Guest Rant: Dwarves, Eye-Candy, and Flying Chocolate: What we Saw at New England Grows


Y'all welcome Steve Aitken, editor of Fine Gardening magazine and one of the personalities behind the Fine Gardening blog, along with editors Brandi Spade and Danielle Sherry. We just love getting these reports from garden shows, conferences, and horticulture industry events, so if you've got one to share, please get in touch.

And now we turn it over to Fine Gardening:


Steve Aitken, Editor, Fine Gardening:

Even plants are downsizing, it seems. From what I saw at the 2009 New England Grows trade show, the newest trend in plants seems to be dwarf shrubs. We saw plenty of them: dwarf conifers, dwarf roses, dwarf butterfly bushes, dwarf dogwoods, you name it. Smaller can be better. These diminutive varieties can fit into smaller or crowded landscapes and have better performance in containers. ‘Arctic Fire’ dogwood was my favorite.

Like everyone, I’m still looking for the magical solution for keeping deer out of my yard. The new weapon in my arsenal this year will be Oh No Deer, a repellent that uses cinnamon (and a little table salt) to keep the deer from munching on my plants. I have no idea if it works, but I know that varying your methods keeps these tick-riddled (but cute) marauders from enjoying dinner at my house. And I like that it isn’t made from rotten eggs.

It used to be that you needed a college-level degree to know how to properly install a green roof. Though this project is still beyond the reach of most do-it-yourselfers, it is becoming easier to find someone who can install these environmentally friendly coverings correctly. The thanks can go to LiveRoof, whose modular, pre-planted trays mean most of the work has already been done.

Danielle Sherry, associate editor, Fine Gardening:

I’m a plant junkie, so my favorite thing from the show was a plant, a purple flowering witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis 'Purpurea'). It’s not brand new, but it caught my eye immediately in the sea of other winter flowering options that overflowed into the aisles. The bright, lilac-colored blooms stood out because nearly every other plant at the show was yellow, red, or orange. Give me something different and I’m happy. We spotted this fine specimen in the Summer Hill Nursery booth, a small grower from Madison, Conn. (Steve’s note: Her fascination with that thing was real. A shirtless Johnny Depp couldn’t have peeled her eyes off of it.)

I also liked the eye-candy factor of Hort Couture’s seed line, Culinary Couture. The seed packets are pure black with silhouettes of vibrant heirloom vegetables pictured on the front. The packets are very informative and I’m assuming the seeds are a high quality since they’re packaged by Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds–one of the best seed companies out there. I’m going to give the Tiger Melons a try this year.

Brandi Spade, assistant editor, Fine Gardening:

I loved the Rolypig Composter. Composting never seemed like fun to me: tossing a bunch of rotting materials into a tub. But now I think that maybe it was just the tub that was boring. I wanted to take the pink Rolypig composter home with me. I mean, come on, it’s even realistic. The food goes in the front snout and comes out the rear bucket. Who doesn’t love the fun of that?

I have NEVER enjoyed a lecture as much as I enjoyed Erik Draper’s “Sensible vs. Senseless Pruning.” His advice filled in a lot of blanks for me, and he was able to answer audience questions clearly and completely – even if the question challenged his original statement. Did I mention there was flying chocolate involved? Draper rewarded a good answer from the audience by throwing a piece of candy in the direction of the participant. If I had been given that added incentive in college, I may have been a little bit more enthusiastic in class on those long winter days.


  1. Just cut all my glorious ‘Arctic Fire’ dogwood stems down for my sister to make baskets with. She uses holly stems for an acid green contrast in her work, quite brilliant, and I get to keep the baskets for the home and garden. Good exchange! Good work girls. Regards Fay

  2. Oh, dear deer. It is amazingly ironic that those who seek real garden space (outside Any City, USA) in quieter, more natural surroundings, that they complain about the plants and animals that live there.

    “Like everyone, I’m still looking for the magical solution for keeping deer out of my yard.”

    Why? The first thing I did (as even city community garden must do or everything would disappear overnight) was to figure out optimum placements and erect edible and visual garden fences! Snow peas thrive just out of nose reach!

    The other extreme is a property-surround electric fence – often blocking habitat, water sources, ancient trails, and stressing does who don’t wander 1/2 mile from their birthplace.

  3. I spent three days at the Grows Show as an Independent Sales Representative and did a post on it also. I was surprised to see this article mentioning two of my favorite vendors in this article. I sell product for Oh no Deer and also Summer Hill Nursery. Both are great lines of products.

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