The RI Spring Flower and Garden Show

It may be impolitic to admit this but I haven’t been the biggest fan of spring flower shows in a long time. Back when my garden existed only as an unrequited dream in my head, I would go to the show every year as a special treat. I’d soak up the smells, the colors and endless inspiration from gardeners able to follow their passion. It didn’t even occur to me to be bothered by the oddness of plants forced out of all reasonable sequence. The shows’ magic just worked on me.

Now that my garden(s) are for real, I have to make an effort to even attend the shows. When I’m there I find myself overwhelmed imagining the amount of effort it takes the designers to set up their displays; I cringe at delphinium and foxglove blooming with the tulips and azaleas; and sadly, I lose the magic.

This year I really tried to walk into the RI Flower and Garden show with a better attitude. – And am happy to report that it worked. I thoroughly enjoyed the creativity and loveliness of the garden club competitions and horticultural entries, and rather than cringing at the forced plants in the display gardens, I enjoyed them for their odd timing. Amelachiers and fringe trees in bloom now! – Heaven. I’ve never seen nicotiana forced before. Brilliant. My favorite garden displays are always the ones that seem the most naturalistic and this time there were several winners for me in that category, which gave me renewed hope for the current trends towards native plants and gardening for the wildlife. Hope is a wonderful thing.

And then there were the lectures. When I was first going to shows I never attended the lectures and now I wonder why not? They’re the best part! Yesterday we heard Scott LaFleur from Garden in the Woods speak on native plants for pollinators. Even though that’s right up our alley these days, I took pages of notes. And I’m desperate now for a sassafras in my yard – certainly not because compounds from its roots were used to make Ecstasy (interesting fact.) but because it’s a host for butterflies I’ve never seen before. And then we heard Steve Aiken from Fine Gardening speak on low-care plants – or as he put it, plants he hasn’t killed yet. Gail and I found ourselves nodding in agreement and laughing along with every selection.

All in all it was a worthwhile adventure – although the marketplace was disappointing. We had expected to fill in some blanks in our seed orders but, alas, the seed booths were were hoping for were not there this year.

Do you usually go to spring flower shows? Why or why not?