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New and cool at the gardening shows

Avid WNY gardeners have learned that one way to get through the agonizingly long wait for gardening activity to begin—snow was still covering the ground in late March—is to attend as many home and gardening shows as possible. The display gardens in these are certainly poor substitutes for the real thing, and the lighting leaves a lot to be desired, but it’s still wonderful to stroll through some kind of garden in March.

I wandered through the Plantasia (Buffalo) and Gardenscape (Rochester) garden shows, and this is what I found.

Every garden must get stoned
While the common forms of hardscaping (mass-produced paving) are always to be seen at these shows, Gardenscape, with its “Rock the Garden” theme went the extra mile with some interesting examples of natural stone being used in creative ways. There were stacked stone walls, stacked stone fountains, Adirondack chairs made out of stone—which looked cool—and demonstrations of how to work with stone in your garden. Plantasia had some lovely examples of stone pillars.

Recycle, reuse, salvage
It’s common to see objects that we do not usually associate with garden use—beds, cars and trucks (not associated with gardening in the Northeast, anyway), or elaborate drapery—in these garden show fantasies. They are usually there for the drama of it, not because anyone thinks they belong in practical garden design. But this year, some companies made use of salvaged architectural materials with an eye toward realistic use. At Plantasia, Beyond the Basics landscaping repurposed salvaged windows as a striking framing device for their display garden, while a Gardenscape vendor had delightfully fanciful garden ornaments/stakes made out of old spoons, forks, knives, and strainers.
A great example of salvaged materials as outdoor décor can be seen in practice on North Pearl Street in Allentown, where a blue door at the end of a trellis seems to lead to another room in a small, yet exquisite back yard garden.

A river runs through it
Water features are still king at these events. Almost every display garden has water in the form of a fountain, waterfall, or pond—and the ones that don’t are equally elemental in their use of fireplaces and firepits. There were distinctive water features at Gardenscape in the form of the stacked stone fountain mentioned before as well as a wall fountain that used a colorful tile backdrop with a carved stone well. At Plantasia, Arthur’s trailblazed with their use of a rain barrel and rain chain, two elements in high demand among sustainable gardeners.

And don’t forget the plants
Though March or even early April are far too early for serious planting, both Gardenscape and Plantasia featured vendors with plants and bulbs for sale—all varieties that could be started inside or held for later plantings. In the past I have found these shows to be great sources for unusual alocasia and colocasia varieties, which, if planted early enough, can provide abundant tropical foliage all summer and well into the fall. Even if you missed this year’s garden shows, these can sti

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