Last Friday could not have been a more perfect day to attend the Boston Flower & Garden Show. It was sunny, warm and breezy. A day which presented us with the first signs of spring. Donna, my friend, accepted my invitation to come along on this trip. She was as equally excited, partly because I turned her onto container gardening last year. She hosted one of my Container Garden Parties at her home last spring, and not only did she and her friends learn about plants and designing containers, she ended up with 20 rhizomes from the canna plant in her container by the end of the season. Yes, 20 produced from one starter plant! In the fall, Donna came over to my house to learn how to store the rhizomes for use again this spring. I told her she can start to pot up the rhizomes now to get them growing in her house for an early start.
The deluxe motorcoach bus ride to the show was convenient and relaxing. Organized by Friendship Tours on behalf of the CT Horticultural Society’s trip offerings (www.cthort.org), it went smoothly with no traffic delays into the city. We sat back and chatted until we were dropped off at the front door. On the way, we stopped for a one-hour guided tour of the Boston Public Library. But to be honest, I was too anxious to see the show, which featured container gardens this year! As you can imagine, I could not wait to get there.
I really liked how the show floor was setup this year. Right down the middle, the landscape designs and garden exhibitors were displayed. As you entered the main entrance, you walked straight ahead to begin seeing all the thrills of container gardening by the exhibitors participating in the displays. And on each side of this central area were the market places where you could shop and buy many gardening related products. I liked how they broke the market place up into two sections on each side of the landscape display areas because it also broke up the shopping crowd. Plus you felt like you could step out of the displays and shop on either side when you needed a change of pace. In the very back of the building were the floral and horticulture competition exhibits, held in well air-conditioned rooms. So if you need a little cooling down from all the excitement, these rooms are not only cooling but very quiet. We decided to see the award winning plants as the grand finale later that day.
This year’s show featured 25 gardens each encompasing some creative aspect of container gardening. Some were embedded with displays as focal points. While others were interesting takes on the container concept. I was immediately impressed upon arrival to the first exhibit. In fact, I started to feel like some of these displays may have been even better than the Philadelphia’s flower show which I just raved about a week ago on my blog! Or perhaps it is because I’m addicted to container gardening, so it thrills me the most. Donna’s reactions were equally positive. She was inspired on so many levels by what she saw – and so was I. As soon as we began our journey through the displays, we felt charged up for more.
A lot of the landscape and garden displays had raised or elevated features. For example, one with lots of orchids had a table on a turn-style platform which rotated as a central focal point in the center of the display, elevated above everything else around it. It was held up high and provided an action feature. Another display showcased an old galvanized tub filled with plants. It was situated on top of a tall and worn wooden ladder. The older type of materials worked well together, giving a rustic country feel to the scene. I liked how the plants cascaded from the tub down the ladder a bit. And this display showed how you can reuse common old products in new ways as containers.
Another feature I noticed in this show, and in Philly’s and Hartford’s flower shows this year, was the use of live people in landscape or garden exhibits. In Boston, one designer showcased a zen-like garden with yoga instructors doing poses on a wooden platform floor set inside a garden room. This offered a new element of inspiration as you witnessed the intended garden theme being used in action on the spot. In Hartford, there were people in a garden display carrying picket signs about plants. I can’t recall exactly the theme of their showcase area, but the fact they used actors along with the plants engaged interest in a new way. It made the concept come alive along with the plants. And in Philadelphia’s show, they had artists painting an image of a live model. The model had a beautiful blue dress on and was surrounded by garden displays. All of this lent a feeling of gardens being part of our lives and our journeys through gardening leading to expressions or emotions.
One of the other fun aspects of attending these big garden shows is the way art is presented in the displays. Sometimes in very unusual and unexpected ways. Jill Nooney of Fine Garden Art (www.finegarden.com) had an exhibit using natural elements gathered from the land. Most of it, from what I was told by the gentlemen handing out her business cards, were gathered by Jill from land near her home in Lee, New Hampshire. There were lobster shells standing up to form a small container. It was like a small bowl filled with a soft white fabric like substance in the center. It looked like cotton or fibers, but I wasn’t sure what the material was but sensed it was a natural product. It made me think of an animal’s nest where they gather various materials like fur or string. There were also things like sea shells with twigs and vines. Piles of seaweed on the floor formed a thick textural mat. It made me think about the times I’ve seen seaweed on the beach. It was so cool to see it reused in an usual way. I spotted lamb’s wool and feathers too along with branches all enveloped or containing other raw and natural products of the land. All the materials were earthy and recognizable but staged to offer a curiosity to the scene – to make you question and admire the art of her works, and imagination. Her exhibit fit her communicated style of “one-of-a kind pieces” and “distinctive.” Jill Nooney’s work is located at Bedrook Farm in Lee, N.H. She is having open house showcasing her art on four dates this year in May through September. I will try to go to at least one. The dates are May 14th, June 11th, June 9th and September 10th. Ironically, I admired Jill’s work at an earlier show this winter, but didn’t realize it was the same person until I came home to write about Boston’s displays. But it is exhibits like her’s that make you think outside of the box and get creative with nature that leads to the surprises in your own gardens.
By the time we reached the end of the garden display areas, Donna and I accepted an offer to sit in a giant blue chair. It was really there to draw the attention of kids, but we didn’t miss the opportunity to act like ones! As you can see by our expressions, we were enjoying our day. We continued through the marketplaces, then we took a nice break for lunch by the adjacent Anthony’s Pier 4 restaurant on Northern Avenue. We politely asked our server to make it quick because we wanted to return to see the prized horticultural exhibits before we had to jump back onto the motorcoach bus to return home. Our only disappointment of the day was the fact we could have stayed at least one hour longer. Our feet were tired, but our energy was still strong enough to see more. Cathy T