Monday, March 30, 2009

Growing accustomed to disappointment


How many of you have love/hate affairs with your local garden shows? We are lucky enough to have a garden-only show (as opposed to our other home & garden one, which is really deadly), but our show could be so much better!

I go every year, because there are always things to see and possibly buy, no matter what, but this year more than other years, I was shocked by the disconnect between what the landscapers there consider to be a garden and what I think of as a garden. To be fair, they have difficulty getting full-grown perennials at this time of year for display gardens that are only going to be viable for a few days. But I accept that. I’m happy to look at the forced bulbs, evergreens, and rhodies. No, it’s not the plants.

It’s the waterfall with a flatscreen TV mounted above it (see top image). It’s the ten or so firepits I saw—and I am fairly certain it would be illegal to use them in much of our area. It’s the endless paths of Unilock winding their way throughout the space, and the monstrous grills bristling with bewildering attachments. It’s the assumption that backyards are made to be paved over and made to look as much like a living room as possible (albeit a rather tacky living room). It’s the complete obliviousness to any notion of sustainable gardening and the utter lack of any reference whatsoever to growing vegetables—the biggest trend in gardening today. And at least lettuces can be forced pretty easily to make a very pretty display garden. One would think.


This little tableau wasn't bad.

To be fair, the show had a theme: “Garden Party.” And who could possibly have a garden party without a firepit? But the shows always have themes; that doesn’t mean that they can’t be twisted to interest those of us who actually enjoy growing things in our gardens.


Oh well. I did buy the Ultimate Hose Nozzle and am very exciting about using it. And I always like looking at interesting water features.

27 comments:

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Interesting photos. I wouldn't have a tv in the garden. That is where I go to get away from it.

JulenaJo said...

Elizabeth, your disappointment is palpable! I had to laugh a little. Sorry. I know what you mean, though. Sometimes the designs seem so out of touch with reality! At least you did get the new nozzle out of the deal. Plus a lot of exercise walking around looking at everything. Oh, and a good rant, too! :)

keewee said...

I agree with what you say. yes the designs are more than the average home gardener is going to attempt.

Leslie said...

The TV/waterfall is beyond tacky...not to mention just plain weird.

Robin's Nesting Place said...

I was disappointed in the Indy show this year too. In today's economy, not too many people can afford the luxury gardens they display.

I guess the person who would have a TV in the garden probably pays for someone else to do the gardening.

Limette said...

Our garden show involves a bunch of tables rented by whoever is willing to rent them; nutritional supplements, car sales, clothing retailers.

I'd say maybe 20% of the gardening show has anything to do with gardening.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

TV on top of waterfall = people unclear on the concept.

Timothy Domst said...

To push the outdoor TV room concept further along, the waterfall could spew barbecue sauce or nacho cheese.

EAL said...

Or both!!!

JIm/ArtofGardening said...

I was struck by the same things. Instead of plants-people designing displays, it was patio builders and "land- scrapers" with the major displays. Sometime this week I'll post about all the outdoor bars (something possibly close to your heart) that all the larger displays included. The one Tuscan patio with pizza oven, outdoor wine fridge, overstuffed furniture, fire place and dining table looked more like an interior with plants, as opposed to an exterior.

Commonweeder said...

What a disappointment. And how bizarre to have a TV with its virtual reality and fantasies, right out in the garden where there are so many more interesting realities and fantasies.

Kevin Purdy said...

The TV/waterfall seems like an Onion joke that was only 68% completed, then rushed onto the show floor straight from the home office.

Monica the Garden Faerie said...

Ooh ooh (raising hand)--that's just how I feel about garden shows. Landscaping is the opposite of gardening, as a gardening friend of mine likes to say... yet I always go to the shows anyway hoping for some cool ideas and just because I'm eager for spring! (Also, I'm checking out Spring Fling attendees blogs and saying hello and that I'm looking forward to meeting you.)

O.I.M said...

yes, yes, you have nailed it. there is most definitely a disconnect between what landscapers see as gardens and what plant people see as gardens.

I was very disappointed with our garden show this year. the display gardens all had little signs that read something like "This garden was designed by a landscaper." And that's the problem, I thought. landscapers are selling instant gardens that have little to do with the love of plants. the kind of gardens that pop up overnight with their unilock paths, predictable plants, barbecue pits and don't forget the mulch (I swear I've seen some landscape jobs that feature mulch almost exclusively.) There's a market for that kind of look but I'm not it.

I don't want to watch tv in the garden, I want to take pictures of the bees. And while a garden party may be fun, chances are that i'll be weeding way more often than I'll be serving drinks. Still, I'll keep going to the garden shows. You never know when you'll find a flash of inspiration.

Timothy Domst said...

I believe that the essence of gardening is the setting sun on some plants. TV and waterfalls and cheesy brick violate this law of mine.

Berny said...

Please let us know how well the nozzle works when you get to use it.
Thanks

Jane M. said...

I agree with the bit about the TVs. But I have to speak up in defense of all of the hardscape (not a real word, I know). These displays are created by landscapers who spend a considerable amount of time and money to showcase their services. They are trying to sell something; that is the point of the show. It may not be what everyone wants to buy, but they are trying to get through to the customers who DO want an outdoor kitchen, fire pits, etc. That's why I think these should be called "landscape" as opposed to "flower" or "garden" shows, which they aren't. Then maybe attendees' expectations would be more in line with what is being offered.

EAL said...

Well, I think it is quite an assumption to say that the majority of people coming to Plantasia are in the market for outdoor kitchens, firepits, et al.

Aren't they're in the market for ideas? I would just like to see some different ideas, that's all--other garden shows this year had display veggie gardens and other concepts that are not hardscape-focused. Plantasia should too.

Jane M. said...

Oh, no -- I agree that the majority are not in the market for those things. My point is only that the landscapers are looking to reach the ones that are more than the ones that aren't.

I have sat in many a garden show strategy meeting; just trying to express what I think the motives are behind the displays.

Personally, I prefer plants and real gardens to outdoor kitchens as well. And if they're going to charge admission, they do have to listen to what ticket buyers, and not just those who are potential landscaping customers, want. It's a balance that the older shows (like Philadelphia, I hear) are closer to achieving.

Daffodil Planter said...

I'm sorry, but the juxtaposition of TV and waterfall does make one hope for a (non-fatal) electrical problem....

jodi (bloomingwriter) said...

I soooooo hear you! A few years ago, I went to Canada Blooms. Among the 'garden designs' were a water garden with a bed in the middle of it; wouldn't that be fun if you had to get up in the middle of the light to go to the loo. If you weren't sure you had to go when you first got up, you'd know for sure soon as your feet hit the ankle-deep water! The other winner that year (sarcasm on) was one with a greek statuary, disco ball, billowly gauze curtains and GRANNY SMITH APPLES all over the freakin' floor of the 'design.' They weren't even local freakin' apples. Right then I was very glad I was in Toronto for a writers association board meeting and had been comped tickets to Blooms or I would have blown a gasket. I've never been to a show since.

garden girl said...

I can understand your dissapointment Elizabeth.

This year's Chicago show was my first experience at a garden show, so I don't have anything to compare it to. They did have the high-end stuff there, a/k/a hardscapes, fountains, waterfalls, etc., but they also had a lot of more affordable, accessible ideas, and I was impressed with how much attention was given to veggies, community gardening, and sustainability issues such as organics, green roofs, composting, rain barrels, rain gardens, etc.

EAL said...

Thanks, Jane. I know that these businesses perform certain services and that's where their focus needs to be--but I do hear that other shows elsewhere have progressed and I can't help wishing the WNY shows might do the same.

cindee said...

Our garden show was a flop. It was a home and garden show so maybe that is why. It seems to be the trend to have pavers or something all over the yard to make it look like a extension of the house. I know a couple people that have actually done that to their yards! So sad. I can't imagine! One person I work with took out all her fruit trees and shade trees! She said they were to messy! Then she paved everything that she could and left a little bit of grass to look at! That seems to be the norm more and more. People don't want to have to take care of a yard so they pave it or gravel it etc. Remove the trees so there is no clean up and put up an awning or umbrella for shade. Hard for me to imagine!

Claudia said...

I agree with you, for our area. Our season is short,as we can attest, by our weather today April 7,with SNOW! I have a new home, and am attempting to bridge the hardscape with the natural garden. I am going to work with a landscaper, who wants to turn my backyard into the land of the "Lilliputions," but he is beginging to see my way to simplifying.

sar said...

OMIGOD I am SO with you on this one. I skipped Toronto's big garden show this year because its so insanely busy and just what you described - nothing to do with trends in sustainable gardening or veggie gardening. So I went to a local show in Stratford, ON, and you'd think hey, small town, not too busy, but it was PACKED. There was a little more attention to veggie gardening, like some vendors selling heirloom seeds, but not much else.

chicago dyke said...

our "garden" show was a bust, totally lame. which is odd, as this is a college town w/a big Ag school and you'd think there would've been more "sustainable" or eco-aware types there.

but then i remember it's yet another corporate venture, a way for large concerns to sell expensive, redundant outdoor toys to rich people, and not a conference about important new environmental technologies or sustainance farming. over the years i've come to perceive the huge disconnect b/w 'land-scapers' and plant people. they kill and torture them, we grow and nurture them. that's as simply as i can put it.

people who want a BBQ-TV-spa-cellphone-disco patio overlooking their gated 100 acres of manicured non-natives cultivated by underpaid servants =/= people who love plants and want to see ecosystems restored and maintained. "garden" shows have catered to the former for years now, but the money is drying up. it will be interesting to see if they turn to the latter, the real plant community, as they redesign themselves to meet the reality and challenges of today's market.

either way, i was glad to see two native plant booths and one community garden activist table, even as there were several "poison your property to beauty" type outfits with big, if mostly empty, display areas.

the people who did the best business that day were the insulation people. from the "home" part of the "home and garden" show. there's a gender issue at play too, but it's complicated.