Spring is nearly here. We can tell by the spate of dazzling flower shows we find on our calendar. In February, it was the Rhode Island Spring Flower & Garden Show in Providence. Last week, it was the Portland Flower Show in Portland, Maine. This week (March 12 to 16), it is the venerable Boston Flower & Garden Show at the Seaport World Trade Center. The theme is “Romance in the Garden,” which seems a bit redundant to those of us who find the simple budding of a crocus along a still-snowy path one of Nature’s most romantic gestures. Perhaps less romantic is Design New England’s garden writer Carol Stocker’s presentation on Saturday at 1:30 p.m., when she will answer the question, Are We Already Seeing the Effects of Climate Change in Our Gardens?
To whet our appetite for the Boston extravaganza, we visited the Portland show, where “Storybook Gardens” was the theme and the impressive cohort of Maine exhibitors didn’t disappoint.
Inside the Portland Company Marine Complex, an 1846 former locomotive foundry on the waterfront, 14 fairytale-inspired gardens made magic come alive. Closet doors opened to a “snow” covered Narnia created by Coastal Inc. of Cumberland, Maine. A life-size “Grandma’s House” that Picture Perfect Landscapes of Bowdoinham, Maine, constructed on a winding path had an adorably styled interior with a rocking chair and tea for two. Fanciful sights and exquisite gardens were lighthearted and fun, while still articulating the talent of the landscape professionals who live and work in the state.
With houses of straw, sticks, and stone, Campbell’s Landscape & Design of Saco, Maine, conjured the tale of the three little pigs and the big bad wolf. The design received the The John Skillin First-Timers Award. Adding a whimsical touch were ornamental and edible plants, which were carefully worked into the landscape and even appear on the roof of the straw house.
Storybook theme aside, great gardens are those that invite you in. A Japanese garden by Seko’s Creative Garden Designs of Buxton, Maine, does just that with an impeccable composition that brings trees, rocks, plants, water, and bamboo together.
A design done jointly by O’Donal’s Nursery of Gorham, Maine, Richard Young of Portland, and Robin’s Nest Aquatics of Hollis, Maine, shows how attention to detail really pays off. Tiny overturned terracotta pots served as clever plants markers, and smooth stones set into the space between large stone slabs made for intriguing pathways.
Much as we love the fantasy of these indoor gardens as they distract us from the piles of dirty snow defying the thaw, our favorite garden event is the Newport Flower Show, June 27 to 29. As host and benefactor, the Preservation Society of Newport County invites landscape designers to create fanciful gardens on the lawn at Rosecliff, one of the grand Newport mansions it owns and operates.
This year’s theme, "Journey: Grand Vistas," will have exhibitors reimagining how the titans who built the city’s famed summer cottages joined forces to create the infrastructure that changed American industry and turned travel into a luxury endeavor. It was a time when the trip was as splendid as the destination. The Newport show recently joined the ranks of Boston, Atlanta, and Philadelphia, considered the top flower shows in the country, when the Garden Club of America designated it as a sanctioned major show. So save the dates, the show will be well worth the trip.
Great design is always at your fingertips! Read the March/April 2014 issue online!
An insider's look at must-have products, fresh trends, and inspired spaces from the team at Design New England magazine.
Gail Ravgiala is editor of Design New England and a fan of both the region's historic architecture and its growing inventory of modern houses and public buildings.
Courtney Kasianowicz is associate editor of Design New England who scouts the area for new design, charming products, and local artisans both innovative and daring.
Jill Connors, Design New England's editor-at-large, is an antiques maven and design scout and will post about trends and discoveries in the field.
Bruce Irving, Design New England's contributing editor for architecture & building, is a renovation specialist who will share his insights on design and construction.
Estelle Bond Guralnick, Design New England's style & interiors editor, will post about interior design and interior designers and her favorite finds.