The Connecticut Convention Center was transformed into a spring playground for gardeners during the 29th annual Connecticut Flower and Garden Show in downtown Hartford.
The show, which was held on February 18 to 21, included award-winning landscape exhibits, a standard flower show, gardening seminars and a slew of garden-related vendors.
I look forward to attending the show because it’s a nice break from winter and it gets me thinking about gardening again.
There is something magical about walking into the Convention Center and seeing flowers in bloom on a cold winter day. I think this winter was exceptionally gray and dreary, so attending the flower show was an uplifting experience in more ways than one.
“Spice of Life” Standard Flower Show
The Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut, Inc. put a great deal of work into creating horticultural exhibits and floral arrangements. The 2010 theme for the flower show was the “Spice of Life.”
Talented gardeners from garden clubs throughout the state entered their floral arrangements and other horticulture displays. There was something for everyone, including natural arrangements made from flowers, fruit and fabric.
There were also some rather unusual arrangements, including a pair of mannequin legs covered in black fishnet stockings with bright red flowers. It reminded me of the lamp in the Christmas Story movie. Take a look at that photo!
Award-winning landscape exhibits
In addition to the flower show provided by the Federated Garden Club, there were amazing landscape exhibits created by local landscape companies.
My favorite part of the flower and garden show are these exhibits. I give all of the contractors a big thumbs up for the amount of preparation and physical labor that goes into creating these temporary exhibits. No detail is overlooked.
The exhibits included structures, patios, fire pits, water features, retaining walls, specimen trees, flowering shrubs and masses of bulbs forced into bloom for this winter spectacle.
As a landscape designer, I enjoy observing the details that make each landscape exhibit stand out from the next one.
Something for everyone
Awards are given to the landscape exhibits based on best use of color, texture, plants, stone work, water, structures and other criteria.
Every exhibit included something that caught my eye, such as the heart shaped paver insert in front of the stone fireplace by Supreme Landscapes or the red cushioned chairs in the rooftop garden display by Pride’s Corner Nursery.
Pondering Creations is famous for their stone mosaics and they brought back the amber colored globes from last year that help to light up their water display.
The display by Hillside Nursery included an outdoor bar, complete with granite countertop and television – but it was a pair of mature Swiss Stone Pine trees in their display that captured my heart.
Lawncare, Etc. had an ambitious exhibit with a hillside planting complete with retaining wall, paver patio, water garden, lush turf and a covered dining area.
As you can see in the photo to the left, there was no shortage of daffodils, tulips and azaleas in full bloom at the Convention Center.
Lights, cameras, action!
Many visitors at the show were enchanted by the colorful light display coming from the water fountain in one of the exhibits by Aquascapes of Connecticut. The fountain changed colors and was synchronized with music.
I was more intrigued, however, with their exceptional use of landscape lighting against a garden shed and throughout the surrounding garden area that included a picnic pavilion.
Their exhibit included two espaliered Japanese Maple trees that were an excellent use of specimen trees.
Aquascapes was an adventurous contractor this year and set up a second exhibit. It was a large circular exhibit with a small sailboat docked on the edge of a pond which included a carved stone waterfall.
A white gazebo stood off to one side and was surrounded by a lush planting of rhododendrons and evergreens. This free-standing exhibit was surrounded by large logs, which added a unique “edging” to the landscape design.
And the award goes to…
My personal choice for the best exhibit this year goes to an Italian-inspired design built by StoneBridge Craftsmen (see the photo at beginning of this column).
They created a fascinating design complete with a stone archway that was draped with red roses. The archway beckoned you into a pleasing landscape of soft green turf and a smooth sandstone patio with a table set for two.
The backdrop was a stucco house painted white, then aged by applying stain with a brush. The house had a red door and red window boxes that would have made my Italian father-in-law feel like he was back home.
A mix of evergreens and flowering shrubs gave the exhibit a splash of color. And a circular stone pool repeated the curves that were used throughout the entire design.
In the center of the pool was a fountain with water bubbling out of the top of stacked stones. The sound of splashing water enhanced the peaceful feeling of this landscape.
If it hadn’t been for the signs warning visitors to keep off the display, I could have easily made my way over to the table and chairs to enjoy a glass of vino in this Tuscan village.
Shop ’til you drop
When I had finished admiring the landscape exhibits and horticultural offerings by the garden club, I couldn’t help but “walk the gauntlet” between rows of vendors. There are hundreds of vendors who fill up the nearly 3 acres of display space within the Convention Center.
I saw garden tools, tractors and a shed to store it all in.
Then, I perused the hats, gloves, T-shirts, birdhouses, wreaths, garden decorations, fences, gazebos and hot tubs.
There was every type of plant available, including flowering houseplants, forced branches of pussy willow and forsythias, orchids and some amazing bonsai specimens.
If you were not interested in the above vendors, you could shop for food, candy, herbs, lotion, soap, jewelry, paintings, photography and everything else gardening-related you could think of.
During my adventure through the vendor section, I purchased a garden dibber, a black-red double flowered peony for my garden collection and a glass wall hanging of preserved butterflies in every iridescent color you could imagine (the butterflies died of natural causes and the proceeds were donated to save the rain forest).
Schedule for next year…
If you haven’t seen the CT Flower and Garden Show in the past few years, I would recommend that you put it on your calendar for next winter. It offers plenty of inspiration for your own garden and it’s a great escape from the cold, gray days of winter. Spring is just weeks away and I am looking forward to getting out into the garden once again!
Posted March 6, 2010