By Carol Stocker
So how is The Boston Flower & Garden Show now that it has settled into its second season at the Seaport World Trade Center? It's smaller than its predecessor, which used to cover five acres at the Bayside Expo each March. But it is still big enough that my feet hurt by the time I see everything. Which means it's big enough.
This late winter tonic commands a lot of skill and creativity, especially among the show's more than two dozen major exhibitors. The theme is container gardening. Best in Show goes to Peter R. Sadeck's spooky woodland garden which features a dark cedar swamp and a forest of dead tree trunks serving as "containers" or nurse trees for the next generation of wild woodies. An exquisite life size moss maiden is perched magically atop one of the 12-foot tall ash trunks that suggest a requiem for an old growth forest. Two live owls add to the Gothic atmosphere, along with a giant peregrine-gyrfalcon hybrid. Sadeck's flower show exhibits always make surprising use of live birds, and this might be the best one yet.
Stranger still, while Sedack's wildlife handler Mala Isaac was introducing onlookers to the beautiful barn owl, a center employee came in with a small wild saw-whet owl he had found in a nearby parking lot, where it had perhaps been hit by a car. At first stunned, the owl darted free when it regained its wits. "I guess it can fly after all," said Isaac as it landed on a rafter 40 feet above the exhibit. I hope the hall has a mouse population so the little saw-whet owl can find something to eat at night when they turn the lights out.
The gorgeous garden created by Miskovsky Landscaping of Falmouth and Allen C. Haskell Horticulturalists of New Bedford also has birds, their signature free flying white fantail pigeons who roost in a white dovecote. But the aesthetic highpoint of this exhibit is a lofty tree house by Mike Duffany, with its own window box, staircase and daybed. At ground level shady seating nook is nestled underneath. Talented Paul Miskovsky and David Haskell last teamed up for the 2007 New England Spring Flower Show and its good to have them back for this show.
Nearby, the always entertaining sculptor Jill Nooney of Fine Garden Art in Lee, N.H., has given a transcendent spin to the show's theme of container gardening by using organic containers ranging from emu eggs to lobster shells. A human skull sports a bird's nest and a crown of seaweed.
The 2011 Newport Flower Show has mounted an ambitious exhibit to promoted its own 16-year-old show, which will be held June 24 - 26 on the grounds of the historic Rosecliff mansion in Newport. This display features a large tree hung with candelabras as decorations and a Grand Dame from the Edwardian era dressed in a gown of fresh cut flowers.
Michael C. Jardin Fine Gardens of Lakeville and Earthworks of Leverett both have built wonderful rock formations using native granite and The Magma Design Group of Pawtucket, RI, built a photographic stone moon gate that could be the focal point of any garden. Cape Cod Life, the Mashpee based magazine, landscaped with native plants around a seaside structure to introduce a whiff of summer on the Cape.
The New England Orchid Societies, Mahoney's Garden Centers, Heimlich Nurseries, the Bonsais Study Group, Katsura Gardens of Plymouth and Crystal Brinson of Fairhaven all display impressive plant material while Cass School of Floral Design in Watertown will conduct flower arranging mini-demos every couple of hours. To see some really spectacular formal arrangements, wend your way through the back doorways to Mass Hort's "Blooms!" Floral Design Divisions.
The Miniature Garden Competition, a longtime favorite at the old Flower Shows in Boston, has been resurrected nearby. In 2008 when the New England Spring Flower Show closed its doors for the last time, it was thought that these diminutive Edens were gone forever. But late last year the Massachusetts Horticultural Society asked long time Miniature Gardens exhibitors Debi Hogan and Warren Leach of Seekonk to work with them to bring these popular gardens to the new Boston Flower and Garden Show. (Warren is a co-owner of the very fabulous Tranquil Lake Nursery in Rehoboth.)
The Boston Flower Show is owned and produced by Paragon Group, and is managed as a Trade Show. The Massachusetts Horticultural Society partners with Paragon Group to keep horticulture front and center and to also keep some aspects of the traditional New England Spring Flower Show alive, particularly the floral design classes, and potted plants and gardens that have been such part of the old show for more than a century.
The Miniature Gardens have always been a popular part of this Amateur Design Division of the show. Each garden is designed to resemble an actual vista with plants and accessories scaled down to one twelfth size, and is viewed through a small window. The four groups of exhibitors have painted a background for their box, grown the plants, and assembled the final plan at the show. The Holbrow family have made a particularly charming miniature garden based on the spring display of trailing nasturtiums in Isabella Stewart Gardener’s courtyard on the Fenway in Boston. Exhibiting at the Flower Show in Boston is a family tradition that goes back more than a century to Charles E. Holbrow, a Brighton greenhouse grower who won a silver cup from the Massachusetts Horticultural Society in the 1890s.
Carolyn Weston has continued doing a fine job as the show's director. Katherine Macdonald, the new executive director of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society in Wellesley, has also been on hand running "Blooms!" - Mass Hort's show within the show which includes all of Thursday's lectures and programs.
The Boston Flower And Garden Show is open Thursday, March 17, 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.; Friday, March 18, 9:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.; Saturday, March 19, 9:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.; and Sunday, March 20, 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. Tickets prices are: Adults $20; Seniors (65+) $17; Children 6-17 $10; and Under 6 Free. Massachusetts Horticultural Society members receive free tickets. For more information visit, www.masshort.org/Blooms_and_the_Boston_Flower_&_Garden_Show