Spring arrives every year, but never soon enough for most of us gardeners. The first real sign of spring for me is always the arrival of my snowdrops: those tiny white bulb flowers that come up, no matter what, by early March – and sometimes earlier. Even under a thick blanket of snow and sub-freezing temperatures, the snow drops pop up. I’ve been known to shovel off the snow to find them.
At the same time come the spring flower shows. These extravaganzas offer the blossoms and fragrances of spring – but months early. Intrepid nursery-people force trees to bloom, along with hundreds of tulips and daffodils. Seed companies are there, showing their wares, and garden experts spout knowledge to interested gardeners in dozens of workshops over the weekend-long events.
The Providence Flower Show was, for the last 20 years, one of the first each year. It was a great show and I attended often. Unfortunately, it saw declining revenues and has given up. Apparently the competition with the Connecticut Flower Show in Hartford and bad winter weather did it in. The Rhode Island Home Show, produced by the Rhode Island Builders Association will have a flower component in their annual show march 30 to April 2.
So this year the first weekend of flower shows is February 23 to 26 at the Hartford Convention Center – and the Connecticut Flower Show reigns by itself. The Hartford Show’s theme this year is “Woodland Enchantment”. There will be over 50 workshops over the course of the weekend, so there is much to learn from their speakers. And of course, there are flowers galore and much to buy if so inclined.
Next comes the Vermont Flower Show on March 3 and 4 at the Champlain Valley Fairgrounds. This is a nice small show. Instead of many small displays of flowers, members of the Vermont Nursery and Landscape Association work together to create one larger area that includes many blooming trees and forced bulbs that is always nice. There is a large model train area that appeals to kids, along with children’s craft opportunities to keep the little ones busy. The vendors of garden-related stuff are numerous.
The “grande dame” of American flower shows, the Philadelphia Flower Show comes next and lasts from March 11 to 19. It is truly huge, and worth visiting at least once. Held in the Pennsylvania Convention Center, it covers about 6 city blocks and will be attended by over a quarter of a million people over a nine-day period. The displays range from the grandiose and outrageously expensive to entries of African violets by little old ladies. It is best to go on a weekday when the crowds are smaller. This show has been annual since 1829, so they know what they are doing!
Then comes the Boston Flower Show, another extravaganza. It will be held March 22 to 26 at the Seaport World Trade Center on the waterfront of Boston. Like the Philly show, it is a good idea to visit on a weekday. This year’s theme is “Superheroes of the Garden”. Their publicity touts it as “honoring the crusaders, innovative tools and legendary plants helping to make us all champions in the battle for garden supremacy!”
Want smaller crowds? Go to the Bangor, Maine Flower Show which will be held that same weekend, March 24 to 26. It will be held in the Cross Insurance Center and will include flower displays, speakers, food and more.
The Maine Flower Show at Thompson’s Point in Portland will be held March 29 to April 2. This is a new venue to me and will certainly be an improvement over the old warehouse that housed it when I last visited this show. According to their promotion, it will feature 16 display gardens and “will have 100 exhibits of plants, hardscape, arbor and garden supplies, and all things relative to outdoor yardscaping and living.”
That same weekend is the New Hampshire Seacoast Home and Garden Show in Durham, NH. Held in the Whittemore Center Arena on April 1 and 2. As the show name indicates, this is not just about flowers, but includes displays and workshops on a variety of home improvement topics.
But for me, the flower show season will wrap up with the biggest and the best, from all I have heard. My partner, Cindy, and I have bought our plane tickets to London to attend the Chelsea Flower Show held this year May 23 to 27. This is a fund raiser for the Royal Hospital Chelsea.
The show is run by the Royal Horticultural Society, and the first 2 days of the show admission is restricted to members only. Membership costs $55 and a ticket for the first day costs $90. The second day the price drops a bit and by the Thursday, the first day open to the public, tickets are a mere $61. Prices go up after April 10. But airfare to London is down this year, which helps.
Unlike American flower shows, the Chelsea flower show includes much that is planted outdoors – which allows garden displays to be even more spectacular. I was told by a friend to take my umbrella! For me, this show is one more item to check off my “bucket list.”