Sycamore? Or sycamore?
Graham’s Transatlantic Guide to Weeding

A shortage of flowers and gardens at the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show

Guest post by lawyer (and nephew)  Jonathan Weisbrod

The water gardens caught the eyeI distinctly remember the first Flower & Garden Expo I attended. In the mid-90s, my family went to the Philadelphia Flower & Garden Show. It was a rather grand experience, between floral displays and booths upon booths of plants I had never heard of or seen before. Admittedly grandeur to someone under the age of ten is easy to come by.

Over the years since I’ve attended a lot of festivals and conventions celebrating everything from hot air ballooning to chili peppers, but beyond “craft & garden” fairs – nothing with horticulture at the forefront. As a recent transplant from New Jersey to San Francisco, it seemed appropriate to try and take in my new coast. Why not spend a day at the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show? #throwbackthursday or in this case Saturday.

To be fair, I knew my past expectations needed to be tempered, still I was surprised by the amount of craft fair wares available relative to the garden vendors (how many people do you need selling aged balsamic vinegar?). The event felt more like a crafts fair with gardens added on than a garden expo colored by craft vendors. The proliferation of gutter cleaning devices, new windows, and college-student MLM king Cutco takes a bit away from the whimsy.

Oh right, the garden displays. There were some very pleasant, zen displays. However, More gardens and flowers would have complimented the non-horticultural displaysthey weren’t just an afterthought in this reflection on the show, they felt like one at the show itself. The actual garden displays numbered just over half a dozen but with rather narrow scope. As such a novice, perhaps it's not surprising the water displays jumped out at me most – but they certainly felt more the focus of each set up rather than anything floral (though a raining bridge is cool concept for a few minutes).

All-in-all mixed feelings, not an overwhelming disappointment, but far from a success in my book. I was able to learn a bit about products to implement in my own garden which certainly a big plus, if only I gleaned more about plants to put in it…


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I am afraid that beyond the Philadelphia Flower Show, flower and garden shows in the US have degraded into home improvement shows. There are very few gardens or plants, but plenty of window and vinyl siding vendors. But you must understand that we have never had a deep rooted gardening culture like have in the UK. Gardening is not seen as an art form here, but more like hard work; it's a shame but true. About 7-10% of us are serious gardeners and we have another 30% who are casual gardeners - that mow the yard or plant annuals. Americans do appreciate and value landscaping around the home, so long as it is low maintenance and includes a deck or patio for entertainment.

Graham Rice

What I thought was interesting about this guest post was that this is the view not of a Brit who's seen hundreds of English flower shows, but of a young American looking for ideas and inspiration - and not finding very much. Are garden railways and aged balsamic vinegar really going to inspire people to make more of their outdoor space?

Fiona Gilsenan

When the SF garden show was downtown it was more of an art installation show, with tiny display booths filled with glass cones and the like. It moved down to Cow Palace and the plant quotient went way up and there were some proper show gardens, plus great Bay Area plants people like Robin Parer of Geraniaceae, Annie from Annie's Annuals, and Deborah and Gary Digging Dog. Disappointing to hear that it has morphed once again. If an amazing gardening area like the Bay Area - with its perfect growing conditions, creative people and tons of money - can't put on a good show, then who could?

Graham Rice

Well, that's exact;y the point. It's held in a great growing area and so it should host a fine flower show.

BTW I've today received a copy of Robin Parer's new book: The Plant Lover's Guide to Hardy Geraniums. Review coming after I've read it and the three other new titles in the series.

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