The New England adage goes “if you don’t like the weather just wait a few minutes,” and this could not have been more true today. Except the spring-like features – bushes in bloom, bulbs a-flower, fountains a-flow – were nestled inside at the CT flower and garden show (http://www.ctflowershow.com/). Outside, temps fell from a damp 40’s to cold enough for snow … which it did. My friend and I try to make an annual pilgrimage to this flower show. It provides a nice respite from February dreariness, we enjoy the chance to look over other people’s ideas for creating outdoor spaces, and … let’s face it … as gardening junkies we need the flowering plant fix, even when the fix comes in the form of false ‘outdoor’ spaces created inside a very large hall.
Having moved tons of stone, block, mulch, and plant material in my life, I appreciate the amount of work that goes into building these “outdoor” spaces, but I’m also nagged by questions concerning the environmental friendliness of this and any other indoor garden show. How much time, energy and resource goes into trucking in tons of stone, block and mulch, supporting structures, pond and fountain supplies, sheds, plants, trees and shrubs, and in some cases cars and farm vehicles? Beyond that, how much energy goes into forcing so many plants into an un-natural early bloom in preparation for these shows? I don’t know the answers, but I do wonder how ‘green’ these “green industry” shows really are.
Still, as a true plant junkie, I enjoy walking through these created spaces to discover unique hardscape or plant combinations useable in my own gardens. This year’s displays included a pleasing depiction of how a small country homestead can incorporate welcoming front yard planting beds, a rain barrel water collection system, and a side yard fenced-in vegetable garden, complete with compost piles. There was a well-balanced period depiction of an 18th century home, front walkway, and side yard; and a most interesting stone wall creation by Pondering Creations (www.ponderingcreations.com) that creatively used small, flat stones stacked on edge to desing round and starburst shapes within their fieldstone walls. They had done similar wall creations at the 2008 show and this year added round lights as center focal points within these designs. Unfortunately, their website does not offer any photos, but here are two photos of their 2009 display.
Another interesting retaining wall application involved the use of square concrete planters to replace the top course of wall of manufactured block. The six-inch tall concrete planters were about the same length as and replaced some of the cap blocks. The planters, filled with sedum and other low-growing plants with minimal water needs, created an interesting visual break in the top portion of the wall.
The Federated Garden Club’s floral design competition always proves interesting and highlights the creativity of the entrants … many of whom devised truly unique and engaging displays. On the other hand I was disappointed by the generally standard arrangements on display at the Connecticut Florist Association’s tables. Of the numerous flower arrangements, all from professional florists, I found only three remarkable – a tall vase of white flowers with minimal greens, a low white and green bouquet combination in a rectangular glass vase, and a tall, thin peach colored grouping. You should know, however, that I am pretty picky about my flower arranging after honing my skills with one of the best (thank you Nancy Ellen).
Aisles and aisles of vendors offering tools, design services, flowering plants, herbs and herb products, sheds, outdoor furniture, clothing, jewelry, silk flowers and greenery, and a plethora of indoor and outdoor chotchkies fill the bulk of the convention center. While we tend to shy away from most of the wares hawked here, we had a good laugh when we came upon an iron arch covered … and I mean covered … with garden ornaments, wall plaques, wind chimes, etc. But hanging at the top of this arch, above all the STUFF, was a painted wooden sign that said “SIMPLIFY.”
On the other hand, our stroll through the vendor booths did allow us to find high quality silk flowers from SunRise Corner (www.sunrisecorner.com), great herb sauces from Bittersweet Herb Farm (www.bittersweetherbfarm.com), and really cool birdhouses at the Birdhouse Brokerage and Dawn’s Early Bird booths. And, as always, we enjoyed the wares of Ballek’s Garden Center (www.BalleksGardenCenter.com) and our visit with their staff.