March 14, 2015

Boston Blooming - Spring Flower Show

It may be fifteen years since I last indulged in Boston's March flower fest, then and for more than a century known as the New England Spring Flower Show, hosted by the venerable Massachusetts Horticultural Society (History of the Flower Show in Boston).  Once again on historic Commonwealth Pier, now gussied up as the Seaport World Trade Center, the Boston Flower and Garden Show bears but a wisp of resemblance to the skillfully and extravagantly wrought displays of yore.  Still, the company of a dear friend from Maine and this week's beautiful, more springlike weather made the whole experience feel like a familiar and welcome seasonal right of passage.

My friend, Susan, admires the whimsical floral design competition displaying this year's theme of Wizard's Hats and Staffs.

For me, this hat's magic was concentrated in unusual bundlings of potent plants - small luscious orchids, polypody ferns, selaginella, and mushrooms.

It was the miniature horsetails (lower right) that drew me to this bonsai container garden.  A "windswept" Juniper horizontalis grows from the top of this porous rock fountain with mosses, baby's tears, and the dwarf horsetails below.

Tiny Equisetum hyemala 'Nana'
Ocean Spray created a very appealing diorama of a cranberry bog surrounded by the accoutrement used in the harvest.

In addition, we were pleased to see the Mass. Dept. of Agricultural Resources' particularly informative display on the Asian longhorned beetle and Emerald ash borer and learn about the Massachusetts Master Gardener Assn., a non-profit that formed to carry forward this in-depth training and service program that was discontinued by the state due to budget cuts.  (VT, NH, and ME still fund their own excellent programs at the state level.)  We also sat in on the wonderfully informative presentation given by the Rose Kennedy Greenway horticultural staff, who I met two summers ago on an inspiring tour of the Greenway with them and my Concord friend Paul Kelly (chief horticulturist for Boston's Federal Reserve Bank).  A blog post on that expedition is forthcoming.

With its Suburu sponsor featured prominently within the main exhibition area, the marketplace occupying two-thirds of the entire hall, and commercial businesses producing most of the installations, the flower show has a decidedly more commercial atmosphere than in decades past.  Still, the familiar scents of bark mulch and mingling floral fragrances still evoked my long distant memories of the sheer exhilaration of my first flower show experience in 1978, both as a visitor and one of the privileged few who helped to produce an exhibition.  Having spent my early years with grandparents who were both florists and horticulturists, as well as gardeners, my personal sense of place has deep roots in beautifully arranged and lovingly tended green and flowering environments - and the flower show has always felt a bit like home.

In my Easter finery in front of my grandmother's flower shop in Newtown, CT (1960)
I recently discovered slides that I made of the spectacular 1978 New England Spring Flower show and hope to scan and post those soon.

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