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?

7 thoughts on “The RI Spring Flower and Garden Show

  1. My favorite ever Spring Flower Show entry was in Chicago when my teen ager was a toddler: Craig Bergman did Peter Rabbit, with old fashioned seed catalogs in Mr MacGregor’s shed, dandilions growing in the path, and corn, cabbages and parsely growing in the garden. There were flowers too, but it told the story – you could even see poor Peter’s tail sticking out of the watering can.

    Christine, that sounds totally enchanting! There was one display at RI this year that was Mr. McG’s-ish – complete with chickens and a goat. But no Peter Rabbit that I could see… -kris

  2. I don’t go every year, but although I do feel the burden of work to make all this happen, I enjoy the fantastic early spring.

    Pat, We need a spring preview some years more than others! – this year for sure… -kris

  3. Never been as I’ve never really had an opportunity. When I was in NE I was working or too caught up in publishing trade shows. I would love to visit an RHS show in Britain. The British take it to a whole other level.

    Susan, I’m sure you’re right about that! -kris

  4. Brilliant assessment of the show Dear Kris. I feel much the same but, like you, see the forcing and transport issues and the out of sync blooms which used to bother me but now, not so much. Oh, and you are about the only one I know who can fit in that bathing suit. Will we see it soon? LOL

    Not likely! -kris

  5. I am happy to hear of your new outlook, I will try it this coming Saturday at the Philadelphia Flower Show. I too have been shocked by the artifice of forcing but I will put on new “glasses” to fully enjoy the sights of spring & summer to come that I so desperately need after 9 weeks (and still counting) of snow cover!

    Marianne, The Philadelphia show is a whole ‘nother story… A total spectacle – the hort. court alone… (..sigh..) I hope you enjoy it and get a much needed dose of spring! -kris

  6. I didn’attend this year’s show because I’ve just come to prefer waiting until the plants come out of the soil and trees bloom in their own time. Like eating my fill of berries fresh in summer, somehow having them in winter just doesn’t “taste right”. Seeing the plantings in mounds of trucked in soil, only guessing at the cost of greenhouse forcing in a winter like this,and the aforementioned out of sequence mixtures are unsettling. Also the “themes” seem “forced” as well. It’s just a discomfort issue on my own part. Snowdrops are almost here and the unfolding will begin again. Thousands of daffodils!Blithewold will be heaven again,from start to New Year’s Eve. The many local garden tours truely are gifts of sharing and delight. I thank you all for the joy you bring.

    Sara, well said – spring flower shows are just like eating berries out of season! And I’m starting to see crocus as well as snowdrops… It won’t be long now. Thank you so much for chiming in! -kris

  7. Kris- I just wanted to tell all that I thought this year RI Show was the best ever. What I am liking best about recent RI Flower Show is the creativity.. and I have to tell you that a couple of weeks after this Show, we went up to Boston to check out that one. Very very honestly, I thought- and felt- that the RI Show inspired me very much more. Part of the problem with Boston may well be the new facility, but there is more to it than that. And the Federation area this year was a real knockout! Honestly, I think the RI Show just gets better and better every year. For a little state, we sure do offer some very great stuff!- Mary Lou

    Mary Lou, I didn’t make it to Boston this year – I did hear though that one of the miniatures at least was exquisite… But of course little Rhody’s show was better! (we’re not biased or anything …) -kris

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