The Boston Flower & Garden Show 2015

crowdshotBostonFlowerShow12March2015

I mentioned recently that I would be attending the Boston Flower & Garden Show (theme: “Season of Enchantment”) again this year, and I did so last week, for the first time by myself instead of with a companion — which was great fun and quite relaxing for me. Being alone allowed me to revisit some displays three or four times, and breeze by others with hardly more than a glance, wandering as my attraction led me. I sat down in the lecture hall to hear a talk on rhododendrons; after 10 minutes I realised that the slideshow pace was far too fast for my love of lingering on an image, and that, coupled with the fact that none of the rhodos was identified, left me with no reason to stay, so I got up and went off to enjoy other aspects of the show. I also found that even though I was alone at the show, invariably a stranger would strike up a conversation as we stood by a display, vendor, flower arranging competition.

EPA Soak up the Rain display
EPA Soak up the Rain display

Overall, I admit I was a bit disappointed with the show this year. The vendor section, now located in the back of the convention center instead of along the sides, seems to have grown much larger, and the space allotted the actual display gardens a bit smaller. There were 15 displays, reportedly, but quite a few were not actually garden or landscape designs: one was sand sculpture (Grady Sand Sculpture), one the EPA with their water runoff display (appreciated but not a garden display), one was a place to get some mystery seeds to plant in one’s own garden, one was Ocean Spray corporation with a vat of cranberries, etc. I would prefer there to be no vendors — other than the landscapers, gardeners, and plant nurseries that design the main displays — but I guess that’s wishful thinking.

Really, I don’t begrudge those vendors with relevancy to gardening and yard work, or to floral beauty and art. A friend happily bought ratcheting pruners at the show the day before I was there, and I admired the “flora” made from seashells at Seashells in Bloom and quite enjoyed a free sample of red wine and some chocolates at the Pop Crush booth.

Vendor: Seashells in Bloom
Vendor: Seashells in Bloom
Vendor: Seashells in Bloom
Vendor: Seashells in Bloom

I was also intrigued by the BioTekt Biological Architecture display, with its vision for hobbit-like houses and neighbourhoods.

BioTekt Biological Architecture vendor display
BioTekt Biological Architecture vendor display
BioTekt Biological Architecture vendor display
detail of BioTekt Biological Architecture vendor display

I realised late, looking at the program after I got home, that I somehow missed entirely seeing the Hudson Valley Seed Library, Eastern Plant Specialties Rare Plants, and Native Exotics booths — yet kept stumbling over the Massachusetts State Treasurer’s Unclaimed Property Division booth and the people who sold cages to trap biting flies.

Aside from the sub-optimal proportion of garden displays to vendors, I also noticed, when I got home and my spouse asked what I learned from the show, what design ideas I gathered there, what plants struck my fancy this year, that my answer to all of those questions was, nothing and none. I couldn’t remember one stand-out feature or plant, one “aha” moment, or a sense of felt inspiration. That’s unusual for me.

yellow-red orchids

On the other hand, it was so pleasurable to feast my eyes and other senses on many of the displays, to simply take in the fragrance and beauty of spring. We are still in the midst of winter here in northern New England (even more so than in Boston, where much of the snow had melted when I was there last week), with two or three feet of snow still on the ground here, and of course no sign of the merest bulb or hellebore peeking above ground. (Perhaps they are peeking, but all they are seeing is a muffled white white world.) It was heavenly to see the many colours of green again, and to smell the hyacinths, the soil, the humidity (which seems to have a scent).

As usual, the main plants in the display gardens were spring bulbs, hellebores, primroses, azaleas and other rhododendrons, hosta, forsythia, all variety of evergreens.

There were plenty of patios, ponds, arches and columns, seating areas, walkways, stone walls, sculptures, a waterwheel, and other structures.

stone circle by Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain
stone circle by Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain

I would have loved to have seen, in the displays, elements like rainwater collection barrels, green roofs, ground cover crops (e.g., clover or buckwheat), composters, or a whole display dedicated to edible food forests or fruit tree guilds! Wouldn’t that be great? Ocean Spray was there with real cranberries in water, real cranberry bushes, and free samples of craisins, but that was about it for edibility. Some hazelnuts, elderberries, interplanted veggies, or aquatic/riparian edibles like rice or watercress would not have gone amiss.

Ocean Spray: cranberry bushes
Ocean Spray: cranberry bushes

Among the items being sold by vendors were mushrooms-in-a-bucket, beekeeper tools and know-how, rainwater collection systems, good garden pruners and gloves, and other useful tools for permaculture gardening. I’m hoping some year soon the displays will catch up. Did I mention how much I’d like to see a food forest?

I appreciated seeing grasses like carex in the displays; these could be alternatives to turf grass, planted in the right places with the right varieties.

Miskovsky Landscaping and Haskell Nursery display: Acorus gramineas 'Ogon' Golden Carex with sign
(Miskovsky Landscaping and Haskell Nursery display)

The Mass. Master Gardeners Association had an interesting take on a bee motel that was attracting onlookers:

Mass. Master Gardeners Assoc: bee house
Mass. Master Gardeners Assoc: bee house

Some of the containers, with sedums, were very interesting with their curvy, spikey shapes, including these from Snug Harbor Farm in Maine. They might work well for low-maintenance xeriscapic gardening.

I was also taken with a small outdoor room interior by Kirsten VanDijk Interiors. While I stood nearby, I overheard a few women dismissing it, but I’m not sure why, as it was one of the more appealing “rooms” I saw. Maybe the laptop? Maybe the lack of practicality of the moss loveseat? I liked its look, for what it was, a sort of fantasy.

The Florist Invitational theme this year was “Tools of the Trade: Wizard Hats & Wands,” with seven entrants. My favourite was a large concoction of many greens by Martin’s Flowers & Gifts:

This rotating wizard was pretty cool, too (sorry I don’t know whose it was):

rotating wizard at Florist Invitational Wizard Hats & Wands competition
Florist Invitational Wizard Hats & Wands competition: rotating wizard

And this blue wizard hat, an unusual colour at the show:

Florist Invitational Wizard Hats & Wands competition: blue wizard hat
Florist Invitational Wizard Hats & Wands competition: blue wizard hat

There was also a large room of floral designs following various themes, all derived from the show’s main theme, “Season of Enchantment”. These aren’t my thing, but a few were unusual or intricate. In order, below (click each to enlarge), several Tillandsias (air plants) in “A New Leaf” design competition; two miniature garden entrants in Tales of Enchantment: “Tea with Tinkerbelle;” and two green designs in Tales of Enchantment: “Emerald City”:

Of the large scale garden displays, I think I spent the most time at Magma Design Group, which incorporated not only stonescaping but the tools used for the work (and a hosta whose colour and shape I admired):

Magma Design Group display: patio and arch
Magma Design Group display: patio and arch
Magma Design Group display: large lime hosta
Magma Design Group display: large lime hosta
Magma Design Group display: hammer and nails on stone wall
Magma Design Group display: hammer and nails on stone wall
Magma Design Group display: axes, hosta, forsythia, stone wall
Magma Design Group display: axes, hosta, forsythia, stone wall

Here are a few pics from each of the other large-scale displays.

First, Rutland Nurseries:

Rutland Nurseries display: patio with goldfish in vertical aquarium
Rutland Nurseries display: patio with goldfish in vertical aquarium
Rutland Nurseries display: windowbox
Rutland Nurseries display: windowbox
Rutland Nurseries display: vertical aquarium
Rutland Nurseries display: vertical aquarium
Rutland Nurseries display: column, fire, rhodos
Rutland Nurseries display: column, fire, rhodos

Next, Miskovsky Landscaping with Haskell Nursery:

Miskovsky Landscaping and Haskell Nursery display: evergreens, structure, carex grass
Miskovsky Landscaping and Haskell Nursery display: evergreens, structure, carex grass
Miskovsky Landscaping and Haskell Nursery display: garden through weeping Katsura tree
Miskovsky Landscaping and Haskell Nursery display: garden through weeping Katsura tree
Miskovsky Landscaping and Haskell Nursery display: shape of weeping Katsura tree
Miskovsky Landscaping and Haskell Nursery display: shape of weeping Katsura tree

Heimlich Nurseries:

Heimlich Nurseries landscape
Heimlich Nurseries landscape
Heimlich Nurseries: Dragon's Eye Pine
Heimlich Nurseries: Dragon’s Eye Pine

The 2015 Newport Flower Show display:

Newport Flower Show display: portico with white woman and formal garden
Newport Flower Show display: portico with white woman and formal garden
Newport Flower Show display: white flowers
Newport Flower Show display: white flowers
Newport Flower Show display: white crocuses
Newport Flower Show display: white crocuses

The Mass. Horticultural Society garden display:

Massachusetts Horticultural Society display: landscape with lawn and tea set
Massachusetts Horticultural Society display: landscape with lawn and tea set
Massachusetts Horticultural Society display: landscape with lawn
Massachusetts Horticultural Society display: landscape with lawn
Massachusetts Horticultural Society display: hollow log with grape hyacinths
Massachusetts Horticultural Society display: hollow log with grape hyacinths
Massachusetts Horticultural Society display: furry fern labeled "Huperzia Club Moss"
Massachusetts Horticultural Society display: furry fern labeled “Huperzia Club Moss”

Graystone Masonry:

Graystone Masonry: statuary, pond, waterwheel
Graystone Masonry: statuary, pond, waterwheel
Graystone Masonry: red fringed tulips and purple primrose, waterwheel
Graystone Masonry: red fringed tulips and purple primrose, waterwheel
Graystone Masonry: bird sculpture (also seen last year)
Graystone Masonry: bird sculpture (also seen last year)
Graystone Masonry: fountain plumbing pipes
Graystone Masonry: fountain plumbing pipes

The Bonsai Study Society was represented

Bonsai Study Group: azalea and other bonsai
Bonsai Study Group: azalea and other bonsai
Bonsai Study Group: companion plants for bonsai
Bonsai Study Group: companion plants for bonsai

and

New England Carnivorous Plant Society sign

but I forgot to take any photos of their voracious plants.

The USDA was there to remind us to watch out for this non-carnivorous but very damaging woodland pest, the Asian Longhorned Beetle. It will girdle and eventually kill maple species (Acer spp.), including boxelder, Norway, red, silver, and sugar maples, as well as birches, elms, willows, and sometimes ashes, the London planetree, mimosa, and poplars. Yikes. (Remember, it may have blue feet!)

USDA display: Asian Long-horned Beetle

This display for grills and complete stone-and-stainless kitchens was never busy when I walked by. The only price tag I saw for one kitchen set-up, with a deep discount, was about $5,000. I took the bus to the show and could not lug one home.

Display of large-scale stone patio kitchens and grills

A few more vendors:

Vendor: Spear Head Spade
Vendor: Spear Head Spade. Talk about a niche!
Vendor: a pottery vendor
pottery
Vendor: Pine Harbor Post & Beam
Pine Harbor Post & Beam
Vendor: Motown Mushrooms: Fungi pail, Mushroom Garden in a Bucket
Motown Mushrooms demonstrated fungipail! Mushroom Garden in a Bucket. Oyster mushrooms seemed to be the order of the day here.
DeJager Bulbs - with crocosmia!
DeJager Bulbs – with crocosmia!
Best Bees (beekeeping) and Smart Tank (rainwater collection) vendors
Best Bees (beekeeping) and The Smart Tank (rainwater collection) vendors

And in the amateur horticultural competition, this plant — a Haworthia coarctata propagated 40 years ago — caught my eye:

Amateur Horticulture Competition: Haworthia coarctata - propagated 40 yrs ago

Amateur Horticulture Competition: close view of Haworthia coarctata - propagated 40 yrs ago

Finally, a few flowers to end our tour. Hope you enjoyed it!

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