Trip Report: San Francisco Flower and Garden Show

My inner Garden Geek went into overload last weekend at the SF Flower and Garden Show. Held at the San Mateo Event Center, it was a great place for the botanically inclined to go a little crazy. It’s a yearly event, and it’s been a while since I was there last, but I wanted a little garden inspiration. SO….

(Going to the show also makes me think fondly of my dear friend, Joice, who passed away about 3.5 years ago. We had a frightening lot in common, not the least of which were gardening and flower arranging. We went to one of these shows a few years ago, and we both learned that the experienced attendees always brought wagons and shopping carts so that schlepping all the goodies wasn’t so difficult. I thought about Joice, but forgot about the cart!)

Typically at this show, there are a bunch of display gardens, and then a ton of vendors selling stuff to provide adequate retail therapy for any good Garden Geek. Most of the gardens didn’t yield anything unusual, but there were a few standouts:

Many gardeners tend to forget to “go vertical.” I liked this example of hanging mosaics and metalwork.

One of the most colorful gardens there was made by the folks at Ah-Sam Nursery. I love how they used color and height in their garden – it reminded me of Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen. Bright, happy colors, great use of space.

Garden art is always fun to incorporate in the garden, but all I could think about when I saw this is that it’s just a big cat box with a play toy hanging from the top. Or it could be a raccoon playground. Yes, I live in the ‘burbs.

I couldn’t quite figure this one out: carniverous plants in a deck bench. Just at the right height for the kids and their little fingers.

Edible landscaping was a really big deal this year. If you have an abundance of yardsticks, here’s how to put them to good use! (Don’t laugh, we actually DID have an abundance of them a few years ago, back when we went to Southern Lumber a lot and each time they gave us a free yardstick…)

In terms of individual plants, I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw this variegated Rhododendron. I WANT ONE.

And of course, there’s always a place in my heart for kitschy garden art. This little guy bobbed his way into my garden.Now to give him a name: Flashy? Rocky? Mr. Bobblehead? Hm…

I had a really good time, but I think what I enjoyed the most was seeing all of the people there, especially the older folks. I absolutely loved seeing all the elderly folks slowly making their way through the exhibits with their wheelchairs, walkers, and canes, and discussing technical aspects of the gardens with passion! And most of them discussed the different plants using their botanical names. I’m encouraged that when my body completely falls apart, there’s hope that perhaps my brain can still function as a Garden Geek.


  1. Jean Fiala says:

    Robin…here is a copy of a post Melissa put on her website that I thought would touch your inner floral spirit:

    “I was recently asked by my own 9 yr old daughter Azalea, “I know flowers are pretty and they smell nice, but what’s the point? They’re all just going to die.”

    It took a moment to fully grasp what I had just been asked by my own little flower! She has been surrounded by flowers since the day she was born. How could I have overlooked explaining to her why I feel so passionate about what I do?

    And so I explained to her that for me, the purpose of flowers is not to just enjoy their fleeting beauty, but to also remind us of the fragility of life. To take a moment to truly appreciate the beauty of these perfect flowers, just as we should always remember to enjoy and appreciate those in our lives. As a mom especially, I have learned that life is much to short to take the time we have together for granted. My Azalea flower is growing so fast these days, and I don’t want to miss a moment of it.

    As a florist I am exposed to all of life’s moments within one days time. From a new birth to illness, celebration, love and loss. I understand the purpose of the flowers personally and know what message these flowers will bring- the message that like a flower-they are loved and cherished and beautiful.”

    • Robin says:

      Jean, that is absolutely beautiful. Melissa is talented in so many ways! Azalea is a lucky little girl to have her as her mom.

    • Robin says:

      Actually, that would be my dog. Rusty, that is. He lives next to the rosemary bush out in the garden. Lowest maintenance dog ever.

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