Much of what I’m about to say could be considered common sense for experienced gardeners who know their plants well, but this is intended to give the more novice gardeners among you a little advice. It may even be an epiphany for some:

Orange tulips

Tulips, hydrangeas and daffodils – oh my!

Photo Credit: Mark A. Miller

Blooming begonias, tulips and calla lilies

Blooming begonias, tulips and calla lilies look lovely together…do not attempt this at home.

Photo Credit: Mark A. Miller

Loquat tree and tulips

Surrounding a loquat tree are dazzling tulips…in your dreams!

Photo Credit: Mark A. Miller

The beautiful, colorful and full-flowering gardens that you see at flower and garden shows are not just attainable for you (or anyone else, for that matter). To be excruciatingly clear: Don’t ever expect your garden to look like that.

Sorry. But it’s true.

Now I’m not impugning your gardening skills! You may very well have the greenest thumb on your block. But the vast majority of garden show exhibits are simply not accurate in any landscape I know of. For example, you might visit a show and see the most amazing planting combination of tropical begonias interplanted with tulips, surrounded by flowering rhododendrons and lovely loquat trees.

That just isn’t reality.

Never mind that when left to their own devices, none of these plants would even bloom at the same time in the landscape – heck, many of these plants won’t even grow in the same location! If you live in an area where you can grow loquat trees, then you live in an area where it doesn’t get cold enough for you to successfully grow tulips or daffodils around them. (And I won’t even get into the surreal nature of growing rhododendrons and tropicals together…)

I’m also not pointing and shaking a finger at exhibitors for giving us unrealistic expectations. The fact is that flower and garden show exhibitors go to great lengths to conceptualize and design these attractive exhibits, set the timeline months in advance, force all the various plants with their diverse requirements into bloom at exactly the same time, transport everything to the show, lug in all the materials and plants (often in freezing conditions), set it all up and make it look fantastic. I’m in awe of their skills and dedication! But remember: It’s a show, after all. Unless there are strict requirements for presenters to create “realistic” gardens at a particular exhibition, then please don’t view these creations as such.

Think of a flower and garden show like a fashion show: Fashion shows are great to watch and gather inspiring ideas, but how many of us really look like the models walking up and down the runway? Similarly, garden shows are fantastic events to visit and explore for ideas. Enjoy them and see what’s new in design concepts or green industry products. Buy a few garden accessories. Gain some knowledge about horticulture, and simply enjoy the visual splendor of it all. Just don’t expect to re-create those garden displays you see at these shows right outside your window!