Friday, April 28, 2017

Our local spring garden show

Our local spring garden show, held in an upscale Orange County mall, was never much to brag about and in recent years the displays have become more about garden-style furnishings than gardens.  Although represented as "outdoor rooms" of the type Jaime Durie made famous, I'm not convinced that all of the furniture shown at the Southern California Spring Garden Show could actually stand up to the weather - even here.  You can make your own judgments.  Here's a quick look at the 10 displays, all collaborations between local garden designers and shopping mall vendors.

This one was entitled "Contemporary Cultivation."  I liked the raised planter and the arbor with hanging plants.

This is "Steel Magnolia."  I liked the fence with slats of variable lengths, something I tried and failed to talk my husband into building for me in our garden.  I also liked the chunky picnic table and benches. 

I liked "Timeless Modern's" use of a repetitive planting scheme (something I seem incapable of) and their lighted fountain.

This is "Vintage Revival."  I apologize for the especially poor lighting here - mall interiors aren't easy to photograph with a point-and-click camera.  (Hoover Boo of Piece of Eden posted better photos of the exhibits in her take on the show.)

This is "Innovating the Present with the Past."  The aviary in the corner contained a half dozen or so finches, who appeared to be terrified of their surroundings - they were huddled together at the top of the enclosure and utterly silent. 

Called "Of Dreams and Gardens," this one wins my prize for useless gaudiness.  As I recall, I had a similar reaction to the sponsor's creation last year.  The bar and the seats changed colors, which was amusing but would wear on me quickly.  I did like the screens at either end of the exhibit but they were lost as part of the overall display.

Dustin Gimbel's pots were my favorite part of the "City.Sky.Garden" display, although I admit I was also impressed by the very professional outdoor grill (even if I don't cook).

"Live, Work, Play California Style" was stream-lined and inoffensive.  I liked the black bar.

Entitled "Nod to Nature: Sensory Overload," this one was constructed as a child's play space, with the title giving its own nod to the corporate sponsor.  I liked the container planted with Acalypha hispida, Stachys byzantina, and a noID crested succulent (photo bottom, right)

I think the exhibitors threw their "Modern Moroccan" display together without much thought.  The only natural element was a border of asparagus ferns.  But I liked the multi-faced end table.

Even the center display, which in the past was created by some of the people responsible for the new year's rose parade floats, fell a bit flat.

The ladies were decorated in flowers and their furry companions were covered in grass.  For some reason I didn't attempt to ascertain, there were 2 psychedelic-colored plastic hippos on the other side of the display.

So, did I attend the show to see the exhibits?  No.  I attended to check out the vendors.  A couple of years ago, the show hosts drastically reduced the number of vendors but they invited more back last year and still more this year.  As my camera battery died mid-way through my rounds of the display gardens, forcing me to resort to my phone's camera, I didn't take a lot of photos of the vendor displays, especially as the shopping crowd steadily increased around lunch time, but I do have a few photos to share.

Bonsai, exhibited by Orange Empire Bonsai Society

Japanese maples, sold by Essence of the Tree

Decorative items offered by Molly Wood Designs

Muradian Pottery and a large number of succulent nurseries

Gorgeous flowers offered by Rainbow Valley Protea.  This area was jammed on the 2 occasions in which I walked by.  When I downloaded my photos, I saw a sign I'd missed advertising Protea bouquets for $10.  I wish I'd bought one!

I spent all of 90 minutes at this year's show.  My trips to and from it took over an hour each way.  So, will I go next year?  Probably, as long as the sponsors continue to invite a varied selection of vendors.  However, next time I'll probably start with the vendors and zip through the displays if I've sufficient time before the crowd gets too deep.  This time, between my camera problems and the crowd, my patience was exhausted early.  I came home with just 2 plants.

I picked up Leucospermum 'High Gold' (already in bloom!) and Geranium 'Anne Folkard'.  The latter is already taking a beating by our relentless Santa Ana winds.  I haven't found a proper spot for either yet.

All material © 2012-2017 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party


  1. Thank you for the continued coverage of the show (I read Hoov's post this morning). I'm sorry you guys don't get better than this, it just boggles my mind.

    1. It makes me sad. There were efforts to get real garden shows off the ground at one time, most notably the short-lived "Chelsea West" event on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, but, like the garden shows on HGTV, they largely faded away over time.

  2. I don't have the discipline required for a repetitive planting scheme either. I try, but I plant so many reseeders, it always gets out of whack. My garden is discipline that's been slapped in the face by chaos. A mall, even an upscale mall, must be an awkward place for a garden show. Some of the displays remind me of the smaller City Living displays for our Northwest Flower and Garden Show.

    1. I'd be happy if they were more like the NWFGS's City Living displays, Alison. I felt that some of the exhibitors made more of an effort on the garden elements this year but maybe I'm deluding myself.

  3. I see what you mean about your local show. It doesn't help that I've never been fond of the outdoor living movement. Jamie Durie does an ok job, but still often doesn't put enough emphasis on the plants for my taste. I'm not opposed to incorporating seating/cooking/living areas into the garden, but most of what I've seen are over-done outdoor rooms with a few plants shoved in like decoration, rather than the living organisms they are. Thanks for covering the show, though. I would have been all over that protea vendor!

    1. The first year the host switched to the new "furniture first" format, most of the displays were like "Modern Moroccan," with only nominal acknowledgement of garden elements, so there was some improvement this year but it can't be compared with your NWFGS, much less the shows in the UK, Australia and other areas with more respect for gardens, gardening, and the natural world.

  4. You pointed out some interesting parts of the display gardens. "Useless gaudiness" made me laugh out loud as did the 2 psychedelic-colored plastic hippos! Looks like there were some really good vendors though. Looks like Rainbow Valley Protea was also selling plants. These would be a serious temptation! Glad you found a couple of treasures.

    1. I love color and a certain degree of gaudiness is acceptable to me, Peter, but that exhibitor always manages to pass my threshold. In contrast, Proteas, no matter how bright or how many colors are combined always look great to me.

  5. I agree with all your comments. I wonder if these displays actually translate into real business for the vendors...

    I liked Mark Muradian's pots and the many proteas the best :-)

    1. The mall vendors apparently staged an insurrection of sorts a few years ago, taking control over this annual event, and I suspect that indicates that they didn't think they were gaining what they should from the show's traffic. However, the fact that they've added back many of the vendors they cut 3 years ago indicates that their initial response might have been counterproductive. I used to attend with several friends but for the last 2 years I've attended alone because my friends didn't think the event was worth the trip. As it is, I spin through the event in the shortest possible period and haven't spent any time shopping the mall stores as I previously did.


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