Gardening gives people a distinct advantage in dealing with the psychological fallout from our beastly winter.
Sailing? The ice got so thick that we’re going to need to borrow an icebreaker from the Coast Guard for Lake Calhoun. Taking a leisurely walk? It’ll be leisurely, all right, because we’ll have to shuffle along like penguins on the slick sidewalks. Sure, there’s spring training baseball, but the nearest game is 1,200 miles away.
Gardeners have it easy. Starting Sunday, all they have to do is go to the downtown Minneapolis Macy’s store, walk into the eighth-floor auditorium for the annual flower show and — presto! — instant June.
I’m not much of a gardener. In fact, it took several years before my wife allowed me near our garden without adult supervision. (OK, there was that unfortunate incident with the self-propelled lawn mower … )
But an extensive gardening background isn’t necessary to enjoy the flower show. In fact, it might be a distraction.
While gardeners might be driven to dutifully study the labels on every plant, non-gardeners like me can just head for the bamboo garden, sit on one of the benches and Zen out while inhaling the intoxicating aroma of damp soil and listening to the gentle sound of bubbling water.
Where, oh where, have those things been for the past six months? Done in by relentless snowstorms and record-low temperatures since early November, of course. But I’m counting on forgetting all of that intervening trauma while I’m sitting there.
I confessed my approach to the show to Dale Bachman, CEO of Bachman’s and the person who personally oversees the intricate arrangements of thousands of plants. I was worried that he would take offense at my poor gardening IQ.
On the contrary, he said that the show is intended for both avid gardeners there to study the displays and those folks who can’t tell an azalea from a wisteria but are in dire need of a refuge from winter.
“The goal of the show is to give the community a breath of spring,” he said. “People can experience the sights, sounds and smells of spring.”
After this winter, he figures that Minnesotans are ready for that. He saw the same thing last year when winter dragged into May.
“People were starved for spring color,” he said. “You could sense last year that they were hungry for that first taste of spring. I think that’s going to be the case this year, too.”
The theme of this year’s show is the Secret Garden. Picking up on that, the designers hid several miniature gardens throughout the auditorium. Although they are aimed mainly at younger visitors, the intricate work that went into the tiny gardens will amaze adults, too.
The show has a travelogue feel. Visitors wend their way through displays featuring different parts of the world, with stops in Holland (tulips, of course), Italy (intricate latticework) and England (cottage facades decked with overflowing flower boxes), as well as France and Asia.
The show’s centerpiece is a statue of a woman wearing a flowing red dress made from thousands of petals and plants. It’s joined by plant sculptures spread throughout the room, including one of a large turtle with a shell made of succulents.
“I’ve never seen anything like that before,” Bachman said.
The plants are subbed out on a daily basis as needed, changing the look of the flower show. In addition, some of the displays — including a golden chain tree that grows long, yellow tendrils that drape from its branches — will look markedly different when the flower show closes in two weeks.
“It changes and evolves,” Bachman said of the show. “If people live or work downtown, I recommend that they come more than once.”
The show also highlights several gardening crazes, including displays of edible plants, among them Minnesota-hardy grapes. “Edibles are a big trend in gardening,” he said. “Growing vegetables is a point of entry into gardening for many people.”
Container gardening also has a focus. “That’s another hot trend,” he said. “We’ve planted containers, hanging baskets and window boxes.”
Macy’s expects more than 65,000 people to attend the show. With so much interest, timing makes a difference, Bachman said.
“There are peak times when this is like the State Fair and you just move along with the crowd,” he said. “But there are off-peak times — in the evening after dinner, for one — when we don’t get as many people. If you come then, it’s more relaxed. You can go into the bamboo garden and just sit there and drink it all in.”
That sounds like my kind of flower show.