by Lois Rose, Master Gardener Educator
All photos from Ann McCulloh
By February in northeast Ohio we are looking forward to some sign of green. We are hoping to be caressed by the humidity and warmth of early spring, the scent of bulbs pushing up through the soggy soil.
And then there is the coming of the Great Big Home and Garden Show at the IX center. I have been attending these shows for many years in a specialized capacity, answering questions from the public about gardening.
When I have a bit of time off of the answer table, I can wander freely and take on the sights and sounds of the show. And I have to say that this has been a more and more disappointing experience over the years and this year is no exception.
I observed walking into the hall from the Exhibitors’ entrance that there seem to be fewer stands and vendors this year taking up less space. I have not confirmed this as a fact but I know that there were almost no vendors selling plants or plant accessories.
And the gardens that are installed with a mountain of sand, a city of bricks and a lake of water features are less and less what I hope or want to see.
Perhaps I am behind the times, out of sync and outside of the mainstream, but what I saw was primarily hardscape….paths leading in a U-shape through each exhibit. Large patio scapes with fire pits or grills and bars and outdoor seating for entertaining. Oh and there were some plants thrown in.
This is a challenge and a science and an expensive effort.
There were some triumphs in some of the gardens. For example there were white-flowered hellebores in some of the displays that were tall and showy.
There were a myriad of daffodils and hyacinths, some with excellent fragrance.
There was a forsythia bush in full bloom and a Cornus mas or Cornelian Cherry and a few other fruit trees with good blooms showing.
BUT… I have often groused about the displays of early- mid -late spring flowers shown at the same time as if you would be able to achieve this kind of show in your own garden. Tulips and forsythia and azaleas and fruit trees….February and March and April and May joined together in unity.
I wonder if the average show-goer realizes that many of these plants bloom consecutively and not at the same time…
One display had a charming large metal pot planted with a water garden, papyrus and water hyacinth.
And a sunken Hosta and fern garden under a sidewalk grate.
There was a construction of a house front with a balcony fitted with mannequins reclining near a full complement of jazz band instruments…evoking New Orleans during Mardi Gras, with a small albeit conventional garden below with a very old decrepit upright piano with plants in the top.
It was dark and quiet in the garden display area, with many fewer people so the experience was a respite from the main hall.
They cleverly placed a bistro in this quiet area so that you could eat a nice meal in relative calm. Expensive but quiet.
And on the other side of the ledger there were a few displays that had houseplants as their prominent green material. They were integrated into borders with outdoor plants but still, houseplants with large leaves. Is this fake news?
So I conclude that the public wants hardscape for their yards and the companies know this and therefore provide it in their displays.
The plants and displays that I remember from the nineties, interesting foliage plants for example, newer cultivars, are clearly a thing of the distant past. I did not find anything much to buy for my garden….metal frames of animals, gnomes, little owls and cute little ….not for me.
But you can ride the ferris wheel for 2 bucks, and buy fudge and a super mop.
That is the home part of the show which is fully realized. Too bad the garden section has been diminished.