Last week, I had the good fortune to take the Homestead Gardens tour to the Philadelphia International Flower Show. I love looking for new ideas in gardening and the show gave ample opportunity to explore. That said, trends in horticulture can be very much like runway fashion—outrageously over the top. Still, all the fun is in looking, if only to get inspired to try something similar on a smaller scale.

Even before entering the city’s convention center, a huge mural by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society—the show’s organizers—provides a refreshing swath of color against the drab concrete. With the popularity of outdoor living, waterproof art makes “fifth rooms” even more inviting.


As part of the “Springtime in Paris” theme, a replica of the Eiffel Tower—smaller than the real thing but looming large, nonetheless—filled the convention center entrance with twinkling white lights and gardens filled with spring-blooming bulbs, flowering shrubs, saucer magnolias and large petal-covered insect topiaries.

Vertical gardening is a recent hot topic in gardening, and several booths displayed their stunning interpretations. To translate this look indoors, suspend air plants (found in the houseplants department at Homestead Gardens) from the ceiling in specially-designed small glass containers that require only a bit of indirect light and a weekly misting. For truly creative indoor art, tuck leafy tropical plants into a new product called Wooly Pockets (coming in the next week to Homestead Gardens!) that you can hang on your wall thanks to waterproof lining.

This display of miniature irises highlighted the incredible selection of spring bulbs, and it’s never too late to start planning for early season color next year. Starting in early autumn, scout out the perennials department at Homestead Gardens for smaller bulb varieties and plant them among the hardscaping in your garden. Small boulders are becoming more popular to use in landscapes, and rocks like these were a consistent theme in many of the show's exhibits.

Speaking of rocks, stone containers were a popular feature, just like the ones made in the hypertufa winter workshop class at Homestead Gardens. Small succulents (available in the houseplants department at Homestead Gardens) and miniature perennials (sold at Homestead Gardens as Stepables and Jeepers Creepers) looked right at home nestled in the containers.

Edible gardening has grown exponentially over the past few years, and gardeners are starting to incorporate herbs and vegetables into landscapes and containers alongside non-edible plants. Ruffled parsley looks right at home next to nasturtiums, begonia and canna, a head of cauliflower makes a great structural element and curly-leaved lettuce adds an interesting thriller to a container. There are no rules in garden design so why not appreciate a plant for its color and foliage before you eat it?

Staying on the subject of edible landscaping, an espaliered apple tree adds a gorgeous European element. Usually, fruit trees are espaliered to grow against a stone or brick building to benefit from the radiant warmth of the wall as it absorbs sunlight. Homestead Gardens sells espaliered apple and pear trees that contain varieties to pollinate each other and require only occasional trimming to keep their shape.

No matter the size of your garden, containers are becoming a creative way to display flowers and to grow edibles. This type of gardening is more inexpensive than digging huge beds, while caring for plants in pots is easier since you can better control soil and light conditions. This front porch showed that containers can be grouped into an inviting display in the garden itself.

Gardeners usually think of bright flowers to add color but a massing different varieties of coleus shows off the rich colors of their foliage without a single bloom in sight.

With their dense shade and fertile soil, woodland gardens have always had an ethereal quality about them. For a garden with lots of shade, ferns add incredible texture and movement and some even change color in the fall.

Getting children involved in gardening is easy when you have creative touches of color and whimsy. A pathway filled with handmade stepping stones, easy-to-grow flowers in painted happy-face pots and a pint-sized chair is all they need to get them outdoors. Add a few brightly-colored tools and a watering can sized for little hands, and they won't want to come in for dinner.

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