Funeral for a Friend

February 5, 2010 | By | Comments (8)

Gardeners, garden writers, homeowners, nursery people, friends, and family:

It is with deep sadness and an aching heart that we gather today to mourn the passing of of a beloved event that has meant so much to each of us — the Spring Flower Show.


Caribbean cruise '09 055


As we all know, winter in the South is often a dreary time of cold, wet landscapes devoid of color. How we looked forward to the Spring Flower Show, when we would gather together in a great hall filled with hundreds of trees, shrubs, bulbs, vines, and unknown wonders in full bloom arranged into magnificent gardens that would take our breath away.

We would chat with plant growers about their latest and greatest creations, inevitably taking home a plant or two that caught our eye like an eager puppy waiting to be adopted. We would stroll down indoor avenues lined with booths of garden vendors showing off the latest eco-friendly fertilizers, cutting-edge tools, magic soils, and next-generation pest controls. We despaired at how a single day wasn’t enough to see it all and that the tote bag that came with the admission price was woefully too small to carry all our goodies and free samples.

Well, maybe it’s the economy, maybe it’s the loss of sponsors, or maybe it’s the loss of seasoned leadership. No matter — the sad fact is, one of the South’s great flower shows is a mere shadow of itself.

Now I’m not going to tell you which flower show it is (other than it’s in a very large Southeastern city) or who’s sponsoring it (I like my job). And I don’t want to offend the many volunteers who put in a lot of hours trying to put on a first-class event. Having said that (if you watch Simon Cowell on “American Idol,” you know nothing good ever follows these three words), when my colleague Rebecca Reed and I ponied up $18 a head and walked into the hall, our jaws hit the ground faster than that meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs.

“THIS IS IT??!!!” we said incredulously.

See, there were two eensy-weensy things wrong here. First, a Flower Show is supposed to be filled with displays of ………ummmmm, flowers. Scarcely a flower in the whole place. And when you shell out 18 bucks for admission, you’re not supposed to be able to see everything of note in approximately 18 minutes. I mean, it’s not like we paid for an audience with the Pope!

Now here’s the strangest thing. This show signed up an absolutely first-class slate of nationally known garden speakers. So you would think somebody would have provided them with a first-class venue for making their presentations. Nope. The acoustics were so incredibly bad that you had trouble hearing if you were more than 25 feet away. And no one could see the Power Point shows because bright light lights shone down directly above the stage, like the speaker was undergoing an FBI interrogation.

I guess a couple of things should have tipped us off that 2010 was going to be a down year for this thing. First, instead of the expected convention center, this one was held in a half-vacant mall. Second, even though we arrived in the middle of the day, we had absolutely no problem in finding a nearby parking space.

I had planned on taking lots of photos there. Heck, I’d even brought extra camera batteries. I wanted to show you, faithful and inquisitive Grumpians, some of the new and exciting plants you were going to be able to try this year. I walked every inch of the show,looking for something of interest.I would have liked to see something really cool and magnificent, like the spectacular blooms of the royal poinciana (Delonix regia), shown above. But that tree’s growing in Mexico.

I left without taking a single shot.

Grumpy hopes your local flower show fares better. Be sure and ask them this question before you give them your money: “Are there any flowers in there?”


  1. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    You’re right, Tara. People don’t come to flower shows to see smoker grills, soup bowls, and boothed filled with starving artists. They want flowers!

    February 25, 2010 at 2:13 pm
  2. Tara Dillard

    I don’t think it was the economy taking the show down. The display gardens became about outdoor kitchens, fireplaces, waterfalls & etc. Gardening average gardeners cannot do themselves.
    Gardens lacking passion & soul but exuding plenty of MARKETING.
    I heard a speaker at the show you don’t name a couple of years ago. Asked a question he said, “I’m not a gardener, I host xyz TV show.” He was the keynote speaker.
    Flower Shows wonder why people don’t show up? It’s not the economy…
    Loved your rant!! Thank you for posting it.
    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

    February 25, 2010 at 8:18 am
  3. Brenda Rambach, Guilford County, NC EMGV

    Dear Grumpy, We are in the process of compiling a short list of speakers to invite to our 9th Annual Gardening Gala and Seminar on Sept. 23, 2010. We would so much like to hear if you are available/interested in participating. I have tried other methods of contacting you but this may be my best bet. Please advise asap. Thanks

    February 22, 2010 at 1:02 pm
  4. Lauren

    I went on Friday, and I hate to say it Grumpy, but you are right! And this was my FIRST time ever attending this particular flower show. I am fairly new to gardening although it has become a real passion for me- and I wasn’t blown away by their displays. It was nice to see some green- but I wanted to see more flowers!! Oh well, atleast I got Erica Glasener to sign her new book for me! I hope next year will be better!

    February 7, 2010 at 5:18 pm
  5. Dave

    I’m sorry to hear about that! I’ve read quite a few tales about garden shows taking a turn for the worse the last year or so. You might want to consider coming up I65 to Williamson County (Franklin, TN) this spring. The Bloom ‘N Garden Expo is pretty good. It’s put on by the Master Gardeners of Williamson County. Admission is only $10 too! Lot’s of speakers and many of Tennessee’s best nurseries attend.

    February 6, 2010 at 11:51 am
  6. Linda

    Oh how sad. I haven’t attended in several years but the last time I did it was magnificent and we had a ball. I hope it improves as the economy does.

    February 6, 2010 at 10:22 am
  7. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    Yeah, but you didn’t have to pay 18 bucks.

    February 5, 2010 at 4:58 pm
  8. Jean

    No pictures?? NO flowers??? I am so disappointed.

    February 5, 2010 at 12:18 pm

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