You gardeners should be behind bars

If the displays at last week's garden show, Plantasia, are any indication, you should be behind a bar outside, whether it be a breakfast bar, grill bar, tiki bar or bar-bar.

Is there a Tiki-bar trend no one's told me about?

This is Western New York's big garden show for the year and the largest displays of creativity (there were probably 6-8 large displays) were not by nurseries or garden designers necessarily, but by "landscrapers" – builders of stone, tile & concrete patios and decking. Of the exhibitors, there were four that Incorporated some sort of bar for drinking and socializing. There is another show locally–a home & garden show. I would think that many of these exhibitors should be there as well.

This one had built-in barflies.

The most imposing of the displays was a Tuscan-themed, tree-trunk-columned, trellis complex of rooms including an outdoor living room (with fireplace, mantle, coffee table and overstuffed furniture); a dining room (with wooden dining table to seat 12, chandelier, and huge floral centerpiece); and kitchen (with requisite grill, ample counter space, wine chiller, refrigerator, pizza oven and another fireplace). The plant material was nominal and incidental. It looked like an interior room made to look "outdoorsy." Or a small apartment with no bathroom. This is where everyone was taking pictures with camera phones. The whole excessive outdoor room thing with flat-screen TVs and outdoor wine coolers is so very BEFORE the economic meltdown. Seems like these are the sorts of things you'd find in AIG executive's yard.

Dining area of the Tuscan-themed outdoor "complex."

I do wish the nurseries had some of the larger displays – but I know they also don't have the budgets or staff to spend potentially tens of thousands of dollars in design, materials, labor, shipping and fees to enter a four-day show like this. Also, some of the most innovative and successful landscape designers in the area don't take part–they survive on commercial landscaping where larger-scale commissions are the norm. Not humble gardeners like myself or the zombie-paced crowds wandering this particular garden show.

The pizza oven in the kitchen of the Tuscan-themed outdoor "complex."

Elizabeth at Gardening While Intoxicated has a post up about her love/hate affair with this garden show, reflecting on the cinder block waterfall complete with a flat-screen TV on its mantle, overabundance of interlocking bricks and fire pits (unattainable for law-abiding city dwellers). I'm surprised the GWI garden doesn't have a bar. Oh, there's plenty of drinks there, don't get me wrong, I've been there. But no bar.

Garden Walk Buffalo
had a booth again this year and committed committee members sat duty for the four days. I was there for opening day (busy!) and closing day (busy!). They throw us in the back room with the other non-profits and the "kids play area." But the cost is low–we are there, primarily, to troll for addresses and emails for our newsletter and e-newsletter. Last year we collected 450+ addresses for our database. Directly across from our booth was the Toro mower sales booth. It was basically a line-up of supercharged, riding barc-o-loungers with cup holders and deadly-whirring-blades. Any man's fantasy. Well, man with a grass habit.

The beautiful model (she looks like her father) at the Garden Walk booth was showing off her Harry Potter Garden in a gardening magazine. Start 'em young! Gardening that is. Not modeling.

It is very enjoyable to work the booth, as 95% of the people stopping by our booth have been on Garden Walk (and already own the Garden Walk Buffalo Book/DVD). The other 5% have heard of us and want more information. 100% are very nice and wonderful to talk to. It is odd to talk to people that know my back yard VERY well.

The best part is when someone will ask what the walk is like and another person just standing by the table looking through magazines will turn around and tell them how wonderful it is to get into the backyards of these grand homes & small cottages and see what creativity the gardeners have. And how nice the gardeners are. And that they can't miss it. We sit back and listen in. The best salespeople are the ones that've gone on the Walk.


  1. As long as I'm not bar-red from getting out and digging in the dirt, bars are fine. Garden Shows do show amazing trends!

  2. Our local garden show was sponsored by a bank - offering loans so attendees could afford to have someone design their garden. CRAZY!

    Your "walk" sounds like our local Garden tour, which we always enjoy.

  3. Commonweeder,
    Garden shows do show trends, but they still lag behind gardening magazines and even blogs as far as trends go. The hottest trend this year is vegetable gardening and you would not know it from our garden show.

    Kim and Victoria,
    A bank is actually giving out loans? Wow. That's adventurous.

  4. The title of your post was the best of hooks. Was "landscrapers" intentional? I predict that next year outdoor bathrooms will be all the rage.

    Too bad they can't raze those AIG Execs' landscapes and dole them out to us humble folks.

  5. I'm all for making it easy to spend as much time as possible in the garden - terrible to cut your weeding session short just because the only margarita blender is inside the house. But I agree the whole McMansiony outdoor kitchen thing can be unappealing. If you make the outside look identical to the inside, then why bother going outside at all?

    I'm sure I'm garbling this but there was some kind of study they did in Southern California that determined homeowners with the most elaborate kitchens used them the least. I've been on more than one consult where the client already had a built in barbeque that was basically the outdoor version of a stairmaster - just a convenient place to throw your stuff.

  6. Grace,
    Thanks for noticing the title's hook. I consider myself an amateur hooker. landscrapers was intentional. These particular firms were all about scraping up yards for hardscaping - pavers & tiles, ponds, paths, bridges and so on. It's not profitable to create and mark up vegetable gardens, sustainable plants and rain gardens– which seem to be honest-to-goodness trends as well.

    I am not opposed to bars in the garden. Left to my own devices, I'd have one in every room. Do they make outdoor blenders?

  7. Hi, Thanks for the useful information about the Outdoor bar tables. Fantastic work.

  8. Jim - Oooo... the outdoor kitchen "trend" is my personal pet peeve. Seriously, let's move on. They seem especially wrong in the economic and environmental situation we're in.

  9. Heavy,
    I don't have issues with aspects of outdoor kitchens. Obviously, a grill is mandatory out-door wear. I have in my head a wrap-around counter I want to build around my grill. But that's the extent of it. The wine coolers, refrigerators and pizza ovens are SO pre-economic meltdown.

  10. Yeah, I was mainly wondering who could possibly afford a lot of the stuff. I think these businesses need to start thinking smaller.


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