This has been a relatively easy winter for me. No heavy snows requiring me to climb up on my roof to shovel off the flat part above a death-defying 30-foot drop. No temperatures lingering below zero for days on end. Still, it's winter and I'm a gardener who is already thinking about spring. Thank heavens for the spring flower shows! Here is this year's schedule. Mark your calendar and get ready to go.
One of my favorite flower shows is on the first weekend of the big shows: the Rhode Island Flower Show (www.flowershow.com) at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence on Feb. 18 to 21. This year's extravaganza is called "Spring Fling" and is being promoted as a treat for all your senses: things to see, smell, touch, taste and hear.
So there will be, in addition to the standard flower displays, cooks whipping up treats and teaching tricks, and bands playing Friday and Saturday from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday's band will do tunes from the 50s and 60s, while Saturday's band, Hey 19, is a Steely Dan tribute band. Should be fun. The show sells drinks and has a small dance floor, too.
As with all shows, attending the lectures and slide shows at the Rhode Island Show are an important part of the show for me. Actually, I'll be speaking both Friday at 4 p.m. and Saturday at noon. But I may go hear Roger Swain of Victory Garden fame, or some of the many other speakers. And I love all the displays — from professionals to rank amateurs.
Also Feb. 18 to 21 is the Connecticut Flower Show (www.ctflowershow.com) at the Convention Center in Hartford. Like the Rhode Island show, this show boasts plenty of flower displays, vendors and lectures. In fact, it boasts four lectures at a time (in different rooms) for four time slots on the four days! Want to learn how to grow plants for Monarch butterflies? Learn about ground covers or decorative grasses? Build a water garden? An expert will tell you all about it.
Two regular New England flower shows are not scheduled for 2016. The Vermont show, one of my favorites, is on a two-year cycle, and this is an off year. The Portland, Maine, show is also not happening this year. They are moving the show out of the ancient warehouse it has been in to new quarters next year.
The biggest show of the east, in Philadelphia, will be held March 5 to 13 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center (www.theflowershow.com). The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society has been holding this event since 1829, when Andrew Jackson was President! It covers about six city blocks and will be attended by over a quarter of a million people over a nine-day period. It's not inexpensive: an adult ticket is $27, kids are $15. No special deals for elders. Still, if you love the flower shows, you should travel to it at least once.
Then comes the Boston Flower Show (www.bostonflowershow.com) March 17 to 20 at the Seaport World Trade Center. This in another big show that is worth seeing. Like the Philly show, don't go on the weekend if you can avoid it. It starts on a Wednesday, and will be much less crowded then, and on Thursday.
The Boston show has a remarkable number of vendors selling everything from teak furniture to garden tools, plants and pottery. The gardens created for viewing are always interesting, as are the individual entries of potted plants, flower arrangements and more. Tickets are $20 for adults, $17 for seniors. Travel companies often offer package deals including bus fare and admission — which might be nicer than driving in Boston traffic and paying for parking.
The Seacoast Home and Garden Show (seacoast.newenglandexpos.com/) in Durham, N.H., on April 2 and 3 is a nice show on a manageable scale. Held in the Whittemore Center Arena at UNH, admission is only $8 or $6 for seniors. It is more than a flower show, with many home improvement companies present at well.
The last flower show in New England is in Bangor, Maine, the BDN Garden Show (bdnmainegardenshow.com/) April 15 to 17 held at the Cross Insurance Center. I've never been to it.
Actually, the last — and perhaps the best — of the shows takes place May 24 to 28 in London: the iconic Chelsea Flower Show (www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/rhs-chelsea-flower-show). I've never been, but am giving serious thought to going this year. I talked to a friend who has been there twice who said, "The Chelsea Show is the pinnacle of anybody's garden show experience." She told me to join the Royal Horticultural Society so that I can get in before the crowds.
The show is less commercial than ours, I gather, and is both indoors and out. The scope of the show is absolutely amazing — it even includes masses of vegetables. And the Queen goes every year, too! Another friend sent me a link to an hour BBC television special on the 2015 Chelsea Show, which got me even more excited about going: www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMz6cgnc8f0.
So go to a show, even if you can't make it to London.