Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Great Garden Show Ideas

I’ve never met an indoor garden show I didn’t like. From Philadelphia to San Francisco, Boise to Atlanta—each show floor is like a huge greenhouse, creating garden magic in the middle of winter. I love the smell of bark mulch in the morning, the scents of early-blooming shrubs, the color and drama, both in the gardens and behind the scenes— “The judges gave that garden a gold?!!!!”

I always come away from shows with a new perspective about my own gardening life. So this month, I’d like to share my top memorable moments from around the country.

Plant Tomatoes Sideways

At a speaker’s seminar in Portland, Oregon, Willi Galloway, the west coast editor of Organic Gardening, shared the best tip for coaxing tomatoes to take off early. Two weeks before planting, she heats up the soil by mounding it and covering with plastic that’s removed when she plants. It’s a standard practice to encourage more roots to grow on the tomatoes by removing lower leaves and burying the stems. But here’s the trick—Willi turns the whole plant’s root ball sideways in the warmed soil—instead of going straight down where it’s still cold. The tomato easily rights itself at ground level, and flourishes with the extra root mass in the warmer soil.

Reuse Can Be Beautiful

At the Green Home Show in Eugene, Oregon —the oldest in the country dedicated to all things sustainable, recyclable, and reusable—show goers flocked to garden sheds with recycled wooden windows. They’re not practical as a greenhouse—the old windows are single-paned—but charming as a garden get-away. The shed roofs are made of safety glass panels from bus stop shelters.

My vote for Best Creative Reuse goes to a company called Pane in the Grass. Their plant markers are colorful two-inch long strips of glass, each with a weatherproof vegetable name, fused onto the handles of repurposed knives and forks—pretty and perfect for staying upright in the soil.

Think Garden—Think Farm

One of my favorite displays appeared at Seattle’s Northwest Flower and Garden Show. “A Family’s Little Farm in the City” was packed with ideas—from reusing rainwater to keeping chickens. Grade-schooler Noah Kenny, son of designer Jessica Bloom, knowledgeably dispensed advice and answered questions from inside the goat pen. Yes, goats at a flower show! They were hauled away each night, lest they leap the fence and ravage the other gardens.

Now that would be drama.