An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

February 22, 2008

Maymont Flower and Garden Show

I haven't gone to the Maymont Flower and Garden Show in several years, so I decided to spend a cold rainy day with a couple of co-workers and head inland to Richmond to see this year's show. The event is a fund raiser for The Maymont Foundation which helps operate Maymont Park in Richmond. The park sits above the James River and was one of my favorite places to go when I was a child. There are acres of unusual trees, a Gilded Age mansion, Italian and Japanese gardens, a small zoo with Virginia native animals as well as other attractions. The F&G show is held at the Richmond Convention Center and was once run entirely by the foundation and its dedicated volunteers, but now it is run by a company called MAC Events. I am sure the decision to let a for-profit company run the event was based solely on financial reasons, but I noticed some definite differences in shows past, and the show I saw today.

It used to be that as soon as you walked in from the parking garage or the street, the smell of fresh cut flowers greeted you and you could see a small sample of the vendors selling all sorts of things interesting to gardeners. This year we walked down a long sterile hall, with no sense of anticipation, and no indication that we were going to a garden show in the main hall. Previously there was a grand entrance leading to the main show floor, but this year you entered through a small side door. Once inside the show was divided in two; half was a home show and the other the flower and garden show. The entrance display is pictured above and gave you the theme of this year's event, which was a good thing because there was little else to indicate what it was.
The above picture is of the Best in Show landscape display, it was done by Ed's Landscaping & Nursery. It was clever and well planted with a wide variety of bulbs, perennials, trees and shrubs. Its theme was the Mad Hatter's Tea Party, and all of the plant material was labeled using broken bits of cups, plates and saucers. My favorite was done by Shipp & Wilson, Inc., and I liked it because it had what I thought was a better use of more unusual plants. Below are a couple of their pots.
Other landscapes displays were attractive and had a few unusual features, but were weakly planted, and some were merely exercises in seeing how many different ways landscaping block and pavers could be used. I did like this dripping bathtub. I also saw a "thinking out of the box" ikebana,
the biggest Clivia I have ever scene,
and I plant I will own this year.
The number of landscape displays was down from years past, and I saw no plants that I have not seen before, or that screamed "take me home". There were fewer vendors and what they offered was less varied, unless you went to the home show side of the event. Here could be found kitchen counters, vinyl siding, sunrooms, mortgage brokers, mop sellers, replacement windows and miracle cookware. Also missing or reduced in number were the various plant societies, government agencies, the art show, and the garden clubs.

Having worked with the Maymont show and others like it in the past, I can appreciate what kind of work goes into them, and what the pressures are for non-profits in creating and organizing a financially viable event. I guess it should be understandable that sometimes it is easier to let someone else manage an event; I only wish it could have been as colorfully varied and as fun as it once was to while away a cold rainy day there in February.


  1. Yes, it is the same in our area too. I think our drought has something to do with it though. It is a disappointment isn't it? I too have worked these shows. The little nursery I worked for stopped cause we got very little profit for our efforts. In other words---not many people stopped by our shop to say they saw us at the garden show. If you go by the HGTV site--you will see the topic gardening has all but gone dry and the decorating side is booming.

  2. I love the first picture. There is nothing more beautiful to than a mass planting of colorful flowers. It takes my breath away.

    I'm looking forward to the Indy Flower and Patio show.

  3. I really looked forward to the Virginia Flower & Garden Show last year because along with lunch, it was a birthday gift from me to my mom. We anticipated seeing lots of new flowers, plants, and garden decor. It was not to be. The show merged with the TBA (Tidewater Builder's Assoc) and is now the Mid-Atlantic Home and Flower Show. Harumph!
    It was as if my junk mail came to life!! And I told one of the organizers so when I asked for a refund (they refused). 95% of the exhibitors were NON garden/flower related such as windows, bath refinishers, chiropractor's, blinds, cookware, etc. Nothing wrong with that, but how about a balance! And really, if I wanted new windows, etc. I wouldn't go to a garden show. They had a FEW garden clubs, etc. in the last row as if they were an afterthought.
    No unusual plants vendors. No willow farms. No cool novelty garden stuff vendors. No artists. It's no wonder - TBA wants so much for a booth! It's driving the mom and pops and independent folks out. I hope Linda's Garden did well - her herb mixes are wonderful. Although some of the display gardens were nicely done, I'll never go back unless they radically change.
    PS - I took an informal poll in the lobby and everyone I spoke with was disappointed too.

  4. Rie,
    My company used to participate in the Va Beach show every year until the TBA took over. We never made much money, but we got the word out as to who we are, covered our costs, and got people to come to the garden center in spring. The year that the TBA took over , the booth rent increased by nearly $1000 so needless to say we did not go. About 2 weeks prior to the show they approached us with an offer of a free booth because they realized they had no green vendors but we had made other plans. This year the price went down, but we did not go for the same reasons you mentioned in you comment.