Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Garden Show , Please Fix your Flat Tire.

 I've had a few days to ruminate over my visit to the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show last Saturday. There is no way to flip the ratio of pro to con. Sadly, the cons win. Last year I posted of my hopefulness in the direction the show was taking , and the spiffy redesign of the website in conjunction with the speaker line-up for 2015  pointed the way to good things.
 On the positive side, the seminars were first rate. I attended three: Dan Hinkley, Rebecca Sweet and Billy Goodnick; I have heard both Dan and Rebecca speak before and had high expectations (which were met ) and how could a guy with a Crimes Against Horticulture Facebook page be bad ? These three talks were the highlight of my day , and without them I probably could have done the show in about 3 hours. Rebecca was informative, accessible and charming (and for those of you aware of her current health issues, she looked great-what a class act that lady is) but she and Dan both had show management perpetrated technical problems which I will discuss shortly. Billy Goodnick was humorous , with a really unique presentation concerning  garden design. I've redesigned my garden umpteen times over the years and have always felt somewhat competent but the system Mr Goodnick laid out was intuitive and logical, and I will use his process when I do my shrub border next year.   Dan Hinkley  --what can I say ? He never disappoints. He's the Steven Sondheim of west coast horticulture.
 
   Though the website pronounced 'Its All About the Plants' the plant market has in fact continued to shrink since the good-old-days at the Cow Palace. I can name about a dozen plant vendors who no longer attend , and there are probably others that I don't recall. This year the building that houses the plant marketplace had a few empty spots , disguised with garden benches and potted plants , and a disturbing roster of county fair type vendors --bamboo pillows, hand lotion, vegetable juicers, dipping oil, popcorn etc. I can see this crapola at the hokey home show we have in Napa .


  Fake grass sellers--4 of them that I counted..


 I'm at a loss to understand why both Hinkley and Rebecca Sweet (and more of the presenters as well) were forced to display slides on screens  in fully lit venues , which washed out the color of all images shown, forcing both of them to  make frequent apologies for the poor quality of the display. This is pure ineptitude on the part of the show planners in my opinion .C'mon, this is Dan Hinkley-we should be able to see his damn slides.  Billy Goodnick was on the only stage that provided a dark movie theater type space, though his stage set  also featured a too low positioned screen which placed an elegantly coiffed head from the row in front of me in the dead center of his photos.

 How about the display gardens ?  They were ok. Still glad to see that the trend away from vast swathes of English Primrose and Azaleas surrounding a dramatic outdoor kitchen continues , and that the plant palette for the most part is climate appropriate. I noticed that this year all Bromiliads had vanished both from the display gardens and the plant vendors . There were no chickens.

My photos of the garden are uniformly bad. Here are a couple that are kind of in focus..





Got kind of a Bayou vibe from this one....



 And the Saturday afternoon crowd ? Not encouraging. Lots of floor space= less and smaller gardens.



 I did get a kick out of some of the bizzare flower arragements - there is a tradition of over the top here , and it was continued this year . Check out the moldy orange in the bottom 3rd of the vase.


 I really can't come up with an appropriate comment on this one.



  An interesting note, neither Sunset Magazine nor the Pacific Horticulture Society had a presence at the show . The Garden Conservancy did not have a booth. The speakers were sponsored by a start-up web based garden class site.
   I'll go back next year , with lowered expectations. Maybe I'll take better photos too...

19 comments:

  1. Oh, I'm bummed out on your behalf. Here at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show there's a similar trend of fewer plant vendors and more vendors o' crap. At least our display gardens are still pretty good. Glad to hear Rebecca looked great.

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    1. Vendors o' crap...yes indeed ! The broom guy was back again too..why do peeps want to carry corn brooms around the garden show ? Snake oil is alive and well...

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  2. I had a bad feeling about the show this year and opted to sit this one out, just because it's such a huge effort to clear the workweek to go. I'm so glad you reported honestly, pretty much confirming my worst suspicions. Sounds like a combination of county fair/Rose Bowl parade float-type exhibits, which are fine events, but not what I'm after in a garden show. And what a shame, because this is such a timely opportunity to talk about important regional issues such as making a garden/landscape in a drought, etc.

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    1. Denise, I'm glad you resisted coming up this year. It was pretty dismal.

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  3. Interesting insight, sad to hear the cons tipped the scale. Mouldy orange made me laugh though!

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    1. I was ready for some comic relief !

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  4. Wow, what a bummer. I stopped going to the Boston Flower Show years ago. Got tired of looking at dying tulips and hyacinths etc. Not to mention they ripped me off for two forty dollar tickets.

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    1. The Tulip-Hyacinth thing is an improvement at SFO Deanne-we don't see as much of that anymore now that we are in drought-land.

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  5. Sorry to hear this about the S.F. Show and that your experience was less than what you'd hoped for! As Alison said, the Seattle show has similar trends but still has a lot of great things going for it. Loved that huge floral number. Too bad about the moldy orange - that stuff can move really fast in a closed container. The one with the eggplants - really? Here's to more plant vendors and less snake oil in the future!

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    1. Someday I hope to attend the Seattle show Peter , if only it weren't in crappy February !

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  6. So the less plant vendors trend seems to be sweeping the big shows. All I can think is that it's because those sellers are priced out of attending, which is so wrong. They should be encouraged to come!!! The speakers that I attended at the NWFG show all had things go off without a hitch, in Portland at the YGP show the crowd gathered to hear Sean Hogan speak had to wait 15-20 minutes while the tech guys tried to fix things, and the lighting is always an issue. It doesn't seem like it should be that hard!!! Finally, that photo you show of the Saturday crowd...yikes.

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    1. I just have to assume the revenue for the plant vendors doesn't offset the booth cost. Not to mention the staffing and logistics resources needed to pull it off in spring. Still... as for the Saturday crowd, great for the viewers , not so great for the show.

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  7. So sad! It doesn't bode well for our "local" show in Orange County next month - it has gone in the same direction and it didn't have the impact of the former SF shows to begin with. The lowest point was a cemetery with a display garden showing its "natural" approach to placing gravestones - they didn't come back last year but who knows what we can expect this year?!

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    1. The OC show is at Fashion Island, am I right ? Since so many malls are dying , who knows what the future will bring for this show. I was thinking back to when I was a child and there used to be a 'flower show' at Hollywood Park when racing season was off. How I loved that as a little girl ! To this day when I walk into the garden show the fragrance always brings me back to Hollywood Park.

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  8. There are less plant vendors because the big box stores continue to decimate the independent garden centers and the smaller independent growers. There are at least a dozen plant vendors who have quite simply gone out of business since the good old days at the cow palace

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  9. You are right Lindy, there are those who have gone belly -up , and maybe there is a big-box impact. But there are also many growers who are thriving and have opted out -thinking of B&D Lilies, Annies Annuals, Morningsun Herb Farm, Antonelli Brothers among others. The independent garden center I buy for does not even consider Home Cheap-o as a competitor. Our customer base is a different demographic , and all they really sell at our HD is color. The nursery at OSH is a joke. We cater to the serious gardener, the landscape dudes, and the estate /winery gardeners. Lucky for us , it's just not cool to shop at HD.

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  10. I have to admit that minus the rotting oranges, I liked that enormous flower arrangement--it's so over-the-top! Seeing a juicing demo--no wonder the place was empty.

    From what I can see, your report is much better than the show, so we got the best of it.

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  11. I've been following everyone's garden show posts with interest, because here in Texas (maybe the whole South) we just don't have the garden-show culture. Bummer though that gardeners are being let down by the lack of actual plant vendors. Have you asked your favorite nurseries why they don't participate anymore? I'd be curious to know if it's a cost issue, as you suspect, or something else.

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  12. I felt pretty much the same about the show this year -- while I ALWAYS make the best of a garden show, it was pretty underwhelming and I experienced the same frustration in not being able to view the speakers slides -- which was TERRIBLE planning on the part of the tech team -- felt so bad for the speakers since of course they had brought photos to illustrate their talks and were thus speaking at a significant disadvantage.

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