It’s still too cold to garden in Virginia, so friend and landscape designer, Sue Perrin and I escaped to Richmond to warm up with vibrant flowers and green plants at the annual Maymont Flower and Garden Show. In this year’s Glorious Gardens Great And Small, we were on a quest for garden products, newest cultivars and gardening trends. We hoped for spectacular garden displays to feast on and ideas to take home. I was hoping for more in the category of edible urban gardening but that was not to be.
Sadly, with the economic downturn, times are tough for garden shows. The Maymont Flower and Garden show, now run by a for-profit company, has become less garden show and more home show. We made our way past the grills, vinyl siding, kitchen cabinets and heat pumps to the Maymont garden area of the room where displays were only a fraction of what they were years ago.
Hardscape seemed to dominate the gardens this year with several displays offering invitations to enter and follow walkways, cross bridges, view waterfalls, pools and hot tubs surrounded by tulips, daffodils, hydrangea, and hyacinth. Garden art was whimsical and fun. Playhouses or garden houses were displayed in landscapes along with an underground home fit for a gnome or hobbit.
Champagne moments were the discovery of two wonderful plants we’d like in our own gardens. The first, Arnold Promise witch hazel, a hybrid cross between a Japanese and a Chinese witch hazel, was developed at the Harvard University Arnold Arboretum and introduced in 1928. Sue was well aware of Arnold Promise and said it was prized because, unlike other witch hazel, it loses leaves to fully reveal their lemon colored fringe-like flowers. The display shrubs were gorgeous and we both plan to seek out and purchase this variety.
Our other find, located at the Ashland Berry Farm garden display, was the Soft Caress mahonia, with slender foliage that could be mistaken for a dwarf bamboo plant. It is an evergreen and grows to about 4’ high. Like its cousin that grows in most of our gardens, it displays fingers of bright yellow flowers in early winter.
Next we explored the garden vendors with one, Greg’s Antiques and Garden, being a standout. This company from Cincinnati OH displayed a great assortment of wrought iron garden items at affordable prices: arbors, fences, gazebos, planters, and more. On our way to the exit, we stopped to admire the Richmond Bonsai Society‘s incredible trees, one of which is 66 years old.
Although we miss the Maymont Flower and Garden Show of yore, we were content to have a touch of spring to sustain us for the next few weeks.
Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester