Just A Few Bright Spots and Much Disappointment

March 4, 2011

We finished Master Gardening class today by 1:30. I checked email, voice mail, dealt with a few clients from the front seat of my car and then headed to Sid’s Nursery. Their annual garden show and expo started this morning and will run today and Saturday.

The first year Eliza and I went, we had to park far away and take a shuttle back to the facility. It was packed with vendors, packed with people, packed with seminars. She and I had hot dogs, pop and chips for lunch, gathered bags of samples and bought a really nifty wedge-shaped tool for planting annuals in soft soil.

The following year, just me and less vendors, less people. Last year, even worse but this year, because of the improving economy and the growing interest in vegetable gardening, sustainability and more, I figured it would be a better year.

Ack. My first tip off was when I received the invitation email just a few days before the event – obviously, they weren’t too worried about me blocking out the space on my calendar. When I pulled up to the building, I found a parking spot right in the front row, with empty spaces all around. Inside, there were no maps, no who’s who of who’s here.

I found a show special just inside the door, metals rods topped with glass ornaments, perfect for acting as a hose guide to protect plants while being much more attractive (and functional) than the usual stubby little things. Around the corner, I looked at seed packets and rejected them as being pricey. In the bird feeding section, I found a seed sock and put that in the basket.

The pond display was filled with koi, those huge, colorful and slightly (okay, very) creepy fish. They were halfway out of the water, mouths gulping, wide and open, so I could practically see down into their stomachs. They are bright, they are interesting and they are icky.

African violets were also a show special, only $3 each, so one of those went into the basket, with a sheet of care instructions.

African violets grew on my great-grandmother’s enclosed back porch and I always think of her (STELLA!) when I see them. She was a simply massive woman, truly mountainous, reigning over my aunt’s house in Polish. There were just a few times – Christmas, I think – that I saw her out of her throne, a chair at the head of the kitchen table, demanding things and ordering her daughters about in Polish, watching her angel fish in the tank next to her seat. I was fairly terrified of her. It was not a child-friendly house and spending time there, being still and quiet with no games, toys or amusements, was absolute torture. The biggest thrill was playing with the steel encased pop-up address book on the desk. And that got very boring very quickly.

There were only a handful of vendors and they were all listless and uninterested, so beyond ennui that they didn’t even pounce on me as I walked by. I wandered into the compost section but didn’t find anything of interest. Out through the covered hallway, into the big tent and more disappointments. Hardly anything out there, either. I was too late for the hot dogs, too late for the hydrangea drawings. I did get a tiny pot of sweet basil to plant in the garden.

I stopped by the Radius display to look for a good pair of bypass pruners, the kind recommended by Russ, a MG educator. There were two ladies standing there, commenting on the uniqueness of the handles. I couldn’t help myself and broke into an endorsement of the tools, how they are the best you can possibly buy, how I just wouldn’t consider any other brand. The salesman looked at me and smiled, gave me a coupon for $2 off my pruners. The ladies selected transplanters to purchase and I told them they would never regret it.

I overheard a gentleman saying what a disappointment the show was, how it was shrinking each year. I nodded my head in agreement. On the way back out of the tent, I found three more garden stakes, these purely ornamental, looking like bright gerber daisies, happy and springlike.

A display with a poem about fairies caught my eye and I read it, words about how fairies bring flowers and live it them too. At the top of the table was a birdbath and the saucer was filled with delicate plants and the most charming, tiny wire arbor with a bench, a birdbath and a wheelbarrow. Just the place for fairies.

I’ve tried fairy gardens before, using dollhouse furniture. It quickly blows over, gets smashed by enthusiastic Damn Rabbits, lost or carried off by Borrowers – or maybe it’s furnishing Francine and Clarence’s winter home. These items had long sticks to push into the dirt, holding them in place throughout the season. After some deliberation – do I need this, or just want it? (want won out) – I placed them in my basket. I found a pink pot in which to place my African violet and headed to the check out.

Enough happiness in my findings so the trip was not a total waste, but I do not think I will go next year.

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