Friday, May 13, 2016

Spring Garden Show

South Coast Plaza, an up-scale mall in Orange County, has hosted a spring garden show for more than 2 decades.  I don't remember exactly when I started attending the event, usually held in late April or early May, but my guess is it was sometime around 2005.  The show offered a variety of display gardens and access to a wide range of plant vendors.  I hauled friends there with me and always brought home plants I couldn't readily find elsewhere.  By 2013, the first year I published a post on the event, it was already losing its sheen.  In 2015, control of the event was switched to mall retailers and it became a shell of its former self.  I was going to pass on it entirely this year but, encouraged by the fact that some of my favorite vendors were scheduled to return this year, I paid an impromptu visit.  None of my friends were interested and I attended alone, getting in and out within a couple of hours.

Like last year, a lot of the displays had very tenuous connections to the garden.

This display, entitled "The Garden as Art," featured furniture and other items that couldn't survive outside in the garden even in our mild climate.  Two raised planters featuring succulents were the only nods to the garden.

I wasn't sure what to make of this display, called "The Illuminated Life of a Secret Liuli Garden."  The sponsoring retailer specializes in crystal art, none of which is actually intended for use in a garden setting if the company's website is to be relied on.

This "Modern Farmhouse" was also represented as an outdoor space but it didn't look to me as though the furniture would hold up to sun and rain.  I liked the rustic wood wall and the hanging lanterns, though.


Some exhibitors made more of an effort to interest gardening aficionados.

This display was entitled "Awaken the Senses" and used herbs to surround a sitting area for morning coffee.  I liked the espaliered trees in pots that made up the walls of the enclosure.

This "Cosmic Garden" offered a limited plant palette of succulents and grasses but the water feature was interesting.  A large round hole in the wood enclosure surrounding the dining table mimicked the fountain's curve at the other end.

This display, called "Healthy & Happy in the Edible Garden," crammed a lot into its footprint, including a lounging space, an eating area, and a child's play space.  There were some interesting elements but, as you couldn't walk into the space, it was difficult to give them the attention they deserved.


My favorite displays were these:

The patio furniture in this "California Urban Eclectic" garden looked as though it might stand up to weather, although I made no effort to verify this.  The densely planted tapestry garden next to it would obviously lose its shape as the plants matured but it was a nice mix of water-wise plant selections.

This display, entitled "Rise & Shine" offered a chicken coop, a raised vegetable planter, a picnic table, and lots of decorative touches.  It was the most amusing display.  The miniature garden in the wheelbarrow echoed many of the elements present in the larger display, including the chicken coop.  I loved the rusty metal flowers, the whimsical birdhouse (attached to the coop) and the ceramic dog.


The display at the mall's center featured hummingbirds.  I didn't take note of the builder but, in past years, these centerpieces have been constructed by some of the same companies that build the annual Pasadena rose parade floats.



Potter Mark Muradian, missing last year when the mall dramatically reduced the number of vendors invited to the show, was back this year with his fabulous creations.

Muradian is a Fresno, California based farmer who creates unique pottery on the side.  He sells his pots only through special event shows.  Of the four he mentioned, the South Coast Plaza show is the only one anywhere close to me. 


The vendors didn't fill the top two levels of the mall as they've done in the past but there were some interesting displays.

Rain Shadow Designs offers pristine succulent specimens but they tend to be pricey, as evidenced by the tag on that beautiful Agave 'Snow Glow' (upper left)

Ricardo's Nursery operates out of Long Beach, not too far from me.  I didn't buy anything from him this year but I have in the past and I'm planning a trip to his nursery one day soon.

Sticky Situations had a nice display of cactus and succulents, which included photos of what the plants look like in bloom

Table 2 Garden had some nice succulent displays but they were also pricey.  I did like the arrangement in the middle featuring a dried artichoke.


Still, I went home with just one item.

My new Muradian pot


I may not be representative of the visitor traffic South Coast Plaza is trying to attract with this show but I remain disappointed with the retail-focused approach they've taken the past two years.  It may be sufficient to attract local residents but there's not enough focus on gardens and gardening to encourage me to drive an hour each way to attend.  In prior years, I've made a day of this trip, friends in tow, visiting the mall's retailers as well as the "botanical pop-up shops," as the mall's publicity referred to the garden displays and vendors.  I'm no longer sure the event is even worth the gasoline to get there and the friends who formerly attended with me (and spent money in the local stores) aren't interested in the trip either.


All material © 2012-2016 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

22 comments:

  1. Some of your photos made me laugh--but it wasn't a funny laugh, more a what-were-they-thinking laugh. As you said, the connection to gardens and gardening is often flimsy at best. The primary focus seems to be on creating something flashy, instead of usable.

    I'm glad you went, though, if for no other reason than to buy a Mark Muradian pot. I love his work, too, and I bought a larger pot this past weekend at the Sacramento Cactus & Succulent Society show.

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    1. I probably should have bought more than the one pot given Muradian's low profile on the plant show circuit. This year's selection is about double the size of the one I purchased 2 years ago but I was also coveting some of the lower profile basin-style pots.

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  2. That is a fabulous pot! I wish they would sell those, or something like it, up here.

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    1. Muradian mentioned the San Francisco Garden Show but I think that's as far north as he goes. It's too bad he doesn't sell on-line - his pots are perfect for succulents.

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  3. I made a short visit too, hoping to find the B&D lily vendor. I don't know what's more distressing -- that the show no longer caters to garden design and plant lovers, or that it's become such a huge success in this newer retail/lifestyle-focused format. It was a mob scene when I attended.

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    1. I went on Thursday morning and traffic was fairly light. But, if the event is that well attended, I guess there will be no motivation to change the current approach. Sigh...

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  4. What a gorgeous pot!

    Someone should have explained to the designer that having lunch next to a chicken enclosure wouldn't be an appetizing situation (flies).

    I completely forgot about the show this year, first time in like a decade-but from your post I didn't miss much except Muradian Pottery. I would have bought that pawprint pot in a heartbeat.

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    1. I think most of the designers just try to squeeze too much into the small footprint allotted by the mall. The chicken coop was empty - not even a ceramic chicken in sight!

      I picked up that pawprint pot on my first pass through the vendors and foolishly assumed that it would still be there when I came by to make my purchases before leaving. I returned to find it was gone and Muradian said he had no more. It was relatively small and just $13, as I recall. Lesson learned!

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  5. Wish we could get hold of Muradian pots here...

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    1. They're wonderful, aren't they?! There wasn't a single one I wouldn't be thrilled to own.

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  6. The pots are pretty fantastic. I wouldn't have wasted a minute looking at the "garden" displays. Eeewww.

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    1. I cruised the garden displays in the vague hope that they'd be better than last year's. At least this year, it felt as though a few made an effort - but maybe my expectations have just dropped to rock bottom.

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  7. worth it for the pot!
    Do you have the new resident already?

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    1. I've selected a location for the new pot but not yet its contents, Diana. This one's larger than my prior Muradian pot purchase so I have more options. You can trust that I won't deliberate indefinitely, however.

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  8. Sadly, I had a similarly disappointing experience at the SF Garden Show this year-I didn't even post about it-trying not to be negative. It's a shame that the serious gardener (i.e. people who have no problem spending money on plants) has been marginalized in thee shows. I guess there are not enough of us. And to Denise point re: B&D, they don't even come to SF anymore. Time for the Calif peeps to head to the Seattle show !

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    1. You may be right, Kathy! The PNW folks have expressed concerns about the Seattle show too but, from what I've seen, it's leaps and bounds beyond what the OC show was even at its height.

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  9. I can't even wrap my head around the idea of a plant show/sale in a mall. I am sad to read that it's all downhill. But yes, please do plan a trip north, I'd love to meet up with you in Seattle and see what you think of the show.

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    1. I have no idea how that garden show got started at South Coast Plaza but I was happy to have one close by. The LA Arboretum and the Huntington have plant sales but shows with demonstration gardens don't seem to have taken hold here. There was a short-lived attempt to create a "Chelsea West" show on the former Marineland site on Palos Verdes Peninsula in the 1990s but it lasted just 2 years.

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  10. A garden event in a mall seems odd to me, too, but at least you came home with a very cool pot.

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    1. Yes, at least I got a condolence prize.

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  11. It was a different show!
    Fun to decorate with plants.
    Very stylish pot you bought
    Mariana

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    1. The show is already a memory but I'll have the pot for many years to come.

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