In March, Northerners and Midwesterners can look forward to more than simply watching our gardens slowly come back to life. We’ll also be treated to a wide range of garden and flower shows, from the “home and garden” variety where hardware plays the starring role to garden-only shows—still commercial but at least with more plants—to spring flower shows, often hosted by non-profit public gardens and conservatories. The flower-lover in me prefers the conservatory shows, though these often feature too few cultivars. (I like to see the rarer varieties but seldom do. Tulipa acuminata, anyone?) But I do get some enjoyment out of the commercial garden shows. By “enjoyment” I mean that not wholly innocent form, where an appreciation of the absurd plays an important role.
The garden show in Western New York is called Plantasia; it is put together by the local association of landscapers and nurseries. A garden exhibition area features display gardens created by garden centers and design contractors; there are also aisles of vendor booths. I think this is a common format for most of these shows. Often, the show has a theme: my favorite was books, where we saw an urban garden based on A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and a Lord of the Rings hobbit habitat. Last year was “Around the World,” but I don’t remember any of the locations, so it couldn’t have been that great. Without ranting too much about Plantasia, I wonder about the value of these expositions.
I can’t stay away from them because:
•It’s great to walk into any space filled with gardens and plants at this still-frigid time of year.
•Sometimes, the vendors have some interesting items.
•I’m a sucker for insane water features like towering waterfalls with sound and light shows attached.
•I’m fascinated by the countless ways in which Unilock can be employed.
I’m disappointed every year because:
•Most often, the display gardens err on the side of caution. They don’t seem to get that they should be pulling out all the stops. Even if it’s not what I would want for my garden, I’m always going to be more impressed by creativity.
•The plant material, I guess because of the time of year, is generally limited to forced bulbs and azaleas, with some exceptions.
•Increasingly, the displays are less and less about a great context for plants and more and more about the “outdoor room.”
•I’m not really fascinated by Unilock.
Yet, these shows are aimed at gardeners, I’m a gardener, and I continue to attend, hoping that the pleasure will outweigh the disenchantment. What about you? Are these shows, for good or ill, part of your gardening year?
A partial listing of upcoming shows:
Plantasia, March 22-25.
Gardenscape (Rochester), March 15-18.
The Connecticut Flower & Garden Show, Feb. 22-25.
The Chicagoland Flower & Garden Show, March 10-18.
The Cincinnati Flower Show, April 21-29.
The Boise Flower & Garden Show, March 23-25.
The Portland Flower Show (Maine),March 8-11.
The Central Massacusetts Flower Show, March 2-4.
The San Francisco Flower and Garden Show, March 21-25.
And of course there are many more.