Going to The Show

 Last year I wrote a somewhat snarky post on the occasion of my visit to the  San Francisco Garden Show. My lowly point and shoot was unequal to the task of getting decent images in hort show lighting, and thus I had no photos to  bolster my negative remarks.  I took my 'real' camera this year.

   The 2013 show featured  17 display gardens ,18 if you count the  pointless 'edible garden' display outside the plant market hall.This edible display has been a nicely done feature of the last 3 shows as I recall, and considering the groundswell of  interest in the topic I would have expected  better than a bunch of plants plopped into some bark mulch with no apparent design and a few concrete gee-gaws scattered about. Thumbs down, a lost opportunity to educate the casual or novice gardener in the practice of growing their own food.
  The display gardens in the main hall were noticeably smaller this year... the space between them was nice for strolling and viewing purposes, but ominous for ones confidence in the health of the show.The website touted 20 display gardens and 30 small space gardens ( there were10) . I would speculate that the economy has taken it's toll on these venues and designers need to feel they are getting some sort of return on the investment. One can't blame them , though I hate to see the show taken over by the firms for which plants are an afterthought in the endeavor to sell pricy outdoor kitchens and elaborate hardscapeing .
  Another concern was the mystifying claim on the shows' website that the plant market had doubled in size..I'm very attached to the plant market (and who wouldn't be ?) but since the show moved to the San Mateo Event Center the flow has been poor and it is hard to shop in the cramped spaces. I was looking forward to this alleged vast expansion , so that I might wander among the shopping opportunities without being crushed in a sea of determined plant buyers. I can't imagine what led them to make this statement. The footprint seemed identical to last year , and  it seemed to me there were less  than a handful of new vendors.I'm afraid I can't cite any statistics here..I don't know what the vendor count was last year, nor can I find a record of how many display gardens.
  Lest you think I am a total curmudgeon, scowling at the gardens and mumbling critical invective on the 3 hour drive home through rush hour traffic, I am not. I love the show in spite of it's faults. It has become a rite of spring for me over the last 10 plus years , and I will continue to attend and hope that the downward spiral will reverse itself.

  Robin Stockwells' succulent globe..impressive !


 This garden by Arizona State University was my favorite. Mexico, "Inside Out"

The base of this water feature was made of crushed beer bottles...recycle, repurpose !

The lighting and the painted walls really brought out some Fantasyland colors.

John Greenlee had a nice installation this year, a meadow garden anchored by a layered stone egg.

This garden was designed by the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.. I liked it as an art installation - these balled/burlaped shrubs were in movement swinging gently from their tethers-it was kind of mesmerizing. A good place to go with your sack lunch.

Bee-tube succulents.

This garden was very appealing to me, it was titled "Wonderland" , and though small it was beautifully proportioned with imaginative containers and some great lighting .

The shadows on the wall here are cast by the plants on the other side..I loved this device ,
as passersby were also seen, thus becoming part of the garden .

Gotta have at least one sleeping platform.

 The requisite faux Medit Villa, by the dudes that sell hardscape.

 My WTF garden of the day. Perhaps they had too many cocktails at the design meetings.

I'm sure they meant well. Lots of confusion here .

The usual vendors were there too, lending that 'state-fair' atmosphere..The glass guys.

 The textile guys.

 But I LOVE the Orchid guys..


  1. I had to enlarge your WTF garden to see what that large Terra Cotta blob was with water coming out. It was kinda of bizarre, but not in a good way.

    1. I'm sure they worked hard Les, and the theme of the garden was 'Ancient Gardens' but there were several firms involved and I don't think the result speaks well for garden-by-committee...and the thing was huge !

  2. My sentiments exactly on garden shows. Yes, they're fake and sometimes over the top. Around here they generally use all the same, boring plant material. But they are a harbinger of spring and you can't beat that with a stick!

  3. So, blue lighting (outdoors?)is the new design trend? LOL

    1. I took more photos of the blue stuff, because I like blue ! poetic license :-)

  4. I've been hoping for more coverage of the show, since I wasn't in attendance this year. The ASU 'Mexico' garden seems to be everyones fav, love your expanded photo coverage!

    So did you buy anything?

    1. I did buy Loree, but way less than usual..I bought succulents (mostly Echeveria) lilies - a tradition, and 3 from Robin Parer(Geraniaceae) , also a tradition. I think you were better off coming last year, it was definitely a downgrade.

  5. The Mexico 'Inside Out' garden looks lovely and is our favourite too. And the WTF garden made us giggle, very interesting...

    1. I still say they designed WTF at a cocktail party..the only logical explanation !

  6. the succulent globe was the bomb

  7. Thanks for the tour. I always think about getting on a plane and going up to SF for the tour but I've never made it. It does seem to have declined since the change in venue, which is sad. The nearest SoCal show, still a month away, usually disappoints me too but I go every year, mainly to see if the vendors have something I must have (which they usually do).

  8. I opted out this year and, boy, am I not sorry! We should start saving for the big shows across the pond, I think.

  9. I haven't gone to one of these shows in a very long time. Canada Blooms with its sale of architectural pools, gates, stairs, walls and concrete everythings...disturbs me. There are flower shows and table setting competitions and magazine sales. There are outdoor lighting displays and fountains too. There are children's play houses, etc. The first year it took place there were gardens of all sizes and unusual plants. Not since. And yes, more folks are in the plant sales area than at the main displays. Parking is insane. No, give me a beautifully photographed blog with honest commentary any day! Thanks!


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