2018 Flower Show Miniatures

Since it looks like no one else is writing about the Miniature Settings at the Philadelphia Flower Show for this year (or any year), I will give my view of the exhibits as well as present the info cards and images for each exhibit. Hopefully someone else will give a different perspective on the Miniature Settings but the past history of the Miniature Settings as the premiere exhibit of miniatures has been abandoned in my opinion. There is no sense that the miniature world needs to know about these exhibits even as miniatures are making a big showing in movies, advertising, and art.

Some general comments first.

  1. There is still a disconcerting mix of high-end miniature artisans who have made exquisite exhibits and low-end enthusiasts and newcomers who have not mastered the concept of the Miniature Settings. Perhaps the two different sections of Miniature Settings (Class 135 and Class 136) should be divided between high quality miniaturists who are juried to get into their section, and newcomers and hobbyists who want to play around with the idea of making a diorama. As it is now, the Miniature Settings are presenting a very bad window into this wonderful expressive form. To highlight quality, you could make one of the classes an invitational to Best of Show and Blue Ribbon winners from the past. That would be an amazing set of miniatures.
  2. The theme for both classes (135 and 136) was songs about water. That resulted in some duplication (despite the fact that the rules require no duplication; the chair is supposed to work with the exhibitors on this). Usually the two classes have a different take on the theme but not this year. Many of the songs chosen were really  old-fashioned and there are better songs, like those suggested on this list. Too bad a better theme was not negotiated. I could think of all sorts of better themes: water mythology, water literature (Moby Dick, Old Man and the Sea, anyone?), water gardens in history, etc.
  3. Despite the fact that maintaining the proper scale of the miniatures and the plant materials is supposed to make a big difference in the scoring of the exhibits, many of the exhibits used oddball and mixed scaling. The sense of realism in miniature, or believable fantasy, was lost in many cases as a result. Again, newcomers should at least be taught about scale and why it matters.
  4. The Flower Show has redesigned the exhibit area for the Miniature Settings. They are now housed in light colored wood displays. The ideal way to display the miniatures is with a dark exterior, not a light one. At least they got rid of the hideous green paint. But also missing is the interior space that used to serve as a storage room for extra plants and tools, and a meeting place for the miniaturists. No more meetings of the miniature anarchists, I guess.

Okay, on to the show. The two first place winners were Deb and Jim Mackie for “Call of the Siren,” and Midge Ingersoll for “Dock of the Bay.” The Mackies won Best in Show.

Mackie info
As usual, the judge’s comments are not very helpful
One of Deb Mackie’s fine figurines and watery lighting
Mackie detail
Excellent use of succulents as underwater plants
Midge Ingersoll Judging
IMG_6314 2
Exterior view: the lighting outside was terrible in the Convention Center and reflections on the windows made everything hard to see.
Details of the fishing shed
IMG_6317 2
Details of the dock: everything perfectly scaled with plants that enhanced the scene.

The other noteworthy exhibit is the one by Nancy Grube. She always makes a Miniature Setting that is wonderfully detailed and perfectly scaled with no jarring or out-of-place elements.

Nancy Grube judging
Excellent use of trees to form a believable background. Only wish the mill was place a bit more to the left so it was not in the middle.
Lots of fun details, all perfectly scaled.

Other entries:

Robin Tomasi
Not quite one inch scale
The background looks like the water is in the sky.
Mary Forsberg
A great song but this scene never came to mind when we danced to this 1982 hit.
Unfortunate use of figures. Unless you have figures that are to scale and naturalistic, they tend to look odd.

The two “Octopus’s Garden”:

Towanda Garden Club
Hard to find a focus for this scene.
Bala Cynwyd Middle School Garden Club
Nice colored lighting if a bit dark.
The octopus.

Other exhibits:

Hillary Lee
Some nice miniatures but too far back to see.
The shack on the right cut off the view too much. Too bad it is not in the back because it is nicely constructed.
IMG_6284 3
Diana Lahr
Oh to see a realistic Gene Kelly figure instead. These cartoonish figures never make sense to me. The judge calls it a “folk art interpretation” but not sure the style matches the song and the multiple scales in this work are also odd.
Ron Smith and Chris Bogs
I agree with the judge that the net is too dominant.
Nice 3D scanned miniature model of Ron!
Carol and Tony Bastian
The Fortuna temple becomes the focus instead of the fountain.
There are so many good ways to create miniature water that could have benefitted this fountain.
Horticulture in Hospice Program
It would be nice if the leadership of Miniature Settings helped groups like this create miniatures which are a great activity.


  1. Thank you for the walk-through. The line was so long that my son and I skipped this, although we gaped over the chain barrier. You expressed many of my impressions, even from my distant view. Scale, framing, and lighting are essential. I agree with your suggestion to divide the categories. This ain’t no 4-H fair! This is Philadelphia, chock-a-block with professional artists. There must be more talented miniaturists? Shake things up, PFS!

    • Your 4-Hcomment made me laugh but it is actually a good point: this should be the best miniaturists on the east coast. In fact, we used to get people from across the country sometimes. Hope it gets better.

  2. Clarification: “more miniaturists with talent.”
    So many great ideas and visions in these scenes!

  3. i agree with your comments. They should split up the classes so the better ones are together and judged together.

  4. Well, it was good to see the constant line ups at this exhibit for the days that I was there so we know it’s held it popularity. The blend of expertise, or lack-thereof, was indeed incongruous.

    And I agree that the scenes were hard to see because of the lighting and the glare.

    Love the idea of dividing up the levels of experience. That sounds like it might solve some issues within the organization too. If this is the most popular exhibit, (or so it seems, there is ALWAYS a long line to see it,) adding another layer to this category will only surprise and delight the viewers even more. Let’s show ’em what we got, shall we?

    Oh, and the Best of Show should have gone to Nancy Grube, IMHO, it was wonderful right down to the duck weed and she wasn’t afraid of using a nice combination of all kinds of different plants either. :o)

      • Dunno but let’s see if we can figure it out. Now that they have two years of experience under their belts “they” can start to see the different challenges and obstacles in creating an exhibit. I hope they also can start to appreciate your deep passion for this art form at the very least. Is Beverly still in charge for the coming year?

  5. I just read your post on how to crackle objects. Will this process work on a miniature (1:12) metal rocking horse? I want to age it so that it looks vintage. I’ll buy one from Minatures.com or some place like.

    • The problem with metal is that you would have to use an enamel paint as the base layer. It might work of you leave that a bit tacky as it dries, put the glue layer on top of that, and then put down another color in latex paint. Let me know if it works!

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