Thursday, April 5, 2012

San Francisco Flower Show and random thoughts...

Rhodies galore! Always fun--especially for color starved people like me from the Great Plains. This is reason enough to fly to California in March (although I was there to speak to California Horticultural Society and conduct some other business). I have been lucky to visit quite a few of the great flower shows of the world including RHS's gonzo July Hampton Court (which dwarfs Chelsea Flower Show incidentally), and of course Philadelphia Flower Show where I have judged about once a decade forever, and the impressive Pacific Northwest Flower show where I judged last year...

As a dutiful blogger, I should be giving you the names of all these gardens: needless to say, there were a dozen, maybe two dozen gardens: a cottagy one, some with trim hedges, the one brimming with Rhodies, Japanesey ones and naturalistic ones...the usual gamut. None quite to the standards of the astonishing abandoned nursery at last year's Seattle Show.

There has to be one in every group...the wierdo in the San Francisco show was this illuminated tornado. Not exactly what I would put in my back yard.

Many of the gardens at these shows are relatively simple--understandably so since making a tangled wild garden is a challenge to create and maintain in a huge convention center setting in penumbra for a week. After a long, cold, Colorado winter, even these simplescapes are a relief!

But like most attendees to these events, we come for the competitive divisions, the displays of various kinds and above all to buy stuff!

Here is one of the hundreds of entries in the vast plant competition rooms: a rather unconventional pot for a plant, but I thought rather charming. Botanical dreadlocks!

A feature of this show I particularly liked was a room filled with benches with non-competitive exhibits by people and nurseries highlighting new plants or novelties.

This selection of Helichrysum "amoginum" looked suspiciously like the plant I grew as Helichrysum virgineum in the long distant past (now apparently H. sibthorpii). It reminded me how much I liked this plant which I grew for years and want to get back again...time to hit the search engines!

This purple leaved primrose from Skagit Gardens caught my eye..

But the trade show is always where we end up spending the most time! Robin Parer's wonderful Geraniaceae was a favorite stop. I had a devil of a time finding a minute to talk to her, the line of buyers was so long!

Here's a better view of her booth: I noticed that many of the non-nursery booths were the same high end garden companies that I saw recently at the Pacific Northwest show, and several mentioned they had just come from Philadelphia...there is a definite circle of shows they visit. Pity Denver is not on that list!

Here is George Hull with a few of his students from ASU in Tempe who created a lovely garden of raised beds. I met George years ago when he was developing new product lines for Mountain States Nursery. It is fun to run into old and new friends at these events and find out what people have been up to in the last few years!

I can only give the tiniest glimpse of the varied exhibits, the hundreds of trade show booths, the diversity of this terrific show in the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show...I am already thinking about going back all the way from Colorado NEXT year (how convenient that they already have the dates set!)...

P.S. Congratulations to those cities that can manage a REAL flower and garden show like Philadelphia, Seattle and San Francisco. I understand there are more...If I visit them, I will vouch for them. But otherwise, buyer-beware: most "Flower" shows have more spas and tile vendors than plants and gardens...


  1. The Sequim Garden Show is a great small town show whose organizers require that vendor products be directly garden/plant related and really try hard to differentiate themselves from "home shows" or "useless junk shows". I guess you'll have to put that one on your list!! (ha ha)

  2. I would love nothing more than to return to Sequim, Port Townsend and the rain shadow of the Olympics: you are the plant destination par excellence! And now you even have a plant show that puts the big town shows to shame....


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