I spent Sunday at the LA Garden Show at the LA Arboretum in Arcadia, near Pasadena. And even though I knew, on some level, that the show would be outside–it’s at the arboretum, after all–it wasn’t until I got there that I thought: Wow. An outdoor garden show. What a concept.
I understand why most garden shows have to be indoors–they are held in early spring, presumably to give gardeners a fix before the snow melts, and in most parts of the country, that means that they have to be at a convention center, not a botanical garden. And in those climates, it just doesn’t make sense to wait until summer to have a garden show–it sort of misses the point.
Or does it? In LA’s mild climate, they could hold an outdoor garden show just about any time of the year, but this one comes in early May, well into the gardening season. Here are the advantages to their approach–and all the reasons why I highly recommend this show. If you’re going to be in LA this time next year, make a point of going to this show. And you magazine editors who say you check GardenRant every morning: Give this show more coverage! It’s incredibly cool!
Mature and realistic display gardens. No hustling your show garden into the convention center three days before the event. These gardens set up right on the lawn (the lawn needs a little TLC after this is all over, but nobody seems to mind), and they have close to 3 weeks to set up.
Display gardens blend in with real gardens. With the actual arboretum gardens in the background, these show gardens look like they’ve been there forever. Look at this Monrovia demo
garden–can you tell where the display ends and the real garden begins? (Sorry about the crappy cell phone photos)
No piped-in pre-recorded bird calls. At the LA Arboretum, actual birds twitter in the trees, and actual peacocks stroll the grounds.
It is very charming to be standing at the Smith & Hawken booth contemplating their garden tools and to have a peacock stroll up to you and proposition you with a display of feathers. (Sorry, mister, I’m married.)
More kid-friendly, and by that I don’t really mean kid-friendly. I mean: less annoying, stroller-wise. It’s just hard to navigate a crowded convention center with kids and strollers, and it’s harder for everyone else to navigate around the kids and strollers. But this is a wide open space, so there’s plenty of room to let the kids run around or do whatever they need to do. You can bring a picnic, you can let Junior take a nap under a tree. Nice.
TONS of plants for sale. Big, healthy plants that are ready to go in the ground.
VERY multicultural. This has nothing to do with the fact that the show is outdoors; it’s just LA. Lots of people talking about gardening in lots of different languages. Lots of Asian and Latino families. I love that.
I’m really not knocking the early spring convention center model. By February, I am totally ready for a fix. The Seattle show, for example, in cosmopolitan downtown Seattle, is a FABULOUS way to spend a chilly February weekend–gardens, shopping, and cocktails, all within walking distance of each other.
But I ask you: if LA does this in early May, couldn’t it happen anywhere
in early May? Would you rather go to a garden show at a convention
center in February or March, or wait until May and see the same show
outdoors at an arboretum or botanical garden?