A Sudden Softness II: Flower Shows 2016


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

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‘Tis the season, again, for flower shows! The texture, colour, and dizzying scent, like the warm-up band a few weeks before the real show begins.


I plan to attend the Boston Flower & Garden Show  in mid-March, but until then I’m gathering inspiration by looking at photos of other flower shows. And posting a few pics here from past Boston shows.

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I’ll be updating this list as flower shows are held and blogged. In date order:

The Tacoma Home & Garden Show, held at the Tacoma Dome, ran from 28-31 January this year.

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Portland, Oregon, hosted the Portland Yard, Garden, and Patio Show from 12-14 Feb. this year, at the Oregon Convention Center. The theme was “There’s No Place Like Home.”

  • The Outlaw Gardener posts separately about the for-sale plants and the display gardens — perhaps a bit disappointing this year, he feels — with mainly wider shots of the patios, pathways, outdoor rooms, landscapes. I particularly like the mixed-media pathway with evergreens, and particularly dislike the huge outdoor kitchens, living rooms, TV rooms. Among the plants sold by vendors are some nice sedums and a lovely dish of hellebores.

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The Northwest Flower & Garden Show in Seattle, WA, is well covered by bloggers! It was held on 6 acres at the Washington State Convention Center from 17-21 Feb, with the theme “America the Beautiful – Celebrating America’s National Parks & Landmarks” in honor of the 100th year of our national parks system. Details of each garden here.

  • Tatyana at My Secret Garden’s Glimpses of NWFGS 2016 provides multiple large-format photos for many of the gardens: From Sea to Shining Sea, A Room with a View, Mountains and Rivers Without End, The Hoh: America’s Rain Forest, A Tribute to Hole 12 At Augusta (which I don’t think anyone else mentions), Southwest Serenity, the Tiny Tetons, Park It In Your Own Backyard. I like her “Take-Home Ideas,” especially “Using reclaimed materials, ‘bog’ as a mini-watershed collecting run-off” from Mountains & Rivers and “‘Nurse logs’ serve as ‘nurseries’ for seedlings, moss, fungus and other organisms” from the Hoh Rain Forest. She also includes photos of some container gardens.
  • Loree Bohl at danger garden covered the NWFGS with a few posts, including of display gardens such as the Hoh Rain Forest garden, Southwest Serenity, the Tiny Tetons (including an outdoor octopus shower), and some favourite plants; and a post about the small gardens, highlighting the City Living gardens and the floral displays, with close-ups of the many details as well as longer shots of the whole (small) spaces.
  • Chickadee Gardens in Portland OR brings us lovely pics of many of the same displays — Southwest Serenity (even referencing danger garden!), the Hoh Rain Forest garden, with “sub-alpine setting typical of Washington state’s North Cascade mountains,” orchid plantings honouring Volcanoes National Park, the “showstopper” Tiny Tetons, Sea to Shining Sea, and, perhaps most interesting for those of us interested in permaculture, a display called “Edible Neighborhood – A Food System on Every Block.” The carnivorous swamp planter (not part of the edible garden … but then again …) got my attention.
  • Red Dirt Rambling offers three reports from the NWFGS: an overview, focusing on favourites Discovering Alaska, and the Tiny Tetons; details from a few gardens; and a posting with photos from several gardens: Room with A View, Park It In Your Own Backyard, Mountains and Rivers Without End, Sea to Shining Sea, The Hoh; America’s Rain Forest (which really does look amazing), A World Away on the Na Pali Coast, and the Edible Neighborhood.
  • Evan Bean at The Practical Plant Geek posted his favourite display gardens at the NWFGS, including some great shots of the Tiny Tetons, a few each from Southwest Serenity, the Hoh Rain Forest garden, some courtyards, and some unusual rock formations and alpine garden designs and plants in “Capturing High Desert Beauty, Oregon’s Smith Rock.”
  • The Outlaw Gardener offers a look at the behind-the-scenes set-up of the show and photos of the Ikebana floral display.
  • Garden Mentors’ NWFGS 2016 Recap — including several photos — proclaims it one of the best NWFGS ever.
  • Oregon Live has a slideshow of 30 or so landscape photos from the show.

Bill Thorness at Cool Season Gardener posted images from both the Portland and NWFG shows, titled Garden Show Images: Pathways, Ponds and Peculiarities.

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The Connecticut Flower & Garden Show was held 18-21 Feb at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford. The theme was “In the Spotlight.”

  • Cathy Testa at Container Crazy blogged about it — CT Flower and Garden Show – Spoiler Alert — with photos mainly of containers and globe gardens.
  • Gardendaze‘s post titled “Overt Education at the Flower Show” laments that though there was an award-winning landscape depicting native habitats and native plants, most people either didn’t get it or didn’t like its natural woodland feel and lack of showy flowers, blooms, green grass. Perhaps with more or better signage, volunteers on hand to talk about it, or simply more exposure to the concept, folks will catch on to the beauty of the natural. Gardendaze focused on water features at the show for another post, titled Water, Water Everywhere at the Connecticut Flower and Garden Show.

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The Philadelphia Flower Show, 5-13 March, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Its theme is also the “centennial of the National Park Service and our country’s majestic natural landscapes.”

  • The National Wildlife Federation has posted photos of their garden, titled “Certified Wild: America’s Backyard” and representing “the essential elements of wildlife habitat: food, water, cover, and places for wildlife to raise their young.”
  • Martha Stewart went to the show and posts more than 70 captioned photos from it in slideshow format, noting names of plants used for various displays and highlighting about 30 single plants, including begonias, orchids, succulent euphorbias, and cacti.
  • Susan Harris at Garden Rant was not wowed by the displays, lack of flowers, lack of inspiration at this year’s show. As she writes in her post — titled “Philly Flower (?) Show Report” — “I love that parks got tons of attention! But flower-show material, they’re really not.” She highlights the re-creation of Lincoln’s Boyhood National Monument, the Cape Cod National Seashore garden, the interesting lecture topics at the Ranger Station stage, and the abstract floral arrangements depicting the parks. She notes that next year, the Philly Flower Show’s theme is Holland, with flowers aplenty one would imagine.
  • Johanne Lamarche at French Gardener Dishes says that this year’s show is “one of the most spectacular shows I have attended in 25 years of coming.” She includes photos of the “animal forms created out of seeds and pods, spectacular sculptures of life-sized American buffalo and bear created out of mixed media,” the Valley Forge National Park garden, flower close-ups (particularly tulips), floral chandeliers, and details from various gardens. Her favorite display, the tribute to American photographer Ansel Adams, looks amazing, “all done in tone on tone shades in very modern graphic shapes in front of blown up images of Adams’ photography.”
  • Kae at Psalmboxkey’s Blog was inspired to consider four ideas from the show for her garden: colored blue lights against white orchids, a stream of water (or any water feature), coloured tires, and garden accessories.
  • Nikki Olida at Golden Jelly Bean posts her experiences, and a few vendor and garden photos, at the show, her first visit to it ever. She was a bit overwhemed by the crowds and a bit disappointed in the lack of flowers in some of the displays, but overall seemed to like it.

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The Chicago Flower & Garden Show, 12-20 March, at the Navy Pier. The theme this year is “Chicago is….” Chicago & Then Some blog (no photos) highlights two exhibits: the tulip gardens (with over thirty different varieties of tulips) and the Zooblooms, Brookfield Zoo’s “lush garden display featuring snakes and peacocks made of flowers.”

Shawna Coronado posted pics during her preview visit to the show, including some flower photos, a living wall of edibles, and her favourite, a water feature displayed by Aquascape, Inc.

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Upcoming — check back for reports and photos!:

The San Francisco Flower & Garden Show, 16-20 March at the San Mateo Event Center. This is the SF Flower Show’s 30th year of operation.

The Boston Flower & Garden Show, 16-20 March, at the Seaport World Trade Center. Its theme is “Nurtured by Nature.”



  1. Spring is coming! Our crocuses are in bloom! I was going to take a picture to post on Facebook, but then my husband suggested I should clean up the flower bed first, so I didn’t take the picture…

    1. Laurie, I was in Boston the weekend before this one and saw crocuses, snowdrops, witch hazel, and Adonis all in bloom!

  2. Thanks for the trackbacks on my posts. I like your wrapup of many of the flowers shows. Yes, to the dizzying scent. Yum.~~Dee

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