The Garden Path: Visiting the Flower Show

A stroll down the Seine, rooftop gardens and
cafes, Victorian glamour, and Moulin Rouge cabarets are all part of this year’s
experience at the Philadelphia Flower Show. The theme is “Springtime in Paris,”
so prepare yourself for romance, edible gardens, artistic flourishes, and
plenty of roses, lavender, and lilacs.

Some people approach the Flower Show like going
to a movie: see it, enjoy it, savor it briefly, and then move on. There’s no
harm in that. It’s a wonderful shock treatment for winter’s cabin fever. But we
gardeners somehow can’t help ourselves. That’s us with the little notebooks,
copying down plant tags and snapping pictures. The Flower Show can be a source of great inspiration,
but there are a few things to keep in mind:

1.
Expert gardeners have spent
months, sometimes years, planning and preparing displays that look like gardens
but are actually temporary exhibits. The plants are in pots or temporary
plantings, not in an actual growing environment.

2.
Show plants have not been
exposed to wind, pests, rain/snow, temperature extremes, or other whims of
nature. They have been carefully nurtured in the equivalent of an expensive
spa.

3.
Ever notice what is blooming in
your own garden in early March? Bet it’s not roses, lilacs, and lavender.
Plants in these displays have been forced to bloom at this exact time,
specifically for the Flower Show, and have been chosen for their perfection and
peak bloom.

4.
Because the plant blooms have
been forced, the combinations you see are a fantasy and should be appreciated
as such. In your own garden, the plants will bloom according to their natural
schedules. For example, your lilacs will likely be long gone before the
lavender begins blooming.

5.
Exhibitors select plants for
their displays based on their color or form, not planting requirements (because
they’re not planted, remember). They may not be hardy in this region or may
require conditions difficult to duplicate here.

Don’t get me wrong. The Philadelphia Flower Show
is wonderful and I encourage everyone—even those with no discernable interest
in gardening—to buy their tickets this instant. We are lucky to live so close
to this internationally-known event. Just bear in mind that objects “in the
mirror” are larger, better, and closer to perfection than they will ever appear
to be in your own garden.

The 2011 Philadelphia International Flower Show (http://www.theflowershow.com) will be
held Sunday, March 6 through Sunday, March 13 at the Philadelphia Convention
Center.

Chester County Master Gardeners are hosting
“Thinking of Starting a Vegetable Garden?” March 26, 1pm at Oakbourne Mansion
in West Chester. The cost is just $10 but space is limited. Call610-696-3500
to register.

Become a fan of Chester County Master Gardeners on Facebook!

* Nancy Sakaduski is the Chester County
Master Gardener Coordinator. Master Gardeners are trained volunteers who
educate the public on gardening and horticultural issues. In Chester
County, they operate through the Penn State Cooperative Extension office in
West Chester. Nancy lives in Pennsbury Township. She can be reached
at nds13@psu.edu.

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About Nancy Sakaduski

Nancy Sakaduski is a Master Gardiner with Penn State Extension of Chester County.

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