In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
April, 2004
Regional Report

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This garden tableaux called Bedouin Sands was designed by Jack Chandler Associates at the 2004 San Francisco Flower and Garden Show.

Glorious Garden Show!

The two things I learned at this year's San Francisco Flower and Garden Show are:
1) You can do anything if you have enough money, and
2) Digital cameras have to be on a tripod to take photos in the dark.

There was so much to see this at year's show. My favorites were the hundreds of vendors who sold everything from dahlia tubers to garden ornaments. There was even a chap who sold portable mushroom farms -- pick your favorite variety, he had them! The various plant societies were all in attendance; there was an art show; demonstrations by local experts; and an entire pavilion dedicated to orchids.

The thing you may not realize about this garden show is that those magnificent display gardens are created in only 3-1/2 days. In itself, that's not too amazing. Shows like Ground Force build some very nice gardens in that same period of time. However, the floor of the Cow Palace is a relatively small area, and when you have 21 garden designers bringing in full-grown trees, architectural structures, and thousands of tons of rock and soil, you can begin to imagine what a feat this show really is. The fact that the designers could still stand on their feet during the show and answer questions is remarkable to me.

Inspiring Displays
Jack Chandler and Associates, with the help of Garden Design Magazine, put together what, I thought, was the most unusual garden called Bedouin Sands. It incorporated immense palm trees, and stone columns recycled from the old Palace of Fine Arts. The dramatic lighting only enhanced the appearance of a private desert oasis. Exchange the sand for tile so you wouldn't be tracking sand into the house all the time, and this particular garden would work in any California landscape.

Sean Stout and James Pettigrew, the Organic Mechanics, put together a beautiful water feature that looked like it had been in place for years. The thing that won it a place in my heart is that they used carnivorous plants! Nepenthes, sundews, and pitcher plants surrounded a very froggy-looking pond with a contemporary metal sculpture fountain. You can always count on the Organic Mechanics to come up with something unusual.

The latest thing in the landscaping industry is living roofs, and there were several on display. One even had a cutaway to demonstrate the plumbing necessary to create a living roof. These roof gardens are supposed to cut down on heating and cooling bills and are all the rage in Europe. Just what I need, someplace totally inaccessible to pull weeds...

Kent Gordon England designed an 18th-century garden folly, complete with planted French urns atop huge pillars, Italian hand-hewn stone troughs, and remarkable plant material. Garden follies -- artificial ruins created for the pleasure of the noble class -- were made popular in 18th-century England. Kent's garden was designed so the show visitors could walk through the display. It was easily the most popular garden at the show. He use a Harry Lauder's Walking Stick (Corylus) that was over 75 years old and the largest I have ever seen.

The 21 display gardens were temporary works of art that showcased new and innovative designs in the landscape industry. The show only ran for five days, but what a glorious five days for Bay Area gardeners!


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