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CityPASS Home  »  City Traveler Blog  »  Flower Shows Bound to Brighten Winter Weekends

City Traveler Blog

Flower Shows Bound to Brighten Winter Weekends

A friend in North Carolina recently shared, via social media, a picture of daffodil shoots emerging in his yard. It will be weeks before those shoots mature into blooms, but their presence is encouraging.

This time of year can be hard. The cheery brightness of the holiday season is past, and, for many, the worst winter weather is upon us (or threatening). Sure, warmer climates offer a respite, but the difficulty and expense of reaching a sunny, warm locale may prove prohibitive. Instead, you can visit a place where spring is in full bloom – and it may be in your own town.

Photo credit: Cromely - Northwest Flower and Garden Show

Flower and garden shows are timed to arrive just when many of us are despairing that we’ll never be outside in short sleeves again. These events satisfy our need to anticipate spring and summer, and help us begin the planning process for our next great outdoor planting adventure. Many shows take place over a weekend – the largest are even longer – so visitors can take their time absorbing all there is to see, learn and smell. Below are a few reasons to seek out a flower show this winter.

A Taste of Springtime in Winter

Virtually all flower and garden shows seek to inspire visitors by presenting actual gardens that have been constructed by nearby businesses and designers. This year’s Boston Flower and Garden Show (March 11-15), with its “Season of Enchantment” theme, invites garden creators to broad interpretations, taking advantage of the “magical metamorphosis” that occurs in nature every year. The Boston show will also have a redesigned floor plan, so people can lose themselves in the constructed gardens before venturing beyond.

Photo credit: Peter Miller

In Seattle, the Northwest Flower and Garden Show (Feb. 11-15) has 21 – yes, 21! – themed gardens to transport visitors to romantic hideaways, lush meadows, even a Victorian-inspired “steampunk” locale complete with a kinetic feature of moving gears and chains. Water features are popular elements in these display gardens, and in Seattle, visitors will see ponds, streams and even a waterfall incorporated into the landscapes. Did we mention the blooming flowers? Thanks to the expert handling and planning efforts of participating gardeners, florists and horticulturalists, these display gardens will burst with color. Visitors to the Chicago show (March 14-22), will have not one but two rose gardens to explore: one for climbing and shrub roses, another for miniatures. Expect to see tulips, hyacinths and daffodils galore, plus blooming shrubs such as azaleas and hydrangeas.

Expert Advice

Looking for help with weed control or unwanted pests? Perhaps you want to attract butterflies or bees? Maybe you have a small patio and can only garden in pots? A garden show is the best place to take questions and issues, as the professionals there are eager to help (and, yes, have problem-solving products for sale).


Photo credit: First Daffodils - Boston Flower and Garden Show

Garden shows have a history of educating as well as selling. Toronto’s flower show, Canada Blooms (March 13-22), has planned workshops on topics such as creating a wildlife habitat, gardening “all the days of your life,” and enjoying your garden with a puppy – a challenging task, given some dogs’ need to dig! In Seattle, visitors can learn about permaculture (creating self-sustaining ecosystems), vertical growing (a “living wall”), and what foods to grow to aid in diabetes management.

Some shows also provide limited one-on-one advice for specific issues. In San Francisco (March 18-22), the “Ask a Designer” booth provides a free garden design consultation. People can also register for a complimentary landscape consultation at the Seattle show. Another way to learn is by digging in. Philadelphia’s Flower Show – winner of the 2014 Best Event prize from the International Festivals and Events Association – features a Make and Take room, where you can create either an art and craft project or a terrarium of your very own. In Chicago, the How-to Garden has “Potting Parties” so you can learn what plants can safely cohabitate or the best way to alleviate root compression.

Photo credit: 8 Eyes Photography

A Great Outing

If you’re in need of a fun excursion for young children or older family member, a flower show is the place to go. You can shed coats and enjoy a climate-controlled atmosphere with no uneven sidewalks. Plus, there’s plenty to see. Beautiful visions abound and, with different areas of emphasis, it’s easy to change the scenery to prevent boredom.

At the “Butterfly Experience” in Philadelphia, visitors can interact with 20 species of butterflies in a contained, walkable (and sit-able) enclosure. When it’s time for refreshments, a twice-daily Garden Tea is a traditional respite with mini sandwiches, petit-fours and, yes, the beverage you’d expect (reservations required). An “Irish Heritage Garden” in Chicago is an acknowledgement of the history of that culture to the region.

Photo credit: lenngrayes - Chicago Garden and Flower Show

Most shows also offer photography exhibitions, which provide an opportunity for little ones to see different perspectives on flowers and plants...and play a mean game of “I Spy.” Other competitions are more direct. In Philadelphia, a daily “garden container challenge” will pit designer against designer onstage as they create lush and innovative container displays in a matter of minutes. Chicago’s flower show will host the 2015 National Cake Decorating Competition, sponsored by the Retail Bakers of America.

Flower shows offer a bounty of merchandise, from decorative to living. Designated marketplaces within the shows feature garden art and ornaments, along with tools and other supplies needed to create a bower of one’s own. Boston’s “Plant Promenade” takes the marketplace to a new level, placing plant and seed vendor booths alongside container garden “vignettes,” putting the products on display in real and vivid settings.

Photo credit: lenngrayes - Chicago Garden and Flower Show

Be sure to consult a particular show’s website for up-to-date information on exhibitors, workshops, special guests, and before- and after-hours events that can deepen the experience. Even if you don’t have a garden – or don’t ever like to get your hands dirty – strolling through a flower show is a great spring tonic, in the middle of winter.

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