The Best Garden Show of All

The Best Garden Show of All

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Slug traceries — a morning delight in my garden.

I don’t enjoy ranting and would much rather rave — about, for example, the glorious iridescent slug traceries on the pavers of my courtyard this morning. However, that will have to wait for some future date, because today’s topic is home and garden shows.

My tendency has been to dismiss the garden shows unless I am in the market for something particular. If I know I wanted to buy a greenhouse or a hot tub, I’d do it at the garden show to get the substantial discount.

I suppose that, if I wanted to know the latest gardening trends, I might take a peek at the demonstration gardens, where a young and daring landscape designer might have produced a cool structure or used a quirky palette.

Gabions were featured at the recent Northwest Flower and Garden Show. Such a versatile strategy for adding vertical interest! Also easy to do it yourself, inexpensive, and can be dismantled quickly (unlike a rock wall) should you change your mind about it.

Another thing to love about garden shows is, of course, the plants. Weeks or months before they emerge in our own gardens, we get to smell all those forced bulbs (we don’t all have Elizabeth’s way with forcing).

A highlight of my brief foray into the NWFGS was smelling the blooming Edgeworthia chrysantha shrubs and toying with the idea of popping one into my car to watch it fight for its life here in my Zone 5b garden. Luckily for those Edgeworthia, my visit met an untimely end, so they might be snapped up instead by admirers in warmer zones.

Edgeworthia chrysantha, growing in the courtyard at Chanticleer, from the book Hellstrip Gardening.

There are great educational opportunities at some of the garden shows. I learned a lot from Tammi Hartung, who spoke about “Peaceful Ways to Handle Wildlife Challenges” at NWFGS, and wish I’d been able to see more of the talks during that 5-day show.

It is fun to see all the tools on display too. I think a seminar devoted to demonstrating all of them would fill a great need. How does a sickle work, and how does one hold it? What do you use those iron claws for?

What uses, exactly? Surely this would make a fascinating subject for a seminar.

But now we get to the ranting. It’s hard to reconcile the crowded hubbub and stimulation of the garden shows with the refreshing, satisfying, never-too-overwhelming, and mainly solitary activity of gardening. The garden shows promise some of the joys of gardening, but they cannot deliver on that promise because they are not peaceful, they are not soulful, and they are not natural.

There is a place for them, and they have much to offer, but they are disappointing teases, ultimately, because I really would prefer to be in my garden.

My garden, with its barely emerging hyacinths, crocus, early tulips, and narcissus; its cluster of new chive stems, which are just what I want to be grazing on; its half-uncovered pond where I can occasionally glimpse a darting orange fish; its spreading patches of pussytoes, strawberries, sedum, hens and chicks, lime thyme, and bearberry; its reassuring gray-green mounds of lavender, artemisia, and garden sage — for me, it is the show to beat all garden shows.

Posted by

Evelyn Hadden
on February 17, 2015 at 7:59 pm, in the category Taking Your Gardening Dollar, What’s Happening.

    • KarenJ
    • 1st January 1970

    Well, as a Midwestern denizen, and probably many from the northeast this year, going to even a modest garden show in February is a way to survive intact. We have nothing peeking through the snow any time soon, and more subzero (F) weather on the way! It’s still too early to start most of my seeds, so dashing through the -25 deg wind chill to the Wisconsin Public TV garden expo was a way to keep myself sane…

    • Evelyn Hadden
    • 16th August 1980

    I hear you, KarenJ, and am glad you had something garden-related out there to dash to!

    • admin
    • 14th September 1984

    Well put, Evelyn , I feel the same way , I much prefer my garden. But when in Chicago during the frigid cold winter of March the Flower show was literally a breath of Spring.

    • Mary Jane
    • 4th March 1989

    Ah, the scythe…..Years ago in Tucson, I had no mower, but I could borrow a scythe from the neighbors. I used it to “mow” the lawn. How you hold it varies on your height. Being small I could put one arm straight down a ways on the handle hand), and used the left hand to get the pendulum swing going at the top of the handle. You work on getting a steady swing in front of you going from left to right, and just walk along, following the pace of your swing. It’s not exhausting…you can go at your own pace. Of course, it helps if you have a sharp blade, or blade teeth.

    • Evelyn Hadden
    • 28th April 2000

    Ooh, thank you for the description, Mary Jane! Using a scythe sounds as delightful as I’d imagined; I am going to need to add it to my toolkit.

    • Laura Bell
    • 24th August 2004

    When I was a kid in the 70s & 80s, we used one to mow the front lawn. Mom never had to ask us twice to do it – sometimes we fought over who got to! Once we got a gas mower though, mowing wasn’t as fun, though it was faster. Somehow the time-saving machine made it feel more like a chore.

    • Rosanne
    • 3rd July 2011

    Went to the NJ Flower Show. Needed more flowers and less gutter guard booths.

    • Deborah Banks
    • 18th October 2012

    I agree that the crowds at flower shows make it not much fun, unless you go in the evening when everyone leaves for dinner. However for the 3rd year in a row, 3 friends and I are taking advantage of a heck of a deal offered at the Philadelphia flower show. For $100 (less than the 4 individual entrance fees would be!) we get 1 membership to the PHS sponsor organization, plus 4 tickets for the show that are allowed to enter at 8 am on opening day. This is 3 hours prior to when the general public enters. It isn’t the empty space I imagined, but still really nice compared to the crowds that surge thru the doors at 11.

    • Martha
    • 10th October 2013

    I used to go to the Philadelphia Garden Show. It’s big, it’s amazing. But the major displays that catch the media’s and crowd’s attention are unrealistic for my yard, and thus not aspirational. I go now only if I need tools or a new concrete turtle, since the vendor market there is incredible. I think the show does much for non-gardeners than gardeners. After all, in this area, the Philadelphia Garden Show marks the date that we can start seeds indoors. That does enough to make me feel spring is coming.

    • Deborah Banks
    • 17th April 2016

    I agree; you have to look hard for inspiration. And the big themes often strike me as more worthy of Busch Gardens, like the can-can dancers in the recent year they ‘did’ Paris. But here in upstate NY, I am really ready for big and amazing, with lots of green. It’s worth the 4 hour drive to see that, and of course I get to spend the weekend with some good friends from when I lived near Philly. And it will be a little warmer than our -4 degrees. A total win-win situation.

    • Alice Bojanowski
    • 30th April 2016

    Thank you ALL for ranting! Down here in South Florida, it’s already hot and humid. I forgot how much fun it was Up North, waiting for Spring and the big Mass Hort garden show in Boston. Daffodils popping up out of snowbanks, and cabin-fever. Ahhhh. Those were the days! And, wow, here they are again:
    I love the Seasons (but down here, its Snowbird Season versus f#$@Hot! Season).
    Keep up the great rants! Thanks!

    • admin
    • 1st November 2016

    After my gut reaction earlier, and then seeing,
    I think I understand a bit better what you were ranting about….
    I Have Never Been To A Real Garden Show.
    Pretty sure I’d find that this kind of thing was not my “thing”…
    Keep On Ranting!

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