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Los Angeles Garden Show – SUCKY!!!

by germinatrix | May 2nd, 2010

THIS is what passes for inspirational design at the LA garden show

Why IS IT that in a city like Los Angeles, with a fantastic climate for gardening, tons of garden talent, and a lovely venue, our Garden Show is SO LAME?

what IS this even?

It is really kind of shocking. And sad. But whose FAULT is it?

a closer look at the same garden doesn't help to indentify what it actually is

The Designers? Having done this particular show, I know that most of these designers are at the beginning of their careers, and are working with barely anything in the way of funds. They have to go out of pocket to get the plants, the containers, the hardscaping materials, and if they are lucky they will turn around and install them in clients gardens shortly after the show. They can borrow from vendors, but garden shows are hard on plants, and it is the PLANTS that makes these gardens successful. When I did the shows, I used easily 4 times the plants as the other designers did – I layered and layered making sure that there was not even a hint of black nursery pots to be seen. But the plants would always end up looking worse for the wear (super hot sun, lots of people fondling flowers and leaves, haphazard watering), so it was hard to convince nurseries and growers to lend them.

burlap "jackets" - a clever disguise. nobody would EVER guess there were black nursery pots under there... oops - ran out of burlap!

It would help if the venue could work out sponsorship deals with local nurseries and growers other than the one BIG cheese – Monrovia. I’m not sure how it works now, but from the dearth of plant material, I’d say the designers could borrow from Monrovia, and then would have to provide any plants that Monrovia doesn’t grow on their own, out of pocket. I believe the show provides decomposed granite and mulch, but other than that, designers are responsible for their own hardscape materials. That’s fine – this is where you use ingenuity to figure out how to get alot of bang for your buck. But if we are looking to garden shows for inspiration, do we REALLY need to see 2×2 pavers set in an everyday grid pattern? COME ON! If you are going to use pavers, do something WITH them that we don’t see all the time. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE pavers – I use them in clean grids all the time – but a GARDEN SHOW should give us new ideas, new points of inspiration! RIGHT?

puzzle house... what IS that thing in front of it? a plant shelf? hmmm... puzzling.

hay bales as couches - how rustic. and scratchy. and a perfect home for earwigs. gross.

wooly pocket wall- sigh. I can't even get into it...

wooly pocket wall, teensy succulent wall, focal container, mini-waterbowl ... what to look at first?

One garden in particular rubbed me the wrong way – and it was because of  a lack of editing. In defense of the garden, it was the APLD (the Association of Professional Landscape Designers, LA chapter ) project, so I imagine it was a collaborative effort – but this garden suffered tremendously from the need to show ALL the goods, ALL at once. There was a big puzzle house – which would have been enough. But there was more – an edible “nook” with hay bales as a couch (tricky tricky – and already done beautifully by designer Jay Griffith. Don’t mess with what the master has already done better), a “Wooly Pocket” wall (don’t get me started on the wooly pockets. I WANT to like them, I do – but they’re ugly. Sorry. They totally  look like plants were shoved into felt shoe organizers that hang on the back of your closet door.), and just to capitalize on the vertical gardening trend a little more there was a tiny succulent “wall” thrown in for good measure. And I’m not  even mentioning the firepit, the fountain, and another nook under a cluster of citrus trees* (in MY opinion, that would have been enough – a cozy planted nook under citrus trees – beautiful.)

*Funny how I just mentioned stuff while claiming not to mention it – the magic of blogging!

I think this must be a garden about depression.

I think the theme of this garden is "depression"

even the spiral plant stairway doesn't go to heaven. how bleak.

But for all the wrong-way rubbing the APLD garden did to me, it was the best of what was there. And that isn’t saying alot. One garden was basically a pile of mulch with a wooden platform floating in it, and a spiral plant stand oddly off to the side. Another garden was obviously a design sponsored by the TerraCotta Association of America. And yet another must have been a meditation on “The Circle”, with swoopy loops of hardscape giving me vertigo when I stepped inside.

terracotta anyone? you, too can have Tuscanny - right in your backyard!

San Francisco has nothing to worry about – the Los Angeles Garden Show is NOT giving it a run for it’s money. And it’s a shame, because it should. The show should attract some of the big names in local garden design, and it should give the up -and- coming designers a hand with logistics and support. It is in everybody’s interest to make this a venue that showcases what the local design community has to offer. I’m not happy to be snarky! I would LOVE to gush and ooooh and aaaah!

not HORRIBLY bad - one of the best of the worst

But I just can’t.

What I CAN do, however, is show you a real coup of design that I saw that day. Color, form, texture, all rolled up into a miraculous ( albeit LOUD ) package:

impeccable design

XOXO Your Germinatrix

49 Responses to “Los Angeles Garden Show – SUCKY!!!”

  1. Oh my gosh, I am beyond sad. I wanted to defend these new designers, I really did. But the fact is, doing a garden show is just not a good idea if you’re not ready to step in with your own money to make it work – and then WORK IT.

    I have a Wooly Pocket and I am very excited about it – got it as a freebie – but I confess, before I can be proud of my Pocket I am patiently awaiting FULL COVERAGE. As in I do not want to see that sucker. It’s on my chicken coop trying to class up the joint. The ladies seem indifferent so far but I’ve crammed that sucker so full of succulents it’s sure to make a show of itself soon.

    I just need another eight inches of drape and I’m good!

  2. OMG your post had me laughing-those pics are unbelievable. Well someone decided to be inspired by Flora Grubb’s nursery display with the succulent wall, wooly pockets etc.

  3. Oh…oh my. I’m trying to think of something else to say, I got lost somewhere around the burlap. Thanks for your report Ivette; I confess, until you mentioned it on Twitter recently, I didn’t even know there was an LA Garden Show. And as you said, an inspired, supported designer could do wonders with 2′ pavers and woolly pockets. That said I think the show needs to focus on getting their designers some resources. Although, in the end, it really is the designer that needs to make it happen for themselves. Wow.

  4. I just don’t get it.
    Why, with so much incredible design talent in the LA area that they cannot pull off something fantastic… or even something moderately acceptable ?
    The images of the design work shown is down right pitiful and shameful.
    I don’t believe that money is the only mitigating factor for the poor design and installation work.
    In the early days of the S.F. garden show there was no financial stipend to the designers. We did it all on our own buck with little freebie or borrowed participation from the local nurseries.
    Obviously there is no curatorship at the LA show, … and it shows.
    Downright pathetic.

  5. This is so very sad! I REALLY thought that y’all had it together down there in gardening paradise. Maybe no show is better than a pathetic show. Just say’n…

    Thanks for the braving it for us Germi! You are such a dedicated reporter. And thanks for ending the post on such a dramatic note!

  6. That’s SO sad and ugly. It’s hard to believe there isn’t someone out there that could infuse the show with the kind of vision, energy and sponsorships (i.e. cash!) that the SF and Northwest garden shows have enjoyed and that have contributed to their success. It would be such a win-win for all. Michelle is right about curatorship: Someone needs to take the thing by the horns and make the hard decisions to improve it.

  7. Wow, that is truly pathetic. And so not what I would expect from an L.A. show. I hope you didn’t have to pay to get in!

  8. Wow! As a newbie around here, I figured the various regional shows would all be of a similar caliber. Guess I was wrong again. You would think the LA metro area would have at least as much of a resource pool (talent, material & sponsors) as the SFGS show has.

  9. My take-away:

    If you are a new designer and can’t fill the space allocated – DON’T TRY. Take your idea, put it into space in a place where it is showcased with the proper proportions and balance. Maybe this is up in a front corner of the space, maybe it’s in the back edge. But pick a space and a shape and FILL THAT with your ideas and inspiration.

    Some of those gardens look like somebody took the content of a business card and spread it out in an attemt to fill an 8.5×11 sheet of copy paper. No way can you make this work, just drive yourself crazy trying.

    All that said, I like the last garden photo. Is that the one that gave you vertigo? I like the echoes of round, round, round they’ve got going on there…

  10. Ummm, is this post a spoof, Germi?

    Something tells me these are actually, in truth, in point of fact…. show gardens! And to that I say, Yikes!!!!

    A few years ago I attended a show with small group of display gardens at a venue in Beverly Hills – a home and garden show & now I’m blanking on the name of the estate where it was held. It’s a become a public park of some sort, if I recall correctly.
    The gardens were small, but there was a Nancy Goslee Power garden, so although the installations were uneven, there were some pros involved.

    The gardens pictured here are quite sad. Although that last one looks pretty cohesive.

    I don’t know if you mentioned where the show was held, or if I missed that.
    tendril to you ;-) )

  11. Oddly, this makes me feel less bad about some of the garden shows I have been to in far less cosmopolitan cities than LA. One show I went to had a display that was basically a ruble pile of geologically differing rock that had an assortment of plants you would never see growing together tucked into the crevices. They whole thing was illuminated with a rotating color wheel light. The worst part for me were the incorrectly labled plants. I think they allowed this display to stay so that the rest would look better; most of these were studies in what could be done with pressure treated lumber.

  12. plantgeek says:

    You’re right, these images are unbelievable and not very good shots at all. What time were you there, because I see no people there. I was at the show on Saturday and it was full of people all over. I think these images do not represent the gardens well at all. It really made a difference to walk and sit in them. I talked to a few of the designers and their concepts seemed well thought out. You did not photograph my favorite garden, but I see it in the background with sheets all over it. Makes me think you missed that one before it was unveiled. It was by far the best!

  13. woah, shocking. I don’t even know what to make of this… not being in the biz, I’ve only been to the SF garden show a couple of times. I guess I kinda took it for granted. What is up with LA? Confusing.

    I’m with you on the wooly pockets, too. I admit to freaking out about the vertical succulent walls (trendy, I know)… but I don’t really get the appeal of the wooly guys.

  14. It IS weird, the issues with the LA Garden Show – I think sponsorship and curatorial vision would help tremendously. The venue is the LA County Arboretum, a beautiful place with so many wonderful areas to set up display gardens, but what amazes me is that consistently, the flattest, most uninteresting spaces are chosen by the designers!
    When I did the show on my own and with Elysian landscapes, we had to use the same flat lawn, but I chose to do my garden across the lawn, under a pepper tree, and Judy and I set up the Elysian Landscapes garden across from the lawn as well, but this time we used an existing outcropping of Xanthorrea to anchor the planting. I don’t know why anyone would chose the vast lawn area, with nothing to respond to – it’s such an inhospitable space!
    Like Jenn says – you don’t have to use ALL the space – make a lovely corner! But choosing the right space is crucial – and throwing a fake garden in the middle of a lawn, with no point of orientation – well, the cards are stacked against you. From the get go.
    I agree with Laura – in the end, the gardeners need to make it work. And i also agree that the heavy hitters need to weigh in as well, but this is where the sponsorship and curatorial vision comes in – the LA Garden Show is SO HARD to do … it ends up being almost hundreds of unbillable hours. A little aid from sponsors and producers would help SO MUCH.
    Michelle – so much CAN be done with out alot of resources – but there do need to be people willing to dive in and devote themselves to making it happen – to partner with the designers in making the displays as great as they can be.
    I hope that it can happen, because Los Angeles deserves better than this.

  15. I don’t suppose it would make it any better to tell you that the New England Flower show is worse. Downright embarrassing. I would love to start a discussion about how to cultivate shows that truly celebrate our industry, inspire people and create value for the businesses involved. It’s is not, I suspect, something that can be lead by event organizers — good design is not what they are interested in… It needs to be juried, only the best designs can get in, and then teams need to be helped in building their visions. We all know that unrealistic budgets are an industry problem and the only thing these shows do well is highlight the point that you can’t make something from nothing. Unfortunately I think it comes down to money…so how do we raise it?

  16. whoa. That is so sad. So very sad. I had the good fortune to attend the first couple of LA shows, several years ago. They were wonderful, innovative and inspirational. What on earth has happened to them? who puts it together? Did someone charge booth space for those installations? Were there vendors?

    I’ve done a half dozen show installations, granted they were indoors. It is hard work. Very hard work and generally for little or no pay. But still, you always put your very best work out THERE.

  17. That IS weird. In Austin, we have two totally lame indoor shows, and what passes for gardens is pots set about on astroturf in most cases. Maybe a self-contained fountain, But I would certainly expect more from an outdoor show — especially in a place as big as LA. Maybe that’s the problem – same as we were tweeting about today – recession taking its toll on local nurseries, hort. magazines and other facets of the industry. It’s too bad.

  18. Now that I am finally into gardening full force, I have found that east coast garden shows are a bust for the most part ( we can only lust S.F Garden!) So I feel your pain. I do find a little delight in the fact that so many gardeners have taken to the internet, so I can get some inspiration there, and pout over how much cooler succulents are on the west coast.

  19. Wow… I am likewise underwhelmed.

  20. What kind of a word is SUCKY? Everyone knows professional reviewers prefer the word barfy.

    What a shame! It sounds like you are saying the show has been stronger in the past? One of the reasons I would never attempt a space at the SF show unless I was completely committed creatively, financially, etc. is because the caliber of the work is so high I couldn’t bare not measuring up. But if the show has had second rate gardens for a while, then that sets a pretty low standard for future entries.

  21. Steven Gerischer says:

    I am one of the ‘awful’ designers who participated in this years LA Garden Show. (not horribly bad…one of the best of the worst)I also know the ‘Germanatrix’ from my days at Hortus. I will agree that the show has many problems-the site being a main factor-flat and awful. Ivette should know better though-we do not get to pick our areas, they are assigned. If she got to pick that primo spot years ago near the Xanthorrea it may have been her pull through Garden Design or other ‘heavy hitters’. I’m trying not to sound too defensive, but I am exhausted and a lot poorer after the show. I have participated 8 or 9 times over the lat 12 years and do not do all of this work looking for jobs-I just like to participate. I know of some of the internal workings of the LA County Arboretum. The fact that a show still exists is AMAZING and only happens because a few people bust their hump trying to make it something better. I am currently president of the Southern California Hoticulture Society and the ‘society’ aspect in this town is the PITS! San Diego Hort. has THOUSANDS of members-we have just over 300 active members and they are dying out all the time. Would some of you out there get out from behind your computers and HELP! It’s so easy to snipe from cover-I do appreciate people who have the guts and will sign their full names to comments. It’s bad enough that those damned iridescent turkeys everyone loves (peacocks) strip every blossom from the plants (all of mine either owned or going ‘into client gardens’)but reading vitriol posted from initials is kind of depressing. I’ve never minded constructive criticism. So. Cal. Hort. ( meets the 2nd Thursday every moth at Friendship Hall near the big fountain at Los Feliz and Riverside Dr. near Griffith Park. Come and be a part of the local garden scene before they all die off.
    (loopy patio-{made with recycled material})
    Steve Gerischer

  22. Yes, SUCKY is NOT a PROFESSIONAL word!!! “Barfy” – the word of choice for all garden writers!

    I MUST address this awesome comment by Steve – who is SO GREAT to weigh in (I’m glad you can see that many of the readers who commented liked your garden!)
    I know Steve, and admire his work! HI STEVE!!! I also didn’t look at ANY of the names on the show placards – I only knew the APLD garden because my friends at Potted loaned them stuff, and I can spot their fabulosity a mile away. But I’d like to think that even if I knew it was Steve who designed the garden, I would’ve said the same thing.
    I KNOW that having ANY garden show is a victory of sorts, but as designers we still have to uphold critical standards. You HAVE to agree with me, Steve – WHAT were some of those people THINKING? Moreover … I can’t lay all of the blame at the feet of the designers – again and again, I and the commentors have mentioned that a central curatorial vision is needed, someone who can infuse the show with energy and who can attract the kind of talent that will really make a SHOWPIECE. I know how it is to be poorer after doing those shows! And I actually DID get to chose my sites, but since I did those shows a million years ago, the rules must have changed. (because I am SO not a heavy-hitter: HELLO!) But I DID always ask for my spaces, and so did Judy (Elysian Landscapes)
    But that in itself is a great example, Steve – WHY would the organizers assign the show gardens SUCH a difficult space, all crammed together, when at The LA Arboretum there are SO MANY great nooks and locations for beautiful vignettes? The two spaces that I used were right there, across the “show lawn”, completely empty. The space the Germinators used was very close to the Marketplace. It seems like the EASIEST fix – let the designers use the existing planted beauty as an anchoring for their work. How many other garden shows get to be in a BEAUTIFUL garden? But from the way it was used, the show might as well have been in a warehouse. It all comes down to vision.

    Yes, easy for me to say, sitting behind my computer – but SOMEBODY has to say it! I applaud your efforts to participate, but I imagine that it will be hard to get Dry Design, Big Red Sun, Jay Griffith, or Rios Clemente Hale to participate when the tone of the show is as … sorry … shoddy. If the Arboretum wants to make the Garden Show on parr with what is going on around the country, they need to look at the work at other garden shows, and ask themselves WHY this show doesn’t attract that level of talent. You are wonderfully committed, for the sake of community – but one thing that really CREATES a community is inspiration; people really capturing the imagination. You know this from your days at Hortus – those display gardens and the amazing plant selection brought people from all over LA County to Pasadena! Because the WORK was fantastic. It all comes down to that. I believe that the powers that be need to figure out how to make the inspired work happen at the arboretum – through a juried competition, or maybe just accepting 2 or 3 spectacular gardens that are subsidized … I don’t know. SOMETHING!!!
    And as soon as I CAN get out from behind my computer, I will come out and see what is happening at the Hort Society.

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for this dialog, Steve! Yes, damned PEACOCKS! (They really DO eat all of the plants – but they’re so pretty… they ARE beautifully designed)

  23. Wow… I couldn’t imagine the “garden show” they would have here in West Texas. Cactus/Agave and umm… cactus. Maybe a pumpjack…

    I loved reading through the comments…and for some reason I don’t think this thing is finished.

    Stay tuned!

  24. Wow, what a discussion! Rochelle is right, though, except for one thing I’d add — you guys? Get to have your flower show OUTSIDE. Ours in *inside,* when it’s still cold outside. The lighting alone left me irked at my photos.

  25. Hi Germi!
    The year before we had the Germinators Garden (I remember we fought for that “off the grid” site!) I chose another “off the grid” site –the fountain at the Arboretum entrance–to have a garden/installation/performace. I fund-raised, sweet talked growers, and was lucky to get lots of participation from artist and student friends…I also pissed some people off along the way which seems inevitable. It was not your typical garden display. I was thinking of it as a collaborative art piece as much as garden design. But what sticks with me from the “Aquaflora” extravaganza was that I couldn’t even get a membership from the organizers. All I got was a water one day when they were passing them out, and a lot of grief for daring to ask for a membership. Support, whether financial or through appreciation, is essential. To deal with the scale of the Arboretum, e you have to think and spend big, dollars and time. Some greater level of institutional support is needed. An outside organizer/curator seems like a good idea to me too… Sadly, I believe that a lot of designers won’t repeat the experience if they have already exhausted themselves once or twice. Time to re-think the organization of this event.

  26. Darling! Of course – “AquaFlora” is EXACTLY what the LA Garden Show is MISSING!!!
    I remember that show – it was before we knew each other – we met later that year – and I was SO excited to know the woman who made that extravaganza! Because that is what it was – and it is a SHAME that it wasn’t supported, appreciate, and publicized! You are SO right – The LA show has a long history of under-appreciating the young garden talent it has when they are doing the shows – how can the organizers expect the same talent to come back (when successful) and bust it out when there was no support or appreciation? Baffling!
    I’m glad you reminded me how we fought for that space!!! Because that is what it took – NO – we don’t want to be out here in this square of lawn, we want to be under this amazing tree. The designers should have a say in where their gardens are sited! Why NOT??? The fact that The Germinators were able to ask for, and get, what we needed made me ask for what I needed the next time the show came around – and I got it. Yay to the power of ASKING for what you need to further your creative process! These gardens ARE supposed to be a celebration of creativity – like AquaFlora was!
    It would be SO GREAT to be THRILLED by our garden show, wouldn’t it?
    (As long as the garden designers don’t put a TV in the garden! Who EVER heard of a TV in a GARDEN???? HAHahahahahaha! You were SO fantastic that day!!!)

  27. Steven Gerischer says:

    Me again…Write Richard Schulhof, the new C.E.O. of the Arboretum directly with suggestions about sponsorship. He’s a great guy (helped Descanso tons while there) and will seriously LISTEN. We need active participation-not just scathing prose. Remember also that we can no longer ask or pick locations as installation will interfere with TV/Movie/Commercial shoots that the Arboretum desperately needs (County is in their title-as in massive budget cuts/layoffs/park closures). It might also be responsible to actually READ the material distributed-you will find some fascinating things. The garden you asked ‘what exactly is it?’-not good design?-I suppose so. It was a non-profit, one man deal using plants that used to be native to that exact area (where big money and marquee names now park their Escalades). By the way-we had a STAR DESIGNER participate this year-Nancy Goslee Power did a garden. Were you aware of it? The garden that used to line the entry from the rotunda to Ayres Hall was torn out (Chinese Fringe Flower-Grevillea ‘Coastal Gem’-Sedum ‘Angelina’-'GulfStream’ Nandina-’Our Lady of Guadalupe’ Roses and Euphorbia wulfenii-all gone!) What did the marquee name install? Teucrium azureum (which the peacocks strip every flower from as soon as it opens)’Purple Productus’ iceplant (!!!!) and Octopus Agave-that’s it. Ivette-this is the ‘Elephant in the Room’-feeling brave? Tackle that. If you’re going to drop rocks from on high-aim them at real targets. You might try to CULTIVATE (as in finding maybe one or two nice things to say amid all of the humerous barbs) but I suppose spraying Round-Up is more fun than pulling weeds. Sorry but this is depressing.
    Your old Hortus buddy (who always saved the best black flowered plants for you)… Steve

  28. Ok. I’ve been laying back not saying anything because I know EXACTLY how hard it is to mount a show garden-either inside off season or outside in season. I’ve done both. First, there is the mentality of some show sponsors that we designers are chomping at the bit to participate and all they have to do is provide the venue. HA! even the smallest garden costs beaucoup bucks to create – and that’s not even counting the income lost during the actual physical building of the thing. They are also undpredicatble with weather, crop failures when forcing plants, site issues, management issues and when managed by a staff of volunteers like many for charity shows…politics.

    America’s garden shows and designer show gardens need what Chelsea in England (a garden there I know of had a budget of way way more than $150K) and others have…corporate sponsors. If gardens are sponsored – with no strings attached (like putting a car in it Subaru!) imagine who might participate! If they build a reputation and offer really well juried awards and awesome press coverage then imagine who might participate. As it is now, without those things even the best of shows are uneven and the worst well, Germi, you kind of used the right word, they suck.

  29. Hey Steve – I’m REALLY glad that you are participating in this discussion. Thanks for taking the time to engage with the questions we all have. I think that the worst thing that could happen for the LA Garden Show is that the event coordinators and display designers would think that what they did was good enough. We are designers, and good designers look at their work with a critical eye. No matter WHAT the concept of any of the gardens in question – natives only, recycled everything … the result didn’t work. I didn’t want to re-create those gardens in MY home, and isn’t that the point? I was NOT the only person there that day wondering what was up with the displays, Steve! But I AM the person who will say something about a problem I see – I am passionate about gardens and garden design, and communicating my ideas about what I see IS what I do.
    I am an ardent supporter of garden design that I see as beautiful – probably a little too over the top in my gushing, as a matter of fact. If I were to not call it as I see it, my credibility as a writer about all things gardens would be compromised. And I believe we learn a tremendous amount by looking at where things went wrong. My prose may be humorous and scathing, but in a blog, the post is where the conversation STARTS – the comments are where the excitement really happens. 14 of the comments to this post were written by exceptional garden designers that work all over the country and also write about garden design … I respect their thoughts and know that they would challenge me if they thought I was off target. They are looking at the evidence, and forming opinions. They all have work that is out there in the world and open to critique. They have DONE show gardens. You can say what you want, but in the end, we are talking about work that didn’t capture the imagination in any way other than to make us think “what went wrong?”. And dialoging about that is an important part of what could be the process of making this show better. I don’t think that I forfeit my right to speak just because I’m not ready to throw in and start working with the show to make it better – the first step in improving anything is knowing that there is a problem. And seriously, if those who did the LA Garden Show don’t see that those display gardens were lacking … well. I don’t know. They weren’t looking. At the end of the day, the gardens have to stand on their own, without supporting literature, and look fantastic. Making that happen is our JOB.

    Platitudes don’t help anybody, Steve. Just like Susan aka Miss R (just one of the amazing designers who I am lucky to have as a reader and commenter) said, doing these gardens is hard in the best of circumstances. But when you are hamstrung by the venue and the lack of support, well … you STILL have to bring it. Because people are paying money to go to the show and be inspired. Because other designers are watching, also looking to be inspired. I WISH I COULD HAVE BEEN inspired, because nothing would have made me happier than to write a glowing post about my hometown garden show! I’m not MEAN!

    And for the record, I NEVER use Round-Up. I SOLER-IZE to get rid of weeds!!!
    xo, your friend The Germinatrix who STILL loves the gothic in her garden, thanks to what you helped get started so long ago!

    (to all reading – Steve knew me when I was a no-nothing baby gardener, and much of my taste in plants started with he and I talking at the amazing nursery he worked at. He used to read my little garden newsletter, before I was an “official” garden writer! He is a respected colleague!)

  30. Steve Gerischer: Good to have your voice in this mix.

    I don’t have anything more to say, other than I am in Phoenix and not really able to give my time and energy. But I do look forward to see what next year’s participants do with Ivette’s challenge.

    Bootstrap creativity can sometimes go surprisingly far.


  31. Thanks for the mention of the San Diego Horticultural Society, Steve, but we have about 1350 members, not thousands. And, alas, most of them are not volunteers – tho I’m working hard to change that.
    I didn’t get to the L A Garden Show this year, but I think the comments about needing to provide significant financial support for designers are very much on track. It is a HUGE effort to put together a show garden, and for new designers especially I think it is easy to under-estimate both the amount of time needed to pull it off and also the amount of materials (plants, hardscape, furniture, etc.) necessary to make even a relatively small design look really good. Without significant financial support many good designers simply can’t afford to do a show garden.

  32. I forgot to answer the question posed by Plantgeek:

    Plantgeek! I was there the opening day, and I took the shots as late as possible so the light would be appealing rather than harsh. The garden you loved was covered up 30 minutes before the closing of the show – which I thought was weird.
    There weren’t many people there on the Friday afternoon the show opened, but I do have some shots with people in them – they just weren’t as representative of the gardens as were the ones I selected.
    I’m glad you enjoyed yourself! Because if you paid to get in, you should get your money’s worth. If the show worked for you, BRAVO – that’s great. Like I said, I wasn’t the only one there wondering what had gone wrong. I’m happy for you that your LA Garden Show experience was different from mine!

  33. Steven Gerischer says:

    Dropping all defensiveness…I will agree with much of what has been said-even if I bridled at the way it was said. I would like to see more quality design. I recently judged the Del Mar Garden Show and there were 22 gardens installed-mostly with GREAT local corporate backing. 3 or 4 were gardens I would like myself. Perhaps a large part of the problem is that the design aspect of the LA show is an afterthought. The LA Garden Show is still mostly the Baldwin Bonanza-a plant sale-with the ghost of glorious years past (early and mid-80′s shows there rocked!) tacked on. It would be nice to get real sponsorship (any chance Wes C. knows people?). I will be involved no matter what-I will also try to get people to come to So. Cal. Hort. and subscribe to Pacific Horticulture magazine-who’s the patron saint of lost causes?

  34. Steven Gerischer says:

    Still avoiding the Nancy Goslee Power thing. Go back and take a look. It’s a permanant install. Just looking for your opinion.

  35. Gee, I’m certainly glad I didn’t make the trip down to L.A. for the show. I would have been really disappointed. I can honestly say I have seen better show gardens done by High School Ag. students at the fairs.
    In regards to the sponsorship problem, sponsorship works both ways. If I were a nursery or grower and asked to sponsor the show, I wouldn’t if this were they level of quality design I could expect. You really have to give to get in my opinion. I think that in addition to sponsorship, their needs to be standards and commitment to a quality show. Judging from the photos posted, a good portion of the designers shouldn’t be asked back. I would always rather see fewer quality displays than many mediocre ones.

  36. Wow. Words fail me. I do not have great design chops myself, but then again I wouldn’t put myself in a show and advertise for customers! Interesting that it is outdoors. I wonder if that is harder on the plants than the indoor show here in Seattle, which is so totally fake (full size trees hauled in to sit in sawdust for a week??) but often produces some great designs? You are right, it should be better. Could some of the local botanical gardens help out with extra plants, design advice, ?? Geez, our elementary school garden looks better than that, and it is pretty sad!

  37. ivette, steve and everyone, thanks for this FANTASTIC conversation!

    i can’t weigh in on the event this year, but i went to this show 2 years ago (as a fledgling designer just starting my biz) and i was expecting to be blown away! i was looking for something that i could aspire to be a part of…to find a community of other designers to look up to…however i was absolutely and completely underwhelmed! it seemed as though everyone was too worried about ruining their plants to actually USE them (such as this years burlap mishap)… to say the least i haven’t been back as a design participant or attendee.

    i understand completely the challenges involved in showing (and it sounds like this one in particular has added site challenges) but as the saying goes, if you can’t handle the heat, get out of the kitchen. i’m surprised not more designers group together to help support each other. anyways, this brings up a lot of issues that i hope can be worked out because we are LA people! the mecca of gardenlandia! and we should be knocking people’s socks off! although i can not lead the committee for change, i’m happy to put in my time where possible. i appreciate steve’s contact offerings. if we can all do what we can maybe we’ll get somewhere? i sure hope.

    this year, i opted to go to the always inspiring venice garden and home tour organized by jay griffith. it’s an eclectic tour in which some of the gardens are professionally designed and some are created by the owners. it’s a fantastic day and i recommend it highly.

    ivette, has there ever been an eastside LA garden tour (besides the theodore payne native plant one)? we have an amazing garden community here, i’d really love to get one started…

  38. I also went for the first time two years ago and was puzzled. I didn’t understand what you are supposed to appreciate about lots of plastic pots that are fresh from the grower and thinly buried under mulch and placed for two days on top of a grassy lawn. How can plants look their best that way? Is there a way to channel all that creative energy and financial investment into improvements that work for the Arboretum in the long term? It felt like one of those art exhibits where artists had only two months to prepare an “environmental” installation that is only up for two days. Is this super-temporary setup timeline typical even for better garden shows?

  39. The LA Community Garden Council did a tour of 12 Eastside community gardens last fall. There are approximately 80 gardens around LA County, so we’re planning another one this summer…some garden projects are professionally designed, but most are done organically and collaboratively. You’ll find lots of inspiration there and most of the time you’ll meet the members and be able to sample their food, too.

  40. Shellene says:

    O.K I know the garden designers need some more experience with design and how to pull together a show (which is an art in itself), but wow, harsh words. I would hate to be the designer who had you critic my garden on a public blog. I felt it was quit small to be so harsh to new designers (so you say) trying to get into the field with a tiny budget. I give them kudos for trying. I would of picked a least one thing they did right and expand on that. I believe in constructive criticism, you were just down right mean. I Sorry…some one had to say it!

  41. OMG! G.

    I am laughing and installation wincing at the same time…..the comments, the rebuttals, the questions, the denials, the excuses, the reasons why?…This post wants to make me become a “Hortilawer”, (and I would be a kick-ass one… not!) I want to understand what really went wrong, by whom, and why? How did it go wrong? Why? Should the the Naboo get involved in the political hearings? They are so good at negotiating city-level affairs as you know!…LA NEEDS to be a rival to SF right? I think they could be the small solution the city is looking for?

    Oh and just for the record to a comment, I believe a cool garden does not need to be really expensive at all, it just requires a well designed and well thought out plan (especially if it is a temporary scheme) that utilizes whatever you can steal from the surrounding vicinity, including views and the adjacent installation’s hardscaping and rocks…wait? Did I just say that out loud?

    Great comments, and a great read as always G.

    Can’t wait to meet you in person in the Patch. Now, how dirty do you like your libation?

    Leah was wondering.

    Keep stirring…


    •A series of workshops and Guest speakers on topics that include the following:
    A presentation from the Theodore Payne Foundation on California Native Plants- Lili Singer
    Landscaping with Drought Resistant Plants-Matt Maggio
    Propagation, Fertilizer and pest control-Tim Harvey
    Container garden-Sandy Chase
    How to Take Care of Cacti and Succulents- Artie Chavez
    Irrigation for a Drought Tolerant Garden-Peter Walkozia
    Aloes for the Garden- Duke Benandom
    Gardening with bromeliad plants- The Bromeliad Society

    •Landscape exhibits that show the various types of plants that might be used in a typical drought resistant garden and how they could be arranged – the exhibits will incorporate boulders, rocks, drift wood, and other materials to enhance the gardens appearance.
    • Display gardens planned:
     Silver and blue garden
     General cacti and succulents
     Pet and child friendly garden
     Exotic succulent garden
     Bromeliad garden
     Patio and Container gardeN

    • Vendors will be selling the plants employed in the exhibits found at the festival
    FOR MORE INFORMATION CHECK THE WEBSITE or you can call 818 367 0864

  43. Hey Steve – Not ignoring the Nancy Power garden, but it wasn’t a “display garden” – it was a re-doing of the Ayres Hall garden, right? I think the displays are the issue, because they are a theatrical representation of what a garden “could be” or “should be” – whereas the NP garden was an actual in-ground planting. And I can’t say I love it, but it needs time to grow in and become something – wheare the display gardens are an entirely different being – they need to hit the ground running, and be awesome for the three days of the show. I LOVE display gardens – did you see the video I did for the San Francisco garden show? The spirit of display gardens are so amazing when done well, because they truly create another world… it is this expectation that many people go to garden shows with, to see other worlds! And even when I may not like something personally, (there was a garden I really didn’t like in SF) if the garden is well done, it sings and other people rally around it. That is super cool.
    You have been awesome in engaging in this conversation, Steve, more power to you! Thank you for having the spirit to step up and give it!!! You are an asset to the LA Garden Show, and toany other organization that is lucky enough to have you as a member – what heart!!!

    Vanessa – I wish I could have gone to Venice this year! Isn’t it AMAZING? That Jay Griffith – he’s the man! What an inspiration … If the Arboretum had a curatorial force like him on board – just IMAGINE!!!

    Shellene – sorry if you thought I was mean. Just calling it like I see it. I think we are all adults, and can take criticism. If these gardens were really good, and I was calling out things to just be bitchy, that would be one thing. It seems “mean” because these gardens are so weak and defenseless. If the work was awesome, then my critique wouldn’t stick. Maybe it IS unfair to call out these gardens as poor – but they are out in a public venue where people are paying money to come and be inspired by professional work. These designers know that. It’s all part of the system – nobody becomes a better designer by everyone telling them that their questionable work is “good”. That’s just my point of view! Thanks for visiting and commenting!!!

    The Party In The Patch!!!
    (And let Leah know that I can’t WAIT for the dirty libation – I’ll leave it to her to decide the level of dirtiness, but I AM a gardener, and a Germinatirx! Nothing is TOO dirty!!!)
    I am SOOOO looking forward to it!!!

    And yes, the Naboo are very desperately needed over here – they are the only ones who can negotiate a proper treaty between designers and show coordinators. The Naboo KNOW how important proper siting is to the success of a garden – they would NEVER allow the coordinators to give everyone a square of scorching lawn and say – GO! Make a DREAM GARDEN! The Naboo also have their ways of bending people to their will. They would make the show work. If they left Austin after my visit, they might arrive in Los Angeles just in time for the next garden show, where they should make a powerful stand.
    All Hail The Naboo!
    It is going to be SO GREAT to meet you and your family!!!

  44. Okay, enough dwelling on this. Can we have a palate cleanser, Ivette? Just a photo will do!

  45. HAHAHAHA!!!
    Yes, Jenn – you will have a little palate cleanser toot sweet!!!
    Your wish is MY COMMAND!!!!

  46. Steven Gerischer says:

    Last gasp here. Sorry Ivette, must add another two cents-just had a pocket FULL of pennies. Apologies to Susi Torre-Bueno and the San Diego Hort for the hyperbole about their membership-it just seems like thousands when SO many people come together to celebrate gardening. On any given day it costs $8 for non-members to get into the Arboretum-on show day it cost non-members $8 to get into the Arboretum. Why not become a MEMBER! The sucky, barfy show is only there messing things up for 3 days out of about 360. Anyone interested in a slightly altered view (different photo style) check out Debra Prinzig/Los Angeles in Bloom/Garden Design. Is she a cheerleader for the show-oh yeah. Does she hide things? Oh Yeah (although Libby’s unfortunate burlap covers are right there in the photo, not hidden) Another point there-her name is Libby. I think I also got pissed off being a ‘they’ or ‘them’ in your orig. report. Our designs may suck, but we as people deserve a tiny bit of respect-like first names. Just the way I was taught-a bit out of date perhaps. The Nancy Goslee-Power garden was part of the ‘presented designers’ along with Jeff Moore of Solana Succulents who helped Tim Phillips and co. install the ‘UnderSea Garden’-has it been done before? Yeah-but it still rocks. Sorry Juliana Roosevelt & Kevin Mack garden was netted off against those pretty, pretty turkeys in showgirl outfits (peacocks). Their garden was the best there this year-and funny thing is at the 2009 show they had a respectable install-with a few mistakes and showing hemlines and buckets-but they were invited back and they did a really nice job using lessons from mistakes made before. Imagine that! (only my humble opinion-it would ruin the whole over-all failing report to give them a nod I know). So the previous suggestion-pages back and days ago about ‘not inviting them back’-Really? I think I now understand the Blog-o-shere. All the reports of the show that were not critical got no comments-and I’m here commenting for the umteenth time. Is ‘sucky/barfy’ a regitered/trade marked thing? I kinda want to use it on my buisness cards. Now I think I’ll check out vanessa-everythinggardens as I think this must be that intriguing storefront in Atwater? I can never seem to get there when it’s open. And about the heat in the kitchen-I can take it-even from blast ovens and flame throwers. I bake really good choc. chip cookies and put out real coffee for the Hort. Meeting-this Thursday at Friendship Hall at 7:30-just south of the big fountain at Riverside and Los Feliz-absolutely NO gardens-just Bob Hornbeck talking about Lewis Carrol’s plant imagery in ‘Alice’.
    Cool plnat nerds gathering-and me of course-’Sucky/Barfy’ Designer and blowhard-and card carrying ‘Roberto Burle-Marx-ist’

  47. STEVE!!!
    There is a fury in you … but I get it!
    Yes, the blogosphere luvs anything sucky, but we are also super cheerleaders of great design – like I said… i would have LOVED to love it. Of course, since I DIDN’T, I wouldn’t have wanted to put names to the gardens. I didn’t even want to know WHO did WHAT, because I doubted how on point I could be if I knew I was talking about friends and colleagues. But they know me! I’m okay with being a target!
    By the way, I did read Debra Prinzing’s article (you should check out the Garden Designer’s Roundtable on Facebook – one of my friends posted her article in a thread under this post, so that everyone reading could get 2 different views). Obviously, I didn’t agree with her, but it’s awesome that she stands behind her favorite designers! I have a different agenda, and it isn’t to be a mean bitchy garden smasher. It’s to call it as I see it, and I did!

    Hope to see you around – I’m out of the country for a while, but PLEASE keep me informed about your meetings, and I might show up, and maybe we’ll WRESTLE!!!

  48. Wow. I was a mere volunteer hoping to be inspired – fresh off the fab SF garden show. Sadly I was not inspired, by the gardens or the lectures. C’mon LA?!

    The highlight of the day was seeing you and meeting one of my readers. I can’t wait for next years SF garden show!