops communication skills, but can also increase the likelihood that this child will use their voice and actions to protect the world in which she lives in.

Many people learn best through teaching others.  Time and time again, I’ve witnessed kids grow taller in teaching other children or adults about nature.  Watching a child’s face light up and posture stand a little taller—these effects are visible.

Giving children the stage to teach others is very rewarding—you also may be surprised of what kind of information they find on their own or know before you even discuss a topic.  If we’ve discussed or explored a topic (or even if we haven’t), giving a child the opportunity to develop their sense of inquiry, exploration, and expertise, translates to confidence in a subject, the ability to speak up without fear, and the ability to connect in community.  In a time when research regarding screen time and mobile devices is showing negative health effects and disconnection to society, studies involving children in nature show a lot of promise (and an obvious solution to nature-deprived children.)

Children in the garden

The garden is a wonderful teacher of life lessons.  Maybe your garden grows out of sheer luck, but usually you plan, prepare, gather supplies, build your garden, and nurture it to success.  This is not a slow process.  When kids learn on their own, through their own hard work in the garden, that beautiful fruits of their labor will come with hard work and dedication, you are setting children up with a self-discovered blue print for the future (they learn this through their own experience.)  Planting a seed in spring just to harvest the vegetables in summer or even later, teaches them patience and perseverance.  Some plants even take 2 years or more to come to maturity—fruit bearing trees, much longer—what a great lesson for them, to nurture a life.

The garden is a perfect place for children to discover failure.  This year, numerous gardening projects of mine totally failed.  In each situation, the reason for failure was different.  One location was ravaged by geese, another by deer, and I’m still not exactly sure why one garden wasn’t as successful as expected or why my garlic did awesome at first and then failed miserably and suddenly.  Back to the drawing board!  Coming up with solutions to these problems is like solving a puzzle, rather than feeling like the end of the world.  Due to the nature of seasons, sometimes a solution has to wait until spring (no instant gratification here!)

When plants or seeds fail, children can be disappointed, but they learn to build resiliency.  “Wow, our garlic died” or “our milkweed seeds didn’t germinate” can lead to great opportunities for inquiry and problem solving—this is essential in life!  What went wrong?  What worked well?  What can we try next time?  Let’s work from the ground up—Is this the right soil for this plant? Or the right location for sun exposure?  Were the seeds just bad seeds? Are other people having success with this plant right now?  It is ok to fail.  Failure gives us an opportunity to try something different, sometimes with more desirable results than the original plan.  Allowing children to not be afraid to fail is an easy concept to foster in the garden.

Bringing nature to children

Last year my daughter, son, and I tagged monarch butterflies for the first time.  We found monarch eggs and caterpillars in our neighborhood, and reared them.  Fortunately, 3 of the caterpillars went into chrysalis in time to visit my son’s school.  Because he had helped me through the process at home, my son was so proud and protective of these monarchs.  He helped me teach his class about monarchs, habitat, migration, and why scientists tag and track their movements.

These curious children were so engaged that most had great questions and all sat attentive and patiently.  After we tagged the monarchs and the children helped me record the tag numbers, we went outside to release them.  Their teacher took a video and photos and the kids remembered the event all year, bringing it up any time I saw them.

That experience grew into a garden building project for the class and resulted in a spring planted garden for the entire school to enjoy.  During the winter, I found milkweed seed donations, which I brought into school.  These 3rd graders researched milkweed and were so excited to build their garden.  The children used patience to pot soil, spread seeds, and use a spray bottle to wet the seeds and prevent them from being pushed too far into the soil.  Everyone did such a great job!

A few children that would normally have trouble sitting still were engaged the most while we got up and took turns and changed stations.  All hands are on deck in gardening, which is a great change of pace for kids that have to sit still during school.  We accomplished this project by creating stations and putting all 22 kids to work.  If they weren’t working, they were journaling about the project.

The continuity of the monarch tagging to milkweed sowing helped concrete the understanding of life and the life cycle of monarchs.  This type of scaffolding, when used in related topics in science lessons (life lessons!), can have a profound effect on understanding.  You learn by doing and you protect and have empathy and compassion for what you understand and love.