I just came back from this year’s Canada Blooms garden show in Toronto. It had been quite a few years since I last attended this show and I was looking forward to the day browsing for some new garden ideas.
Already billed as Canada’s largest flower and garden festival, this year’s event was combined with the National Home Show making it “North America’s Largest Home & Garden Event”. This meant that for $17 each (our on-line price) plus $15 parking, my friend and I were able to attend both Canada Blooms and the National Home Show exhibits. Sounds like a deal right? Well, not so much if what you are looking for is garden inspiration. While I enjoyed the day with a good friend, walking around and talking about gardening and a host of other topics, I can say it wasn’t because of the great garden (or even home show) exhibits. My overall thoughts on the event:
Garden Art Not Gardening
We walked through over 6 acres of garden displays and exhibits in the Blooms portion of the festival. While pretty to look at, the exhibits didn’t even come close to offering realistic ideas of garden landscaping. Rooms and outdoor living areas decorated with plant materials or combinations you would never see in a garden were the overwhelming theme. This year’s official theme was CityCulture. Perhaps that’s why I couldn’t relate. The only takeaway from the one exhibit I liked, which is pictured on the right, was the way they grouped boxwoods of varying heights below taller plants (in this case bamboo). But practically my garden grows neither bamboo, nor orchids although I do have boxwoods and campanula. Yes I know, it’s meant to be artistic — but I’m looking for a garden show. Even the floral competition seemed un-garden like as there were paintings exhibited that didn’t even resemble gardens. One ‘winner’ was a series of what looked like pastel coloured wooden plant markers hanging at different heights. I just didn’t get it I guess.
Poorly Organized Marketplace
After walking through the rather lacklustre exhibits, we made our way to the marketplace. Now here is an area meant for trade — I know that going in. You’d think since this is where people will be spending more money there would be a lot of space dedicated to allowing you to view and talk with the staff at each exhibit right? Nope. This section was the tightest of all the show. Narrow aisles and tiny crowded exhibits made it difficult to browse through the various offerings. At the more popular booths it was a little like viewing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre — take a quick peak and move on please, we have more people to serve. While I did come away with some special new peonies (more about that in a future post I’m sure) that was largely because I already had a plan to develop a Peony Focused Garden this year and knew what I was looking for. I walked in, picked out what I wanted, paid and walked out. If you were not already knowledgeable about peonies though, forget it and this was not do to the staff at the exhibit — they were as friendly and helpful as could be given the crowded space.
Workshops Not Included
While the website listed an array of ‘incredible speakers’ from throughout the industry there was no talk scheduled for the Saturday we were at the show and we didn’t notice one while we were there. The only event listed was a workshop on ‘Fifteen Minute Flower Arranging’. Oh but wait, the fee for this workshop was $80. Oops, sorry turns out the workshop was cancelled, wonder why?
Definitely A Trend
Walking through the Home Show portion of the event I was taken aback by the lack of creativity or uniqueness among the exhibits. Take the exhibitors of patio furniture for example. There was no doubt after walking by six to eight different exhibitors that square wicker outdoor furniture is in. That is pretty well all anyone had to display. No need to attend the home show — one stop at any major retailer and you would see the same thing.
But despite all this I had a great time. I spent a good day with a friend. The best part was visiting Lee Valley Tools on the way home where we each picked up some garden tools (in a much less crowded environment thank you). But next year, perhaps I’ll arrange our own garden event — touring some local greenhouses perhaps? There at least I’d see some actual garden plants I could use and it would be free.
Your experience mirrors mine at our garden show each year, except Hartford Connecticut is small town stuff compared to Toronto. But the disappointments are the same as you describe. Visit a garden center at Home Depot and you see about as much creativity and inspiration as at the garden show. And the cheap jewelry vendors . . . why are they there? I smiled when you said Lee Valley was the only highlight on the way home. The Lee Valley exhibit at our show is the only booth I want to visit.