Friday, March 25, 2011


There are just a few more days of the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show which opened this week on Wednesday 3/23/11. The show closes this Sunday, 3/27/11.

For one reason or another, I've not been to the show since its early days in the mid 1980s, when it was at Fort Mason in San Francisco.

This year, because I am studying Landscape Design, and because I was intrigued by the pre-show press about this year's emphasis on edible gardens, I decided it was time to spend at least a day at the show.

As luck would have it, I chose Thursday, the day we had torrential rains all day in the Bay Area.

I will say, the drive to San Mateo (the show is at the San Mateo Event Center) was less than pleasant, but, once there, I was warm and dry and starting having hope that the rain will eventually stop and I will be able to, once again, be out working in my own garden.

The San Francisco Flower & Garden Show is quite different from my memories of its early days.

What has remained, and what I consider the mainstay of the show, are the Garden Displays created by local Landscape Designers. This year there are 19 Garden Displays, 18 of them are in the Expo Hall and one, Star Apple's Edible Garden, a 6,000 square foot display, is off in an enormous tent by itself.

These are photos from some of the displays that caught my attention:

"Fresh Ideas: Born and Raised in California" by Ah Sam Flowers, Florist and Greenhouses:

"Latitude" by McKenna Landscape:

"A Garden for Life" by Filoli Center and The Garden Route Company:

"Edible Garden: The Modern Homestead" by Star Apple Edible & Fine Gardening:

"Pi R Squared" by Jeffrey Gordon Smith Landscape Architects:

"Plant Lab" by University of California at Berkeley Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning:

"Reality Rocks" by Saunders Designs and CK Landscape:

There is a huge Flower & Plant Market that occupies about 3/4 of another exhibition hall, the Fiesta Hall. Here, show attendees can buy all kinds of living plants, from a single pot of herbs, to hard-to-find bulbs, to enormous trees. My observation of the the Flower & Plant Market is that the buyers have their favorite nurseries and come year after year to purchase from them at the show. It's a great way to purchase from and see the plants of nurseries that are not in your own neighborhood.

Most of the remaining area in both halls was dedicated to booths filled with garden accessories, tools, furniture and other items, most of which had some connection to flowers and gardens. I saw booths selling clothing with floral patterns, jewelry with floral designs, and some selling vinegars, oils, pasta and who-knows what else.

Some of the Educational exhibits included a Wine Tasting area and the Western Horticultural Society's New Plant Picks exhibit.

There are two separate buildings where Cooking Demonstrations by local Bay Area chefs

and Seminars by gardening and landscape experts are being held. Each day, there is a different schedule of these educational programs.

There are additional educational programs at the DIY Stage and in the Edible Garden, as well as special programs for kids.

One of the highlights of my day was the Cooking Demonstration by chef Andrea Froncillo, of the Stinking Rose, Bobo's, The Franciscan, The Dead Fish and several other Bay Area restaurants.

Chef Froncillo prepared a mixed green salad with a fresh raspberry dressing, steamed mussels with linguica, and pan-cooked steaks. There had to be at least 100 people at his demonstration, and he and his sous-chef made enough for all of us to enjoy generous samples of each dish.

On Saturday, Chef Alice Waters will speak about the Garden to Table Movement on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. and do a cooking demonstration at 2:30 p.m. On Sunday, Chef Roland Passot will take to the Chef Stage for a cooking demonstration at 3:00 p.m.

Other random thoughts/details on the show:

As hardcore a shopper as I am, I was disappointed that such a large part of the exhibit halls was dedicated to merchandise, some of which had extremely remote connections to anything related to flowers and gardening. I would have preferred even more Garden Displays instead.

The Flower & Garden Market is wonderful and an amazing opportunity to buy plants and connect with growers from all over the Bay Area.

The Cooking Demonstrations and other Educational Seminars are an excellent compliment to the exhibits. I had scheduled my visit so I could spend the entire day at the show. If it were not for the Chef demonstration and some seminars, I would have seen what I came for in a few hours, hardly making it worth the time and cost of admission.

If I were returning to the show this weekend, I'd want to see both chefs as well as attend such seminars as "Growing Edibles in Containers," "The Art of Bonsai," and "When Bad Things Happen to Good Plants."

The best place to get lunch is in the Expo Hall where there are a few small food booths and a coffee bar in one corner. I had a wonderful carved-to-order turkey sandwich, served with potato salad, at the Deli for a reasonable $8.

There is a big cafeteria style restaurant in the Fiesta Hall, with more seating, but very long lines.

The Admission price of $20 (children under 16 FREE), includes all the demonstrations and seminars. Parking costs $10.

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