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.
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.
I was also intrigued by the BioTekt Biological Architecture display, with its vision for hobbit-like houses and neighbourhoods.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Mass. Master Gardeners Association had an interesting take on a bee motel that was attracting onlookers:
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):
And this blue wizard hat, an unusual colour at the show:
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):
Here are a few pics from each of the other large-scale displays.
First, Rutland Nurseries:
Next, Miskovsky Landscaping with Haskell Nursery:
The 2015 Newport Flower Show display:
The Mass. Horticultural Society garden display:
The Bonsai Study Society was represented
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!)
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.
A few more vendors:
And in the amateur horticultural competition, this plant — a Haworthia coarctata propagated 40 years ago — caught my eye:
Finally, a few flowers to end our tour. Hope you enjoyed it!