Get the Most From Flower Shows

I’ll be speaking on Cultivating the Inner Gardener: Gardening for Personal Growth ( ) on March 12, 2010 at 3:30pm, at this year’s Springfest Flower and Garden Show in Augusta, NJ at the Sussex County Fairgrounds ( Come by and say “hello” if you’re in the area.

As the flower and garden show season swings into high gear, garden enthusiasts everywhere are itching to see demonstration gardens in full bloom and to spend some of their hard-earned money on unusual ornaments and colorful plants. To get the most from your visit, plan ahead.

1. Comfortably cushioned flat shoes are a must, since most shows take place in structures that have concrete floors, which quickly take their toll. Some demonstration gardens will have flagstone or boardwalk-style paths that make for uneven walking, or may catch narrow heels.

2. Think about your main reason for going to the show and do that first. I used to go to one show just to purchase ornaments from a particular vendor. I’d put my treasures in her “holding” area and feel free to cruise the rest of the show without being rushed, because I was sure I wasn’t missing anything important. Look at the layout map to see what gardens or vendors interest you the most, decide which talks are an absolute must-hear, and locate an area, such as the cafĂ©, where you can rest up for round two.

3. Dress appropriately. This means different things to different people in different locales, but wear something you won’t mind having soil from a tumbling flowerpot spill on, or an overactive fountain splash with water.

4. Take the minimum necessary and make it easy to carry. Even a relatively light bag will begin to feel heavy after two hours. Pack a fold-up tote in a backpack and you should have plenty of room to store your purchases.

5. Be courteous and mindful of other attendees. You will be sharing this space with thousands of other people. Don’t step in front of someone’s camera when they’re set for the perfect shot and, if you’re the photographer, wait until the crowd thins a bit. Don’t stand in front of a garden, or stop on a narrow path and chat with your friend while hundreds of others are waiting their turn. It’s often tough to hear in these cavernous spaces that act as echo chambers, so don’t make it worse by shouting.

6. Respect the hard work that’s gone into the show. Avoid stepping on plants and keep to the indicated walkways. Think twice about bringing carts or other bulky items and how you will maneuver them in a narrow, crowded space. Don’t touch plants, or pick flowers.

7. Consider the maturity of your children before bringing them along. Are they likely to take a fistful of mulch or gravel and hurl it into someone’s face? Will they pick all the daisies to make a bouquet for you? Do you really want to push a stroller up and down flagstone steps or across a curved wooden bridge?

8. Assess your limitations. People who need mobility assistance may get around more easily in the “off” hours, which tend to be weekday afternoons. If you are afflicted with allergies or other medical difficulties, be sure to bring along necessary medications and carry information about your problem in the event that medical assistance becomes necessary. You may also want to think about limiting your time at the show, or making two shorter visits instead of one long one.

9. Slow down, take a deep breath, and take time to smell the roses. The real spring is just around the corner!

10. Have a great time.

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