March 3rd, 2009 5:33 pm | by Samantha Herman News | Posted In: CLEAN UP

Live Review: The 2009 Yard, Garden & Patio Show


The 2009 Yard, Garden & Patio Show that took place at the Oregon Convention Center this past weekend was…enlightening. Who knew that half of a disco ball protruding from the soil could be the centerpiece of a garden? Or that people intentionally purchase packs of 200 praying mantis eggs to place in their yards? And then when there are too many bugs, one can start making jewelry out of them? (Another option is just to pave the whole dang thing with recycled concrete, but then you would have nothing to wear with your favorite locust-print sweater.) This is the kind of valuable information one can find at an expo.

With over 250 exhibitors, it was easy to get overwhelmed. Vendors were plying people with chocolates, papers, gloves, and tea bags. A huge wine pavilion and a lone beer vendor stood up against a far wall, serving as entertainment for partners (mostly husbands) who were dragged to the event against their will. Live chickens in a makeshift coop were pecking at the ground in one of the display gardens, and poster boards that looked more like seventh grade science fair projects than professional vendor exhibits failed to attract the same amount of attention as the bins full of $1 gardening gloves and brightly colored signs announcing bags of bulbs for sale. And, of course, there was the Rick's Custom Fencing sign that reminded all to “have an ordinary day.”

After visiting numerous booths and sifting through tons of handouts, the future of gardening appears to be growing sans soil. Owens Gardens of Monroe, Washington, were selling Air Plants (also known as tillandsia plants). These things seem to be impossible to kill. They grow indoors or outdoors; they require little water and absolutely no soil. Eventually, they will probably take over the world and then it will just be tillandsias and cockroaches. CocoLite Husks were on display at another booth as an alternative to boring soil. A gardener can plant a seedling directly into these coconut husks, supposedly eliminating problems like poor water retention or soil aeration. Packing Pearls showed promise as a soil alternative upon first glance, but proved to be a fraud. Apparently Packing Pearls are recyclable Styrofoam balls that one puts into a pot before adding soil. It sounds like more effort and expense than just using soil (especially since the Packing Pearls have to be paired with the advertised Pot Liners and Drain Shields), but people were eating up the sales pitch and purchasing like crazy.

As people exited the show, a small plant was offered as a parting gift and, for me, declining seemed to be the most humane thing to do. After speeding past live flowers and herbs in favor of learning more about the metal plants in one of the display gardens, I tend to fall on the “pave it and add a grill” side of the fence than the “add mulch and weed it” side. Maybe that will change someday when my patio doesn't double the third floor fire escape.

By the way, if you do want to green thumbs advice for small space gardening, check out WW's Habitat guide.

Photo courtesy of Heirloom Roses, an Oregon company and an exhibitor at the show.
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