The sound of tropical waterfalls greeted visitors as they entered Commonwealth Hall at the Seaport World Trade Center last week for the 2017 Boston Flower & Garden Show. Running from March 22 to 26, the five-day event celebrated New England’s gardening scene by transforming the 118,000 square feet convention space into New England’s largest greenhouse.
The smell of dozens of different kinds of flowers, plants, and fertilizers emanated from the various booths, merging to create a fragrance resembling that of herbal medicine. The scent changed as guests walked through the facility—the largest of its kind in Boston. Farther down the hall, the air filled with the smell of essential oils, the kinds used in massages and spas.
The setup of the Boston Flower & Garden Show created an experience that involved all five senses of the body. The show’s highlights included garden displays, a marketplace for garden-related products and services, floral designs, competitions for amateur floral arrangers and horticulturists, and hourly lectures and demonstrations.
The garden displays created a woodsy effect in the indoor space, bringing visitors closer to nature than the city outside the walls would normally allow. In one design, water spewed out of a statue that looked similar to the iconic Easter Island Moai heads. An artificial pond surrounded the fountain, and was embedded in a landscape covered with rocks, pink and yellow flowers, and even a medieval knight statue. The display looked like the set of a Shakespearean play.
In some displays, such as Bryce Studio’s painted garden installation, the creation process was ongoing. Based in Pawtucket, R.I., the artist Mike Bryce spends his time at the show producing landscape paintings on site. Supporting his canvas with his left arm, he wore a black Nike hat and a serious expression. Bryce sat in the middle of a garden display, surrounded by dirt, plants, and his canvases. His open paint tubes covered his table, while dirty brushes of various sizes were spread out all over the floor around him. Water flowed out of a pot in front of him, and the installation smelled strongly of fertilizer—a scent familiar to all Boston College students who have walked across campus in the spring months. Despite the strong odor, the painter remained undistracted.
Studio displayed his finished pieces, all versions of the same scene, around the workspace. The repetition across dozens of mini canvases created a Hockney effect that was strengthened by the fact that every painting was created with the same color palette: the color of fall foliage in New England.
To the side of Studio and his work, tiny goldfish swam in a gradient blue bowl with a ceramic lotus floating on the surface. Accompanied by her mother, a toddler used markers to draw on a sketchbook on a wooden chair with a sign that read, “My fairy field journal: please add to it!”
The Boston Flower & Garden Show was a space that brought art and gardening together. The Hudson Valley Seed Company, an organization committed to protecting independent, open-pollinated, heirloom, and non-GMO seeds, hosted a small art exhibition named The Art of the Seed. The gallery displayed works of art that were created on non-traditional mediums, including pyrographic painting, thread painting, digital illustration, hand-cut paper, and painted porcelain tile.
Ken Greene, the co-founder and creative director of Hudson Valley Seed Company, commissioned the artworks displayed at The Art of the Seed gallery for the company’s seed packs. His idea of decorating the seed packs with artwork was inspired by the antique seed catalogues that he collected when first starting the business and was researching the varieties of seeds that grew in the region 60 to 100 years ago. Greene loved the feeling of the old catalogues—which were decorated with artwork because there was no photography—and wanted to continue that tradition. Although the project was inspired with the past, Greene works with contemporary artists to develop the art.
“I also really believe in the power of art, and the importance of artists,” Greene said. “Artists help us understand who we are—they help us understand the meaning of things beyond the commodity of it or what it’s going to produce. Seeds are cultures, and they have stories. So when I work with an artist, I’m telling the artist the story of that seed and they’re interpreting a story through their art.”
The company has a small farm in Accord, N.Y., and sells varieties of seeds for the Northeast, which has a shorter season.
Resisting the urge to pick up gardening and adopt an organic lifestyle proved difficult for many who attended he Boston Flower & Garden Show. The convention space, with controlled temperatures to protect the plants and flowers, felt like a traditional public market in the spring. Crowds of people lined up to look at the display rooms, while others talked about plans for their homes with their families. As an annual celebration in March, the Boston Flower & Garden Show is a collaboration of gardeners, artists, and vendors—a perfect event to gather New Englanders together to welcome the spring.
Featured Image by Sherry Hsiao / Heights Staff