Bloomin’ ‘Eck!

Has success spoiled That Bloomin’ Garden Show and Art Sale? Obviously not. Look at this parking lot, packed full minutes after the hall has opened.

“The event brings out over 1000 gardeners and shoppers from around the city to our Avenue.” The parking lot is going to be full all day.

But in That Bloomin”s early years (how often do you get to use two apostrophes side by side?), there were more plants to buy. There were tables of plants in the parking lot and along the sidewalk. It was an event for people who lived within walking distance of the community hall. There was hustle and bustle, wagons and wheelbarrows and pick-up trucks, people carrying trays and bags full of plants. Moved indoors to make way for the vehicles of cross-town drivers, the event is now “a beautiful, serene atmosphere with classical music.” (Last year, the classical music had to compete with an atmospheric waterfall/fountain thing, and the art strained to be seen under the serene lighting, mistakes not repeated this year.) Serenity is lovely, but it draws a hush over the room. Serenity stifles commerce and conversation. (The neighbourhood paper reports that this year’s event, a “great success,” attracted around 1500 people, who were “treated to soothing classical music.”) And serenity takes up space. At a garden show, you want to see lots and lots of plants. Where That Bloomin”s organizers have erected a stage for musicians, there should be a great big table loaded with greenery (interesting perennials in small pots).

One year, the third or fourth, I think, I bought the Lewisia cotyledon in my little alpine trough (as I call it) — a spectacular plant. I bought it with two other plants (3 for $10), a ‘Wanda’ primrose that did all right for a couple of years and disappeared (I may be nursing a last bit of it in an unlabelled pot), and a third plant I don’t recall. But three good perennials for $10 (even $12, even $15) is a nice score. This year’s show had only three plant vendors among the many crafters, information-pushers and membership-drivers (also, the naturalization group had a few wildflowers for sale). One vendor was selling big tomato plants — on the 12th of May. Another had bedding plants and hanging baskets (pelargoniums, petunias, marigolds, etc). And the Devonian Botanic Garden was selling impressive unseasonably large perennials (flowering size, greenhouse grown, complete with illustrated and bar-coded tags) — aiming, like the crafters and artisans and basketeers, at the Mother’s Day market — as well as a few smaller plants, two of which I scooped up.

The plants I bought: a geranium (cranesbill) with dark red leaves and a japanese painted fern — sold (and propagated?) by the Devonian Botanic Garden.

Outside, the swap table offered maybe six plants, sticks with one or two leaves on them, too shabby and muddy to be allowed indoors. (Something similar happens at Seedy Sunday, in March (or did last year; I didn’t go back). The main hall is full of vendors, and the seed swap — the proper centrepiece of the event — is crammed into a back room along with a few vendors who booked too late for a good table.)

Lewisia cotyledon in the alpine trough — bloomin’ right

So — what to do? The second weekend in May is too early for a perennial swap, too early for tomatoes and cucumbers and basil. It’s the perfect time for a lovely Mother’s Day gift fair, featuring hanging baskets of flowering annuals, along with home-spun pottery and hand-strung jewellery, chamber music and carrot cake.

The first weekend of June is the right time for an outdoor plant market and perennial swap. The Edmonton Horticultural Society’s plant swap is the last weekend in May (way the hell and gone out in the west end, when it should be at the Central Lions Rec Centre, along with the compost sale). The neighbourhood elementary school’s tomato plant sale is the first week of June — the ideal time to plant tomatoes, though by now most people have bought theirs, and the school has trouble selling donated garden centre surplus for $1 per flat of 12 or 18 (large plants in 4-inch pots — crazy).

The solution. Two events: in early May, That Serene Mother’s Day Gift and Wellness Fair; in early June, That Bustlin’ Lush Outdoor Plant Swap and Sale.

I have barely room in the garden for the 20+ tomatoes I started from seed — why did I buy 12 more out of a school gym? Because they were a dollar. (Eight and a third cents each.)

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