Henry Homeyer: Get out of the house and go to a flower show

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I am always perked up when the spring flower shows arrive, and I always try to get to a couple of them. If you're feeling the mid-winter blues, I highly recommend attending one - or more. Here's this year's lineup.

The first major show is the Connecticut Flower and Garden Show at the Convention Center in Hartford. It opens on Thursday, Feb. 21, and runs until Sunday the 24th. This is a big show, with some 300 booths. I like to go down on opening day, or Friday to avoid the crowds. It used to compete with the show in Providence, but that show dissolved some years ago so the crowds in Hartford are even bigger.

As with most shows, the Connecticut show has educational seminars, always a big plus for me. I like to take an hour or two out of a long day of looking at displays to sit down in an auditorium and listen to a speaker talking knowledgably about a topic they care about.

There are some 80 hours of seminars over the 4 days of the Connecticut Show. Topics like "5 Keys to Prevent Tomato Disease" by Petra Page-Mann, the owner of Fruition Seed Company, or "Benefits of Bio-Char Soil" by Pat White sound good to me.

Next comes the Vermont Flower Show, March 1 to 3 at the Champlain Valley Expo Center in Essex Junction. This is a nice small show that is a cooperative venture put on by the Vermont Nursery and Landscape Association every two years. It has one large central garden display, and many booths with vendors. I love the model train display that delights small children (and me).

Tickets to Vermont Show are $20, but discounted to $15 for seniors and $10 for students 13 to 17 if you buy them in advance. Kids 5 to 12 are just $5. There is plenty to do for kids, including a show each day at 11 and 2, (magic, song, or marionettes) and lots of arts and crafts activities.

The Philadelphia Flower Show is huge and runs for over a week, starting March 2 and running to March 10 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. This show has been around since 1829, so they know what they are doing. I went last year and was amazed at the number of displays. I loved talking to exhibitors about their favorite house plant or cactus on display. Many were there to answer questions. This year the theme is "Flower Power." The entrance display alone has 8,000 fresh flowers in it, of 85 varieties. You get the idea. More is better seems to be their mantra.

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Tickets can bought in advance online for a saving. Day of the event? $35 to $42 for adults, no senior discounts. Students $21 to $26, kids ages 2 to 16 are $17 to $20. Week days are cheaper than weekends.

The Boston Flower Show runs from March 13 to 17 at the Seaport World Trade Center. Tickets are only about half the price of the Philly Show. I haven't been in a few years, but checked with a few folks who went last year. The consensus? It's a pretty commercial show. I checked the floor map, and less than a quarter of the space appears to be dedicated to gardens. Still, for many of us, buying things - plants, seeds, tools and other garden gee-gaws is fun, so maybe there is nothing wrong with that.

The following weekend, March 22 to 24, is the Capital District Garden and Flower Show in Troy, N.Y., at the Hudson Valley Community College. I've never been, but hope to this year. It's outside of Albany, N.Y. It appears to have about a dozen gardens, a dozen classes of flower competition, and nearly 150 vendors. Tickets are $14 and children under 12 are free.

Then March 28 to 31 is the Portland, Maine Flower Show at Thompson's Point on the waterfront in Portland. The theme this year is "A Walk in Maine." There are four or five lectures each day, display gardens, vendors.

The Rhode Island Spring Flower and Garden Show is a primarily a home show sponsored by the RI Builders Association, April 4 to 7 at the Convention Center in Providence. I called them and learned that 10,000 feet of floor space will be allocated to the Flower Show (out of 120,000). This is a new show, not the same as the RI Flower Show that took over the entire RI Convention Center up until 2016. Still, admission is just $10 and kids are free, so it would be worth a visit if you are nearby.

That same weekend The Seacoast Home and Garden show will be at the Whittemore Center at UNH in Durham, N.H., on April 6 and 7. Like the Rhode Island Show, this is primarily a home show, but some garden features are included.

The last, and most impressive show each year is the Chelsea Flower Show in London, England. This year it's on May 21 to 25. I went a few years ago and was totally awestruck. The show has a big tent, but much of it is outdoors so many of the gardens include full-sized trees. Join the Royal Horticultural Society so you can get in the first 2 days of the show, and also get a discount on tickets. Still, a ticket costs between $70 and $85 for a day. Well worth it, if you can afford it. In any case, do try to get to a show somewhere.

Henry Homeyer is a UNH Master Gardener, the author of 4 gardening books and a lifelong organic gardener. You may reach him at henry.homeyer@comcast.net.


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