How do you choose which type of hydrangeas to plant when there are at least 300 beautiful varieties in Connecticut alone?
What’s your garden’s best defense against disease?
Is there an easy way to rid your fish pond or water garden of green water?
These are just a few of the things you can learn about at some of the 80 garden and plant-related seminars scheduled for the 33rd annual Connecticut Flower & Garden Show this week. The event takes place Thursday, Feb. 20, to Sunday, Feb. 23, at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford.
Organizers promise that the show, with “Backyard Paradise” as its theme, will have visitors leaving with all kinds of ideas on how to make their backyards shine.
“There is something for every level of gardener,” said Kristie Gonsalves, president of North East Expos, which presents and coordinates the show, which was attended by 38,000 people last year.
Nearly two acres of convention space are being transformed to accommodate the 300 vendors on hand, with fresh flowers, plants, herbs, bulbs, seeds, gardening books, garden equipment, a live butterfly exhibit and much more.
What’s more, 20 gardens, created by professional landscape designers and nonprofit organizations, will fill at least one acre of the center. The gardens will include naturalistic, low-maintenance and organic settings.
For those who enjoy indoor gardening and the beauty and variety of potted plants, the Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut exhibit is the place to stop.
That exhibit is also the site of the Federated Clubs’ design and horticultural competition, a contest that has been an integral part of the flower and garden show since it began.
As has become the custom, the clubs and garden show share the same theme. Gonsalves explained why “Backyard Paradise” was chosen for this year’s focus.
“With more people staying at home, not leaving on trips, we thought it was a good idea to concentrate on people’s backyard environment. Because everything in the garden contributes to nature, why not enjoy your paradise?” said Gonsalves, whose dad, George Gonsalves, began the event.
As for the garden clubs’ part of the show, some 12,000 entries are expected, said club president Jacqueline Connell, of Branford.
“There will be plans of all kinds and sizes, special exhibits and a judges’ challenge where gardeners who are daring are given a specific plant to grow from seeds or bulbs,” she said. “New this year is photography with four classes of landscape and floral photography.”
Education is an important part of the show, so some 80 hours of seminars are scheduled, many focusing on organic gardening. Among the experts addressing that topic will be Lorraine Ballato, of Brookfield, and Newtowner Anita Dafonte.
Dafonte, who grows vegetables in a 40- by 60-foot raised bed, is the sales manager for Coast of Maine Organic and will talk about organic gardening in two seminars, “Beautiful Organic Vegetable Gardens” and “Starting Seeds.”
What does she think is the most important ingredient in a lush garden?
“Healthy soil is the key to everything,” she said. “Problems and successes begin from the ground up.”
Ballato, who left the corporate world more than a decade ago to pursue her love of gardening, is an advanced master gardener, freelance writer and author of “Successful Self-Watering Containers: Converting Your Favorite Container to a Self Waterer.” This year her seminars will focus on “Vegetables Contained” and “Foolproof Hydrangeas.”
Ballato is also a cheerleader for the show. Asked why people should attend, she quickly said there are lots of reasons.
“One, who doesn’t need a shot of spring, especially this year? Two, the show is absolutely beautiful and spectacular. Three, there’s always something new to see and learn. You can attend as many lectures as you like and you can spend the day talking to other gardeners. Gardening education doesn’t get much better.”
And speaking of gardening education, here are answers to the questions raised at the start of this article.
When it comes to choosing hydrangeas, look at everything from the flowers’ color to which time of season its most vibrant. Pick those which are best suited to your climate, soil and interest.
Your garden’s best defense against disease? The answer is “you.” Visit your garden every day to prevent problems from occurring.
An easy way to rid your fish pond or water garden of green water is to use ultraviolet light.
If you go
Connecticut Flower & Garden Show runs Feb. 20-23, at the Connecticut Convention Center, 100 Columbus Blvd., Hartford. Thursday, Feb. 20, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Friday, Feb. 21, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 22 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 23, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Adults: $16; children 5-12, $4; children under 5 free, seniors 62 and over $14 Thursday and Friday only. Tickets available at the door. Seminars included with admission. Cash only is accepted at the box office. Group tickets are available for 15 or more. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 860-844-8461.
Sybil Blau is a freelance journalist in CTemail@example.com