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Garden: A World in Bloom

At the Maymont Flower and Garden Show, inspiration came from afar.

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With the theme Festivals in Flower the show took place in its new home at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. It featured 20 exhibitors, three days of speakers and more than 200 vendors. It offered botanical interpretations of a host of holidays, including Valentine’s Day, May Day and Nirvana Day.

This last holiday, a celebration of the Buddha’s death and passage to enlightenment, observed Feb. 13, illustrates one of the more interesting phenomena of the show. In addition to the traditional offerings of well-appointed walkways, courtyards and even formal dining tables incorporated into the displays, a number of exhibitors took inspiration from abroad.

A handful featured Japanese influences, one celebrated the first day of summer in Iceland, and the idea for the best in show winner came from south of the border. In a year in which a Victorian fashion show and luncheon were added to the roster, the wonder and curiosity generated by these far-flung entries may indicate a shift in local gardening trends.

Claudia Swanson certainly hopes so. As the designer of the Dirty Hands Garden Center’s entry, Claudia used Nirvana Day to design a minimalist Zen garden that stood out as an understated contrast to some of the surrounding exhibits. The display consisted of 12 tons of crushed granite, boulders, moss, a large hanging mirror and a flat-topped pyramid. These elements were arranged to symbolize land and sea, a turtle and a family.

The fine gravel, raked into patterns and piled to form the pyramid, characterized Swanson’s desire to show people something they might not otherwise see. She raised the questions “What is a garden?” and “Are you gardening for other people or are you gardening for yourself?” A Zen garden, with its simple elements and tactility, make it an option for all ages. It’s also more accessible for the elderly and arthritic, even for the wheelchair-bound or blind.

The best-in-show award went to Snow’s Garden Center for Cinco de Mayo, based on the celebration of Mexico’s independence day. This colorful exhibit with its offerings of agave, Hollywood juniper and kumquat stood in tropical contrast to what might be found at local plantation gardens. Corbin Snow, whose great-grandfather started the company, was quick to give advice on weeds: “Get pre-emergent herbicides in planting beds to cut down on weeding by 75 to 80 percent. Do your first round of crabgrass and broadleaf weeds early, cutting down on labor later.”

Enviro Landscape Design’s Sumarsgurdurinn Fyrsti, Icelandic for the first day of summer — won the best-design award. Featuring strict geometric design and polished-aluminum square pools, it stood across the path from Zo En Garden Creation’s Japanese tea house. The simple, natural beauty of Zo En’s offering, which won for grandest illusion, evoked a peaceful, serene feeling. Enviro’s clean lines and industrial looks gave viewers the feeling of being somewhere else. The best thing about these more exotic exhibits was familiar: The plants, rocks, and materials were all Virginia natives.

Now that the seeds of new ideas have been planted, maybe we’ll see more tea houses cropping up near a polished aluminum pool near you. hs



On the Landscape

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden presents Digging In on March 20. The day-long training seminar in garden and landscape design includes lectures by Richard Nunnally, Catriona Tudor-Erler and Peggy Singlemann, as well as hands-on workshops and outdoor demonstrations. 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuition is $45. Call 262-9887 to register, or visit www.lewisginter.org.



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