Back in October of 2011, we had a nasty nor’easter in Connecticut, and I made the mistake of ignoring the weather forecasters. I didn’t bother to get bottled water or fresh food to put in the fridge. In fact, I figured they were exaggerating about the anticipated conditions from the storm – after all – it was October.
Boy, was that a mistake! We ended up without power at my house for almost two weeks. Wires from the power lines by our driveway were ripped down by fallen trees, and access to our driveway was very dangerous because live wires laid on the ground awaiting repairs for several days.
There was no easy way of getting around town for the supplies I neglected to get in advance. Many roadways were impassable.
Luckily, we had area services offering hot shower facilities and local restaurants serving free hot food. I was so appreciative of these places because flushing the toilet with pool water or cooking by candlelight in a cold house was getting very tiring, believe me.
Never again, I thought. I will not forgo getting some food and emergency supplies before the next predicted major storm.
So, this morning, my first priority – after my workout – was to go to the grocery store to stock up for Blizzard Colbie coming our way later tonight.
When I arrived to the grocery store parking lot at 9:30 am, I noticed an increase in the number of cars not typical for the early morning hours.
Once inside the store, the second thing I noticed was unfamiliar faces. People were shopping outside of their normal routine – and, I wasn’t the only one getting the task done earlier than normal for me.
When I got to the milk shelves, I realized all of the low-fat milk cartons were gone. Kind of odd, I thought, but I wasn’t going to stand there to ponder the situation like some other people were doing. I grabbed a container of whole milk, and moved on.
When I got back home to unload my groceries, there was definitely a drop in temperatures and the winds seemed to be picking up. So I loaded the wood stove with more wood then threw in a load of laundry, made lunch, and did other tasks such as refilling the heated bird water dish outside, and then I finally got back to my desk in my home office.
The next thing on my mind was the spring calendar.
Yes, the calendar.
As I’ve recently mentioned, a lot of planning and preparing for the spring and summer season happens right now for people in the plant business.
Sitting here looking at the winter’s white landscape through my office window is the perfect time to note events on the calendar for the planting season.
“The Spirit of Spring” – One Way to Break the Winter Blues
One such activity important to note is happening next month –The 34th Annual Connecticut Garden and Flower Show, held in downtown Hartford at the CT Convention Center from Thursday, February 19th through Sunday, February 22nd, 2015.
And the Number 1 reason for going is to break out of the winter blues especially following a blizzard.
The effects of Blizzard Colbie will be long gone by the time the show arrives (hopefully), but the winter chills and scenes will remain in our bones and thoughts for a while during the winter months in Connecticut, unless you decide to get into the spirit of spring by attending this year’s show next month.
Other Top Reasons You Should Go To the Flower Show
To See Trees and Flowers in Bloom
Many spring flowering trees, such as the Kwanzan Cherry tree with its beautiful double-pink flowers, are forced into bloom for the garden displays at the flower show. Not only trees are in bloom but many spring bulbs and perennials will be opening up just in time to be part of the show. As you browse the many landscape displays at the show, you get the sights of days to come with lots of color – unlike the white filled landscape outside your windows right now. The show’s theme this year is, “The Spirit of Spring,” and it will get you into the spirit when you break away from the chills and enter the show to see all there is to offer.
See Old Favorites and New Trending Plants
As you walk and look around, you will be reminded of plants you already adore in your own gardens, or those you want to incorporate this upcoming season. And usually, at the show, there will be a new trend being shown – take for example, chicken coops at last year’s show – or vertical gardens, or a cake made of succulent plants – which I saw last year – All of it lets you experience the latest and greatest creativity in the gardening world. One big trending theme continuing this year is “Grow your Own”– so you may see vegetable gardens to inspire you. Then when you return home to sit by a cozy fire with a glass of wine in your hand, you will know exactly what you wish to order from your seeds catalogs.
To Get a Little Houseplant
Additionally, there are many, many houseplants available for purchase at the show, along with spring bulbs, and things such as garden tools or supplies. All the gardening things you need – yes, need, for your upcoming gardening season. Why not get them now so you are ready in the spring to garden and plant? And why not pick up a houseplant to enjoy right now as you wait. Believe me, it is just another layer of getting rid of the winter blues. When you have a nice new plant sitting at your indoor window sill, it eases some of the pain of waiting for spring to arrive.
Preview Local Landscape Designers
If you are in need of a landscape installer or garden designer, or a specialist for a rock wall or pond garden for your home’s outdoor endeavors this season, this shows offers several to meet in person, often with an examples of their products or at least a book of photos of their work. People in the business of installing landscapes, plants, and gardens or hardscape elements are usually very busy with a packed schedule during the summer season, so this is your opportunity to hook up with them now – in the middle of winter – so they can ponder you design and give you more attention before spring arrives. Get hooked up at the show before the rush begins later in the year.
Learn and Meet Gardening Experts
Seminars run during the show on the 2nd floor, above the main show floor at the convention center. The loud speaker announces the start times for each seminar – so pay attention, and preview the schedule in advance via the website. Some of the seminar rooms fill up quickly. The seminars are free as part of your entrance ticket, so don’t overlook the chance to learn from the gardening experts while you attend. It is a great opportunity to learn new gardening techniques.
General Show Layout
There are about 300 booths to browse showcasing everything from garden tools to plants in full bloom at the Convention Center in downtown Hartford, CT during the show every February. If you haven’t attended before, here’s a general idea of how it is all laid out:
As you enter the main entrance to the exhibits, beautiful landscape and garden displays are located to your right. This is where I tend to start first – looking over all the wonderful display arrangements and plants, refreshing my memory of those which names have escaped me, and meeting local landscape designers or garden club members along the way. Seeing this area first always gets my juices warmed up. I guess you could think of it as an appetizer to the rest of the show, or if you prefer, save it for last as a dessert to cap off your day visiting the show.
Shopping, shopping, shopping
In the center rows of the show floor are various vendor booths selling plants and gardening art. That’s when trinket shopping fun begins – at least for me – for what is a visit to a garden show without a bag filled with fun gardening items to take home? Just remember to get your cash in advance for the vendor’s not accepting credit cards, and note there is an ATM on the premises by the show’s main entrance in case you forgot your checks or cash.
Floral Art Galore
And to the far left of the show floor are the gorgeous floral art arrangements judged by committees every year, along with many handmade items in more booths, from paintings to garden gloves, jewelry or sachets of dried herbs and flowers – by the time you arrive to this area, your feet start to get a little tired, so you may want to rest a bit and get a snack, if you didn’t bring one along for the much needed energy.
Time for a Snack
Along the far back wall of the show floor is a café area where you may get some lunch, such as wrap sandwiches, salads, soda, bottled water, etc. Usually there are one or two small stand-up style booths on the show floor offering wine or beer too, scattered between the rows of the booths of various vendors.
Above the exhibit floor are the seminar speaker rooms. This year, the Emmy-nominated TV Host, and best-selling author and America’s top Lifestyle Expert, Mar Jennings, headlines the show. To see when he is speaking, visit the seminar schedule posted on the show’s website, or check the show booklet available upon arrival, available for free at the main entrance.
Other Show-Going General Tips
Take the time to pick them up from your local garden center to save time so you don’t have to wait in the ticket line when you arrive, however, the line is usually not too bad, especially during the weekday. But you save a bit on the ticket by getting them early. Two places which offer them are Revay’s Garden Center in East Windsor and The Garden Barn and Nursery in Vernon, Connecticut.
It’s easy – Either way, traveling on I-91 North or South, all you have to remember is 29A (the exit to the Convention Center) and if traveling I-91 South, go: RIGHT-RIGHT-RIGHT-RIGHT-RIGHT. Seriously, you take the right exit, you stay in the right lane, take the first exit on the right (Columbus Boulevard), turn RIGHT onto Columbus Boulevard, and then the parking garage is on your, yes, RIGHT. Same with I-91 North, except the only difference is the exit will be on your left, then do RIGHTS again.
I always park in the adjacent parking garage to the convention center because I’m a weenie, and because, if possible, I’ll leave my coat in the car and walk very quickly to the main lobby entrance so I don’t have to carry my coat around all day at the show, but sometimes it may be too cold to do that – especially because the garage is kind of an odd setup – You feel like you are going through some kind of mouse maze as you follow the signs and painted floors leading you to the lowest level of the convention center, known as Level P1 of the parking garage.
You will probably see one or two buses lined up at the glass doors to the main entrance on this P1 Level – so, if you haven’t been there before – look for the buses at those glass doors. Walk thru the glass door entrances and go straight to proceed to the escalators on your right, which lead up to the show floor.
Ticket Booths on the Main Floor
There will be booths in front of you to purchase tickets, and there’s a big bathroom in the back corner if you need to go before entering the main doors after purchasing your tickets. There is no coat check unfortunately. Usually a couple small display tables have the show’s booklet listing the seminar speakers and showing the floor layout – so grab one before you enter.
Also, note, if you take the next set of escalators up from the show floor main entrance, you will arrive to the seminar area. Bear right (again, those rights!), proceed down a hall to get to the seminar rooms on your left with windows to your right. The seminars are free and part of the show’s ticket price, so just review your booklet for the schedule of speakers.
Take a bag – heck, take a small carry-on type suitcase
Another tip – before you hit the road in the first place, is bring some bags with handles with you to put your pamphlets and other small purchases into, or maybe even a small carry-on luggage with wheels. I took one holiday shopping with me this year and found it to be super handy as I rolled it behind me filled with gifts. The show also sells some of those wheeled carts, if you get desperate and finally decide to buy one.
Food or Restaurants
As I mentioned, there are options at the show for sandwiches and salads, but I suggest you also bring a bottle of water and maybe some light snacks for some energy, because if you want to see it all – you will need it, or just have a nice hearty breakfast before you leave for the show.
There are several nice restaurants in downtown Hartford, many of which I don’t go to often enough, but check out the list if you feel like having a sit down dinner after your do the show. Note that some of the restaurants may not open until later in the day if you are looking for a lunch option, check their hours first.
Arch Street Tavern
One restaurant we enjoy is located almost directly across from the convention center in an old brick building, called Arch Street Tavern. It’s the type of place where you can enjoy a good brew while sitting at a very long wooden bar. It also has plenty of booth seating. They serve great burgers, wraps, salads, and comfort type foods – all very yummy.
If you exit the convention center on the side where you entered the parking garage, just cross Columbus Boulevard to walk to Arch Street. There is a small parking area to the right side of the tavern, with limited spaces, so walking is a good choice. Or do what I did, ask your hubby to meet you there, which he was happy to oblige as he sipped some brews waiting for me to finish walking the flower show!
I’ve tried capture photos with my iPhone or camera at the show, and it is always difficult to get the right lighting. Some areas are dark or have lights beaming at specific areas, so I have found my iPad takes the best photos for an amateur, but you will see pro photographers clicking away. If interested in their shots, ask them for a business card. Also, the temperature in the building fluctuates in my opinion, so dressing in layers is helpful – and wearing good shoes for the cement floor.
Review your Pamphlets
Every year, I fill my bag with pamphlets from the garden center booths, photographers, garden tour places, and any business card I grabbed – but a lot of times, I don’t look at those for a while, so I have to remind myself to do so! Take the time to do that – visit a new garden center in season – one you discovered at the show, or remember to jot down some dates to do a garden tour – one you may have learned about at the show. The vendors, exhibitors, and designers pay big bucks to showcase their products at the Connecticut Garden and Flower Show! Help them make it worth their while.
One caution too – if there is winter weather, a snow storm, or something heavy duty like our blizzard! – check the weather alerts. One year, my parents attempted to go to the show, and said the line off the exit was very long due to poor weather conditions backing up highway traffic, and then the parking was full adjacent to the center, and so guess what? They gave up and went home! But there are other options for parking and things have improved since then, but in inclement weather, it helps to look over the other parking options on the web site. Attending on a day with inclement weather is nice though – because it will be less crowded at the show usually – unless it is a blizzard – which hopefully we will only get one – the one heading here tonight!
“A Blog to share Container Garden Passions and Nature Combined with Art”
Why Attend This Show – Per the Show’s Website:
The show’s website lists the following reasons (or highlights) on why you should attend:
- Over 300 booths filled with plants, flowers, fertilizers, garden tools, tractors & mowers, patio & lawn furniture and more!
- Floral & garden related artisan section with one of a kind artwork, garden ornaments, jewelry, photography to name a few.
- Non-profit and educational exhibits
- Floral Arranging Demonstrations
- Seed planting for children
- Hours of educational seminars – Meet America’s Top Lifestyle Expert, Mar Jennings
- Friday 10 AM – 3 PM Suffield High School Agriscience will make corsages free of charge for attendees
- Soil Testing Booth # 413 & 415