For many gardening enthusiasts, the Philadelphia International Flower Show holds the undisputed title of queen of show for its high-quality horticultural exhibits, elaborate landscaped displays and sheer size.
This year, two Lexington men will take part in a special way. Tim Brooks and Joe Dietz were invited to help build and install the American Orchid Society's exhibit.
"This is a very exciting time," Brooks said. "It has been somewhere around 40 years since the American Orchid Society last participated in the show, and we're planning a grand exhibit."
Brooks, retired from state government, said he has loved orchids since he was teenager. He walked into Fayette Mall one day and saw, at a flower kiosk, a lovely white cattleya orchid priced at a little more than $20.
"I had a 20-dollar bill, and the woman let me have it for $20. That was my beginning with orchids. I've been growing orchids for 37 years," he said.
Brooks has been president of the Mid-America Orchid Congress, is an accredited orchid judge and is now on the American Orchid Society Board of Trustees.
"That's probably the basis of everything and how I got invited," he said.
His partner, Dietz, favors bonsai, but he was invited to do the Orchid Society's computer work at the show, including signs and logos for the exhibit.
Each year, there is an official theme that is the inspiration for most exhibits. This year it is "Springtime in Paris."
The Orchid Society will build the framework of a Victorian-style French conservatory, filled with orchids. Michael Bowell, a Pennsylvania orchid grower and a major exhibitor at the Philadelphia show for more than a decade, is the designer.
With the theme, Orchid Society trustees thought it would be great to make other connections with France.
"A good friend from Texas is best friends with Phillippe Lecoufle, owner of Vacherot & Lecoufle, a 125-year-old orchid nursery outside of Paris," Brooks said. "Phillippe said he would come. Then, when the Philadelphia Show people found out, they asked if he would speak. It seems one thing leads to another.
"You know the old saying, 'It's not what you know; it's who you know.' That has sure been the case with this whole thing.".
Brooks and Dietz were told to be at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in downtown Philadelphia early Thursday, full of energy and good humor, prepared to work long hours to get the display completed by noon March 5, in time for a sneak preview by members of the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society, the show's sponsor.