Yard, Garden & Patio Show impressions

Ming Fey sculptures

Portland’s show is held in the convention center, where the stage is set by these sculptures by Ming Fey: sprigs of poppies dangling overhead and giant pods resting on pedestals at each end of the great hall.

outer display with greenhouse

Outside of the exhibit hall is a taste of things to come.

sculpture from Cracked Pots

Including an orb sculpture from the Cracked Pots booths. I must confess to rushing by that area of the show, and only appreciating it once someone has pulled out a nice piece like this to feature in a garden setting. Scott has the good eye for such things and has purchased some terrific garden art.

forced bulbs

A pet peeve for many is the practice of forcing things into bloom for the display gardens. Sorry, guys…this is Fantasy Gardening. You want realism? Go to the arboretum.

hpso booth blooms

Or…you purists could head straight for the HPSO booth, where you will find cuttings and plants only in their natural state. Here you see a table populated by blooming branches. This time of year it is dominated by witch hazels, daphne, a few viburnums and sarcacocca.

hpso berries

Another table was devoted to berry bearing branches. Everything in the HPSO booth is labeled with the proper Latin name, there are informational signs like the one you see here, and there are reference materials and live bodies to help you answer your questions.

overview of booths

Here’s an overview of the exhibit floor, filled with booths selling everything garden related, from plants to artifacts to wine (that last may be a stretch, but believe me: after a few hours tromping around the show, you’ll be ready for a glass of wine).

vendor display with truck

A few of the vendors shun the commercial route and go for a more inspirational approach.

red metal arches

My mission is usually to cull the display gardens for ideas. These red metal arches led into one of the gardens.

excess rules

Where you really have to look past the excess to pick up on the good ideas lurking here. Speaking of excess: see the weeping lights in the weeping tree to the left? They also morphed into different colors! And that blue tree in the back? That is no lighting trick…the tree is painted blue.

sculpture with up-lighted trees

But in a quieter part of that same garden, the up-lighting silhouetted the bare trees against the dark evergreen background. I could maybe use that idea.


Fire pits were big this year. This one is surrounded by seating formed by steel mesh crates topped with pillows. The pavilion in the back is topped by an eco-roof in a pattern of squares. If we wanted to get nit-picky here, we might mention that a) the seating has no opening for entry and those crates look pretty heavy b) plants rarely consent to retain a geometric pattern c) pillows left outside will soon sport muddy footprints, or worse. But again, I remind you that this is Fantasy Gardening.

50s theme

One display had a 50’s theme, right down to the outfits worn by its attendants.

recycled BBQ

It’s a fire pit! It’s a fountain! It’s a repurposed Weber!

in-ground tank with bass

It’s unusual to see a stock tank in-ground…more unusual to see the fish be large-mouthed bass.

metal flower fire pit

This flower cut out of shiny metal and used as a fire pit lit up a dark corner in a dramatic way.

chair uphostered in succulents

Did you notice that the back of that chair is upholstered in succulents? And look at the cutouts in the plywood floor.

closer look at floor cutouts

Here’s a closer look at those floor designs: some filled with moss, others with daffodils.

flooring and edging

I liked the use of simple 4 x 4’s for edging and the on-end branches as a transition zone (perhaps an alternative to the more commonly seen pebbles?)

pool house

I’ll close with my favorite of the display gardens. The little house on the left is cantilevered over the pool. Tricks of lighting emphasize the already flaming vine maples (or something…I didn’t check) in the back. Small trees with bright bark were a popular trend, as were Edgeworthias (foreground, right). The whole area of the display gardens was dimly lighted, the better to emphasize the use of dramatic lighting.

And there you have a rundown of the things that caught my eye. I’ll be cruising your blogs to see what others thought. If you have strong opinions, I hope you will voice them (in your blog, or in the comments). It makes it all more fun, don’t you think?

18 thoughts on “Yard, Garden & Patio Show impressions

  1. Good ideas, I love the orb of rusty finds. The succulent upholstery is a fun one too.

    Glad you found so much of interest there. Ours is a Home and Garden show so we end up with a lot of roofing and siding vendors. I only attended once.

  2. I enjoyed the textural aspects of several of the display gardens too. And I admired the rusted iron sculpture in the Great Plant Picks as you did. The fantasy aspect of most of these gardens is a bit frustrating, but I loved the bare twigged betulas and shrubs, as well as the hamamelis used in the gardens.

  3. Good on you–I couldn’t see past that blue tree and high-tailed it out of that garden. I loved those branches turned on end as a pathway edger too. How long do you think that would take to recreate?

  4. O.K. that does it! Next year, I’m going to the Portland show! Your pictures are wonderful. Love the sphere! Have you ever gone to the Cracked Pots event? It’s another thing I’d like to attend in P town! I also hear people say that they are put off by the forcng thing – Roses, daffodils, lilies, crocus, chrysanthemums all blooming together. That these gardens aren’t realistic, that novice gardeners might get discouraged when they try the same cobinations in their gardens. Oh well, I enjoy the fantasy.

  5. First major garden show of the year is always nice to attend and look at, can get you all feeling inspired for the coming growing season. We love water and water features and the last photo looks very nice!

  6. Shirley~We used to have a Home & Garden show on the same weekend, until someone figured out that the competition did no one any good. That one is more like what you describe.

    Bria~I only bought one plant. More on that later.

    Jane~It’s a challenge to see through the fanfare to find usable ideas alright.

    Heather~Probably a time-eater, but what garden project isn’t?

    Peter (Pan?)~A little fantasy does the heart good.

    Mark & Gaz~You love water features? Really? I never would have guessed…just because you have the mother of all water features.

    Loree~Buy, shmuy…I was there mostly to look, not to mention that I was parked far, far away.

    Angie~Of course nothing stays as pristine as it is at first, but I’m thinking that edging would still look good as it weathered.

    Alison~Amen to that!

    Anna~Having lived through the 50’s, I’m not so high on it, but that table was pretty cool, especially in that color.

    Scott~Did you come home with any new metal art?

  7. Pingback: Patio Plants Ideas | Wonderful Patio with Nice Furniture

  8. Pretty extravagant show. Lots of great (or odd) little (and big) details. It probably would have never occurred to someone down here to paint a bare tree blue since we don’t stare at a lot of them. Our garden shows compared to yours are mostly commercial brochures in botanical form, though occasionally something exciting does show up. I’ll keep an eye out for succulent upholstery–That sounds like something we should be trying to pull off!

  9. Amy~That display was very crowded when I was there. Lots of other bloggers covered it and made me sorry I didn’t brave the crowds. Maybe you didn’t get my memo about a new email. I’ll send you another right now.

  10. Living in the tropical dry forest of western Mexico, (where termites eat everything wood), the whole thing is fantasy for me, especially all the water features. I really enjoyed your photos and point of view. I could easily pull of the succulents furniture down here but might end up with scorpions hiding in it. The best inspiration for me was the Weber BBQ water fountain. Now I know what to do with mine when it dies, but I think I’ll weld a bunch of rusted old gears all over it.

  11. MC~So…it might wind up looking more like that orb in the lobby? Remind me to carefully inspect your chairs if I ever have the chance to sit in one of them.

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