It’s hard not to feel for the people behind the Philadelphia Flower Show, the largest in the world and the oldest in America. When they chose this year’s theme — “Bella Italia” — they couldn’t have known that the stock market would hit its lowest level in more than a decade during their show, and that it might therefore be an inopportune time to celebrate flowers and Italy and events that are “the largest in the world.”

Indeed, the entrance to the 180th anniversary show is so suggestive of Roman decadence that the theme seems almost tongue-in-cheek. Just inside the doors, soaring columns topped with urns of overflowing flowers line a row of fountains that ends at a tall temple where opera singers and choirs give daily performances. Other displays celebrating the art of Florence, the fashion of… More…