Tuesday, March 30, 2010

My Trip to The San Francisco Flower & Garden Show

I really don't know where to start. Most of the trade shows I attend or exhibit at are commercial B2B shows and to be quite honest, the attendance has been beyond dismal the last year or two. I knew something was different about the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show as soon as I walked through the door. The display gardens were huge, elaborate and beyond impressive. More than that, the aisles were full of people. People who payed good money to get through the door. People who were buying all sorts of things from vendors to take home. Now, we all know that the current state of the economy is certainly taking it's toll, but the appearance at this show was much better than what I expected to find.

This was the scene at the ticket booths on Sunday, the 5th and final day of the show. Apparently folks just couldn't get enough of this event!

I cruised all the aisles and checked out all the display gardens. Talked to lots of vendors and attendees. The vast majority were very pleased with the show. I was surprised at the variety of exhibitors and vendors. Of course there were all the cool nurseries and plant stuff, but then there was art of all kinds, outdoor furniture, tools, clothes, kitchen gadgets and more.

Here is a sampling of the amazing gardens:

I'm starting with my favorite. This is the post-apocalypse garden built by The Garden Route. I loved the overgrown appearance and the over-sized metal critters.

Coming in a close second for me was the Recycled Creole Jazz Garden. The crocs in the waterless fountain were just too cool. Their plant selections really captivated me. Oh, and then there was that cool jazz music playing all the time.

The Jurassic Garden was a tropical adventure full of imagination.

More amazing designs.

This is the famous "Living Room". A complete room with walls of succulents, surrounded by water and a complete formal dining room inside.

The energy, creativity and planning that went into all the display gardens was extreme. The fact that they were all assembled in just three days really blew me away. I had only attended the SFGS one time previous, and that was several years ago. While I'm sure it was impressive then too, it sure didn't make the impression that this show did. I am certainly hooked and will most definitely be back next year.

Hope you enjoyed my novice perspective of the gardens. Check back in a couple days for my post about all the other exhibits and vendors.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Greening San Jose for Over 35 Years

I apologize for my unplanned absence from the blogosphere, this post is long-overdue. I actually took these pics and started writing this article on February 6th. Unfortunately, before I could complete it my computer contracted the mother of all viruses and it's taken me three weeks and a complete re-formatting of my hard drive to get back to it. I know some of you out there can empathize with that. Anyhow, here it is and I hope you will agree that it was worth the wait.

I admit to being a relatively new gardener. It's no secret. The odd part is that I've been working in the landscape & nursery supply business for more than 20 years and it took me this long to get interested in anything more than my meager front lawn. My history with plants was nearly perfect. Up until a little over a year ago, I had managed to kill just about every plant I ever owned. I'm not one to give up easily and it seems that the nurseries in my area are happy to keep supplying me with victims. 

Strangely enough, I started having success growing vegetables in containers (5-gallon buckets mostly). I even have a nice winter crop going right now. Success breeds enthusiasm and my next adventure involves starting my spring/summer garden from seeds. Wish them luck. Being a newbie, there was no drawer full of seeds in the garage. I would have to buy them. Since the company I work for supplies soil to nurseries, it seemed only appropriate to support someone who supports me.

This quest led me to Central Wholesale Nursery in the heart of San Jose. I used to deliver here when I was a truck driver and have been talking to Betty when she orders soil, for more than 15 years. My newly enlightened gardener  perspective couldn't believe I hadn't been back here sooner. I was having that whole kid-in-a-candy-store kind of experience. I know, I was only here for seeds, but the place was too cool not to have a look around. Join me, won't you?

I timed my visit perfectly between rain showers. Everything was clean & colorful. CWN sits on a triangle shaped lot with major streets on two sides and a bunch of new condos on the third. This part of town is seeing a lot of redevelopment right now and I'm sure the developers have knocked on the door. For very good reason, the nursery that has been here since 1974 persists. Serving gardeners, designers and landscapers around the valley in ways the big-box stores can't touch.

The variety of stock made me wish I could conjure up a more substantial project. So many different colors and textures. And this is the middle of winter!

They had just about every type of ground cover you could want. They offer to order sod for those who just have to have it, but the emphasis is clearly on more attractive & responsible alternatives.

This crazy looking asparagus fern & the cool colorful pot had me hooked. It was difficult to leave without it, but the boss (read wife) would give me heck if I went that far off the list today.

They had a nice selection of water features. The way the ribbon of water twists in mid air had me really liking this one. Hmmmm, maybe I could make room in the raised planter in my back yard. I do have visions of turning my small planting space into a kitchen garden and personal oasis. And no oasis is complete without water, right?

Sorry, I'm not enough of a plant geek to remember the names of everything and I didn't write them down, but they were too cool to be left out.

 They have lots of cool statuary, including this Silicon Valley icon, Buddha with a laptop.

And more cool colorful pots. Know anyone who is into frogs?

Of course they have all the usual racks full of color and vegetable starts too.

They really maximize the small amount of indoor space they have.

Time for one more spin around the nursery before they lock the gate and I have to spend the night here.

Can't believe I walked right past these! A whole row of Phormium cookianum, "Black Adder". One of the killer dark foliage plants developed by our friend Pat FitzGerald of FitzGerald Nurseries and MyPlant in Kilkenny, Ireland (sorry for the lame pic. For some strange reason I only took this shot with my phone.). Click here to see more of Pat's wonderful plants.

Just HAD to have Black Adder to go with my Ceanothus Tuxedo, another dark-leaved FitzGerald Nurseries creation.

That's it for this trip, hope you enjoyed it. If you are in the Willow Glen area, stop in, have a look around and talk with some of the great people who work at Central Wholesale Nursery. You'll be glad you did. Oh, and yes, I did leave with a healthy collection of vegetable seeds. Stay tuned for future posts to see how they do.