Henry Homeyer: Mark your calendars for spring flower shows

By Henry Homeyer
© 2018 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Each winter, just as I am about to give up on life in the North Country and move to an island in the Caribbean, I am saved by the arrival of the spring flower shows. If you think that life is nothing but shoveling walks and wearing so many layers of wool that the Pillsbury Dough Boy looks scrawny in comparison, you will delighted with the flower shows.

Read on … and mark your calendars!

The first – and smallest – of the shows is the New Hampshire Orchid Society Show on Feb. 9 to 11 at the Courtyard Marriott Hotel in Nashua, N.H. This is a specialty show, but has been happening for 27 years and is a delight for both novices and orchid geeks. There will be lectures, displays and vendors. Admission is $10 or less, and kids under 12 are free. Get those grandkids and bring them along.

The queen of flower shows, in Philadelphia, will be held March 3-11.

Of the big shows, the first is the Connecticut Flower and Garden Show in Hartford at the Connecticut Convention Center Feb. 22 to 25. This show used to compete with the Rhode Island Flower Show that was held the same weekend. Sadly, that one ran out of steam and disappeared like some of those Zone 6 perennials I planted in my Zone 4 garden. I used to try to see both shows, but now I don’t have to race from one to the other.

The Connecticut Show is a four-day event with plenty of displays and speakers. I always recommend going on Thursday or Friday while the crowds are smaller and the flowers fresher. The theme for this year’s show is “Breath of Spring.”

The next show is the biggest of the season, the Philadelphia Flower Show at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in downtown Philly from March 3 through 11, a full nine days of flowers. The theme this year is “The Wonder of Water.” When you enter, you will pass through a rainforest environment with a 25-foot waterfall and a jungle of tropical flowers. Other exhibits will focus on other environments, from jungle to desert.

According to folks at the show offices, this year’s event will cover 10 acres of indoor displays and involves about 40 floral and landscape displays. The Marketplace will have more than 100 vendors selling just about everything related to gardening from seeds and bulbs to umbrellas and scarves with floral patterns.

The Boston Flower Show will be held March 14-18.

Next comes the Boston Flower and Garden Show at the Seaport Convention Center on March 14 to 18. The theme this year is “Savor Spring.” Like the Philly Show, it has lots of displays and workshops. If I go, I’ll want to hear an editor of Fine Gardening Magazine talk about “Plants Every Northeast Garden Should Have” to see if there are any I don’t have. Or perhaps I’ll attend “Garden Design 101 Class: Creating an Ever-Blooming, Low-Maintenance Garden” with Kerry Mendez.

The following week is the Portland, Maine Flower Show from March 22 to 25. This is in a new location since I last attended, on the waterfront. The theme this year is “Rooted in Maine.” There will be 14 display gardens, 115 exhibits of plants, hardscape, arbor and garden supplies, and many workshops and seminars.

A show I only recently heard about is near Albany in Troy, NY. In its 31st year, it is called the Capital District Garden and Flower Show and will be held March 23 to 25 at Hudson Valley Community College. I hope to go. From their photos and write-up, I imagine it will be similar in size and scope to the Vermont Flower Show – which is now an every-other year show, and is not occurring this year.

Bangor, Maine has an annual flower show, though I’ve never attended. This year it will be held in the Alfond Arena in Orono from April 20 to 22. If you go, please contact me so I can learn more about it.

Last year, I crossed one more item of my  Bucket List, when my partner Cindy Heath and I flew to London and attended the Chelsea Flower Show. It is in a league by itself, both in size and scope. Mostly outdoors, it includes displays with full-sized trees planted for the week. Under a big tent are displays of flowers of every ilk: hellebores, alliums, iris, narcissus, tulips, vegetables, carnivorous plants and much, much more. To see my article about the show and see a dozen photos, click here.

Put the Chelsea show on your bucket list.

The Chelsea Show is held this year May 22 to 26. If you plan to go, join the Royal Horticulture Society to get reduced prices and access before the rest of the world (the first two days are just for RHS members). One member can bring in 3 guests. The Brits love their flowers, and know how to celebrate them. Bring a flowered dress or vest and bowtie, and walk around drinking champagne if you wish. Many people do.

I called my friend Jill Nooney of Bedrock Gardens in Lee, N.H., to talk about the flower shows. Jill has exhibited at the Boston show seven times, winning many awards for her garden designs. I asked her, why go to the flower shows?

“Nobody can resist the smell of humid mulch-filled air in the middle of March,” she said. I agree. We all need that taste of spring before all the snow has gone.

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Filed Under: Community and Arts LifeHenry Homeyer's Notes from the Garden

About the Author: Henry Homeyer is a lifetime organic gardener living in Cornish Flat, N.H. He is the author of four gardening books including The Vermont Gardener's Companion. You may reach him by e-mail at henry.homeyer@comcast.net or by snail mail at PO Box 364, Cornish Flat, N.H. 03746. Please include a SASE if you wish an answer to a question by mail.

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