What should a spring flower show be? (continued)


Meet the Flintstones.

Sometimes it just needs to exist.

This was not my year for any of the big shows, but I did have a chance to see a different local event—in Rochester, where I did a couple talks. And this weekend, I’ll be visiting Buffalo's, mainly to support friends who have projects there.

The display gardens in small venues rarely have the wow factor of you’ll find at Canada Blooms or the Philadelphia show, but there are generally a couple elements here and there that might give you an idea. Or just raise a smile.

Salvaged garden art

The shopping is usually good. Interesting or bizarre bulbs, high-quality specialty tools, and artisan-made décor are always around. Some of it is much more fun at the show than it would be if you actually bought it, but last year there were some really distinctive welded fountains that would never see the inside of a big box or most garden centers. This year I bought a couple dragonflies made out of knives and forks. I am thinking I can use them instead of stakes.

As for the crowds, it’s hard to say. The Buffalo show had the same numbers it always did last year, but the Rochester show did seem a bit thin last Friday. It could be the recession as much as the fact that gardeners are less interested in ornamental gardening.

The gardeners I spoke to were all the same. They wanted to look at plants, gardens, and garden tools and talk about gardens. That’s all. They’re sick and tired of winter and it wouldn’t take much for a show like this to provide some kind of respite. Because it’s there.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at yahoo.com


  1. Consistently thru the years small shows have exciting landscape displays. Fun shopping, easy parking, & less expensive.

    Less ego, more passion, nothing to prove, just doing it, that magic of GARDENING.

    Big shows? Hmm, perhaps, ‘Oh Wow’, here/there. Too many, ‘so stale’, ‘ick, ego masonry’, ‘do not sell me your garden, delight me with your garden.”

    Small shows? Plenty of SMILES, ‘oh my gosh I’ve got to have that’, ‘look what they used I would never have thought to use it’, really connecting with the owners creating the gardens or sell the goods.

    St. Louis Home/Garden show, huge, produced by their Home Builders Assoc. created a wonderful garden show, it felt like a small garden show within a big home show.

    Odd, it wasn’t the garden realm putting it together. Perhaps for the best?

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  2. I was really disappointed with the Rochester Flower Show this year. It felt like it was highlighting pavers and outdoor kitchens more than gardening and live plants. I had great hope when I walked in and was massively let down. The vendors were more flea markety than garden center. When I go to a garden show I don’t want to see Bath Fitter, Darien Lake, Kitchen Knives or As Seen On TV booths. I want to see things somehow related to gardening!

  3. I have to agree with Jackie on the comment:

    “When I go to a garden show I don’t want to see Bath Fitter, Darien Lake, Kitchen Knives or As Seen On TV booths.”

    I went to CNY Blooms and really liked some of the garden booths, but was disappointed that many of them had nothing to do with gardening. The question is what can we do? I have visited many of the flower and garden show websites and noticed they provide emails where you can submit feedback. Is this the best approach?

    I would like to see something similar to the Philadelphia Flower Show for Upstate New Yorkers. Maybe not in scale but in quality.

  4. I’m aware it was ‘Rock the Garden’ for a theme but the booth that stacked pallets of stone 3 high and spread around some vining plants was the final straw. Why not give the space to a booth that could’ve used the extra room like the Rochester Civic Garden Center? Oh right, the vendor area is seemingly creeping into the exhibition area. Why else would there be a Bath Fitter Award? I’m not going to bother going to the Rochester show again. It wasn’t worth the admission price.

  5. Jackie, you’re right on point here. As I’ve noted in previous posts, the Rochester show used to be great – but that was many years ago. My group, the Federated Garden Clubs, used to have a small flower show there, and it was a real crowd favorite. They kept bumping us into smaller and smaller spaces until we were finally in a storage area, and we gave up. The plant vendors have dwindled off to almost nothing, and it’s nothing but unrelated crap for sale. The landscaping displays have lost quality steadily for years – it’s not worth the time it takes to go through it. Frankly, I’m not even sure why it’s called a garden show!

  6. Well, too bad I missed you Jackie and Susan! It would have been fun to have talked gardening with you.

  7. Hello, All as a member of the steering committee for GardenScape and the one responsible for Elizabeth contribution to our show. A public THANK YOU! I agree with everything that has been mentioned but the challenge is enormous. You see, out of context vendors due to the need of sponsorship (money). Producing events of this take funds and talent. Finding companies willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars to build these displays, all in a couple of days is difficult. But, much like you that is what I want to see too. Creativity, plant materials, sustainable design and so on but it is not always the case because the public doesn’t contribute in the process. Companies only have what their customers are buying to go with and in some cases what will contribute to future profits. I is a vicious circle of the vendors and companies need visitors and the visitors need eye candy and information. Which intern slowly can contribute to the decline and shows closing their doors. You have seen that with the county fairs, all but gone for the same reasons. So if you wish to return and support us tell us what you want, give us feedback and I will see what I can do to make it everything you expect it to be and more. Please contact me at ecountry@aol.com or sarah@gardenscapepros.com and we will do our best to make this show all that you wish it to be. PS I would like to have Federated Garden Club back and I would like to have the Rochester Civic Garden Center be part of this show and the seminar program next year.

  8. Elizabeth, I’m sorry to have missed you – that would have been a real treat! Ken, the Federation might be interested in returning, but a lot of things would have to change. Generally speaking, the biggest issue I and many others have is the vendor area. There used to be many nurseries and garden centers selling plants, seeds and related gardening items – that has all but disappeared, and it’s one of many reasons why serious gardeners attend these shows. Food items, clothing and kitchen gadgets don’t belong there!

  9. I think that would be great too, but we have fewer and fewer of them to draw from. This may be attributed to the introduction of the big box stores to the market place making the smaller garden centers disappear. I’m hoping to see a push back form that with the organic gardening industry, but not sure it would work with the timing of this show. I personally like to see a mixture of outdoor related wares. The thought of this show being lost is worth our effort to make it better. The only way we can do so is with open dialog like this.

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