A Sudden Softness: Flower Shows


“Garden design is all about concealment and surprise.”
― Andrew Crofts, Secrets of the Italian Gardener

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‘Tis the season … for flower shows!

I plan to attend the Boston Flower & Garden Show next week (runs from 11-15 March) at the Seaport World Trade Center (with the theme “Season of Enchantment”), and until then I’m contenting myself with looking at other people’s photos from other cities’ flower shows. And reviewing photos from past years at the Boston Flower Show — those are the photos decorating this post.

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“A garden should make you feel you’ve entered privileged space — a place not just set apart but reverberant — and it seems to me that, to achieve this, the gardener must put some kind of twist on the existing landscape, turn its prose into something nearer poetry.”
― Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education

(not sure I entirely agree that the existing landscape isn’t poetry already)


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A list of flower shows already held or soon to be held, and some of my favourite flower show photo accounts so far this year:

The Northwest Flower & Garden Show in Seattle, WA, held on 6 acres at the Washington State Convention Center from 11-15 Feb. The theme was “Romance Blossoms.”

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The Portland (OR) Yard Garden and Patio show was held from 27 Feb to 1 March at the Oregon Convention Center.

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Be pleased with your real garden, don’t pursue the perfection of a picture. What you see in a photo lasted only as long as the shutter snap.
— Janet Macunovich

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What else?

The Connecticut Flower & Garden Show was held 19-22 Feb over a 3-acre space. The theme was “The Spirit of Spring.”

  • Cathy Testa at Container Crazy blogged about it — CT Flower and Garden Show Photos — In Case You Didn’t Go Last Week — with photos galore. She includes landscape displays by local designers, quite a few miniature garden exhibits, photos from the floral arts competition, and a few of the plants for sale.
  • Kathy Diemer at A Garden For All also posted a few snaps from the Connecticut Flower & Garden Show 2015, along with her (positive) comments on the show overall.
  • No commentary here, but CTNow posted 84 photos, a mix of candids and photos of flowers, landscapes, and products for sale.
  • Thomas Mickey at American Gardening (…with a love for the English garden) found one particular flower at the Connecticut show to write about, the primrose called Victorian Lace Primrose (Primula elatior ‘Gold Lace’).

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The Vermont Flower Show ran from 27 Feb to 1 March at the Champlain Valley Expo in Essex Junction.

Eva Sollberger reports, in a 6-minute “Stuck in Vermont” video, about the Vermont Flower Show, with interviews and images from the show.

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The Philadelphia Flower Show began 28 Feb and ends on Sunday, 8 March. It’s on a 10+-acre space. The theme this year is “Lights! Camera! Bloom!” (celebrating the movies, specifically Disney and Pixar movies). The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society has its own blog, with photos; recent posts relate to the flower show, with topics such as Five Pro Tips About the Flower Show, Flower Show Plants: Practically Perfect in Every Way, International Designers Set to Stun Show, and The Birds, the Bees, and the Butterflies.

  • Pamela Copeland at Posh Palettes blog wrote two postings to give us a glimpse into the Philadelphia Flower Show, Part I, focusing on displays and plants, and Part II, looking at jewelry and collage made from organic materials as well as heirloom seed packet art. Her photos, with minimal commentary, tend toward the posh, as you might expect (Cinderella’s wedding!), and they are exquisite.
  • More Than Ordinary Days takes us on a tour with lots of photos and commentary. Displays included are Peter Pan, Winnie the Pooh, Finding Nemo, Tarzan, Parent Trap, Cars, Cinderella, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Frozen, and a Disney princess section. There’s also a butterfly exhibit!
  • (added 3/15) John Boggan’s posting title, at DC Tropics, says it all for him: I hate the Philadelphia Flower Show. He suggests that the marquee “should read: abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”  Mainly it was the crush of the crowds, which prevented him from seeing many displays. He focused his time and attention instead on the  Hamilton Horticourt, “where all manner of beautiful, interesting, bizarre, and rare plants are exhibited and competitively judged.” Most of his photos are of these plants.
  • (added 3/15) Claire Jones at The Garden Diaries divided her report into two posts: Lights Camera Bloom! Philadelphia Flower Show-Part 1, which covers, with mostly close-up photos, everything but the miniature gardens, which she shares in Lights, Camera, Action! Philadelphia Flower Show, Part 2.
  • (added 3/12) Ashley Youwakim’s photos of the show (about a dozen), with her commentary, are at Garden Rant.
  • 2 Little Birds Planning posted about a dozen photos from the show. Looks very lavish!

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I think having land and not ruining it is the most beautiful art that anybody could ever want to own.
— Andy Warhol

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The Portland (ME) Flower Show is ongoing, from 5-8 March, at The Portland Company on Fore St. Its theme is A Taste of Spring. I haven’t found anyone who’s blogged it yet. Only about 9,000 people attended it this year — compared to 250,000 at Philadelphia’s, for instance.

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“Humphry Repton, the leading garden theorist of the nineteenth century, defined a garden as ‘a piece of ground fenced off from cattle, and appropriated to the use and pleasure or man: it is, or ought to be, cultivated and enriched by art’.” ― Tom Turner, British Gardens: History, Philosophy and Design

knittedpatiofurniture(yes, those are knitted)

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The Chicago Flower & Garden Show is starting soon, 14 March through 22 March, at Navy Pier. Theme: “Do Green, Do Good.”

Update 3/31: Shawna Coronado posted Flowers Everywhere at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show with some introductory info and about 10 photos.

Update 3/31: Louise at Two Girls with a Purpose visited the Chicago Flower & Garden show and took pics. (Not much commentary.)

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The San Francisco Flower & Garden Show runs from 18-22 March. Theme: “Movies.”

Update 3/31: Saxon Holt at Gardening Gone Wild photographed the show, with comments (posted 3/25). He got to see the whole thing from a scissor-lift machine!

Update 3/31: Anne of Green Gardens also went to the show and brought back photos, including of the Pollinator Pavillon. She comments that “[a]lthough California is in a drought, it was interesting to note that many gardens featured water as a major component of their landscape design. It just goes to show how important water is for a garden whether its specifically for the plants or if it’s a part of the garden by design.”

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The Cincinnati Flower Show, at Yeatman’s Cove, is held from 15-19 April.

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And across the pond, The Chelsea Flower Show in London runs from 19-23 May.

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“Harshness vanished. A sudden softness

has replaced the meadows’ wintry grey.

Little rivulets of water changed

their singing accents. Tendernesses,

hesitantly, reach toward the earth

from space, and country lanes are showing

these unexpected subtle risings

that find expression in the empty trees.”

–  Rainer Marie Rilke, Early Spring


  1. Thank you so much for linking to my blog! I feel so badly now I haven’t yet written a wrap-up post for the shows I’ve attended this year but I hope to get to it this week. The next season to look forward to now is plant sale season! That’s what we all really look forward to, right?

  2. Thanks for the mention, although I do hope people will get past my rather tongue-in-cheek blog title (“I hate the Philadelphia Flower Show”) and read to the end to see that I don’t really hate it at all!

    1. Well, it’s an intriguing title, but it is clear on reading your posting (and I hope my summary of it) that it’s the large crowds that are the unappealing thing about your visit, not the show itself. (Compare to the Northwest Flower & Garden Show this year, which several bloggers really didn’t like.) Thanks for commenting and for sharing on Facebook.

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