GardenScape ’06: Reflections

In February, it’s nearly impossible to beat the winter blahs unless you can flee someplace south.

In March, it’s even harder. With the ground still frozen and blizzards routinely forecast, even the most patient gardener can grow desperate.

If you find yourself on hands and knees looking for that first crocus blossom or lingering in a greenhouse just to take in the smell of damp earth, a visit to GardenScape ’06 (March 16-19) may be just what you need.

Local Landscapers, A Local Focus
GardenScape has been the premier garden show in the region for the past 15 years. Each year features something new and different, and this year is no exception.

The 2006 theme, “Reflections,” is an undertaking like no other. This garden oasis will feature an indoor lake that spans 180 feet, framed by a grotto with a trickling waterfall. You’ll be able to stroll over a footbridge, rest your legs at the gazebo, and take in the latest in landscaping techniques and creativity in a series of 22 gardens, most of which have “waterfront” exposure. “We look for exciting ideas every year,” claims Bob Kretzer, show manager, “but no previous show will come close to the unique offerings at this year’s GardenScape.”

While the wind howls just outside, the Monroe County Fair & Expo Center (Dome Center) in Henrietta will be transformed into a living paradise. GardenScape inspires both seasoned gardeners and novices alike with its dazzling displays, all created by local landscapers.

“What many people don’t understand is that GardenScape is not a traveling show that sets up in towns across the country,” adds Kretzer. “It’s built from the ground up in less than three days, right here in Rochester, by local landscapers and an army of volunteers.” The gardens on display are designed to amuse and inspire you, and the plantings are perfectly suited to the climate and soil you’ll find in your own backyard. Plus there’s someone in every garden to answer any questions you might have.

“One of the biggest challenges in putting on this type of show is forcing the plants to blossom so they’ll peak at the show. Geraniums and petunias don’t naturally flower in March,” adds Kretzer. “And since we’re often showing new and rare varieties, they’re even trickier to grow so that you’ll see them at their seasonal best for four days in March.”

Building an Indoor Lake
Imagine the logistics of creating a lake. Mother Nature had glaciers and the luxury of time to create the Finger Lakes. The folks who put on Garden-
Scape are doing it in just three days.

The first step is to clear out the previous show, which ends on the Sunday night before GardenScape. More than 300 community volunteers take part in the preparations, which begin with a thorough cleaning. This year, special attention will be paid to removing even the tiniest bits of gravel that could poke a hole in the lake liner.

Next, a surveyor comes in to mark the locations of the lake, grotto and each of the gardens. Landscape fabric is used to provide an underlayment for the lake, and then the perimeter of the lake is built from Versa-lok blocks. Lastly, a liner is added and the lake is filled.

So how much water does the lake hold? About 33,000 gallons. That’s enough to fill 100 hot tubs! Rather than trucking in water as has been done in the past for water gardens, the lake will be filled from a fire hydrant. “We’ll begin filling Sunday night,” notes Kretzer, “and we can only hope that there are no major fires in Henrietta for a few days!”

Gardens from the Ground Up
On Monday morning, the doors open to the landscapers who begin to work their magic, transforming the humble floor of the Dome to a haven of leaves and flowers. The exhibitors have their own challenges.

Ever notice those massive rocks that frame a romantic blue and white garden? Those are real rocks and they weigh up to a ton apiece! Many of them can only be positioned with cranes. “It looks like a construction site in the days leading up to the show,” mentions Kretzer.

Indeed, the planning starts long before GardenScape opens its doors. “I bought plants in December from Ohio nurseries and had them shipped to New Hampshire to be forced by specialists,” says Kretzer. “We spend more than $50,000 just on plant material, most of which goes into forcing them to blossom at just the right time.”

Everything must be in place for judging by noon on Wednesday. That’s less than three days to pull together a fantasy of living color that will almost make you forget that yes, we can get snow on Mother’s Day.

What’s New This Year
If you haven’t been to Garden­Scape in a few years, now’s the time to revisit. In addition to more than 80 vendors and daily seminars by nationally known experts, the 2006 show promises to offer attractions you haven’t seen before.

In neighboring Minett Hall, vendors will display their goods, and a 30-foot greenhouse will be set up to showcase new cultivars for 2006. These will be the plants featured in gardening magazines and at your favorite local nursery. Stop in to see what’s new and dream about how it might fit into your own designs. These plants are for display only, but there will be plenty of people on hand to answer questions about them.

In the main Dome display area, don’t miss this year’s GMC garden. It will feature a host of underutilized and rare plants and show you creative ways you can integrate them into your landscape.

For the first time, children age 15 and under are admitted free when accompanied by an adult, and discount coupons will be available at Wegmans. You can also enjoy a sneak preview of the show on Wednesday at the Gala Opening, “Taste of Spring,” which benefits the Epilepsy Foundation (for details see

Don’t miss your chance to chase away winter, if only for a day. GardenScape ’06 is slated to be the best show yet!

by Joy Underhill
Joy Underhill is a freelance writer who lives in Farmington.

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