(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on March 14, 2007. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)
It's mid-February, there's at least six inches of snow on the ground (nine as measured on top of the picnic bench) with more on the way, the cold weather is, well, COLD. And my unheated garage just doesn't cut it as a greenhouse.
My wife says I'm whining, and I reckon she has a point. But how am I supposed to deal with below zero temperatures outside when it's 70 degrees inside my mind? How? Here's how: A trip east to Philly. Philadelphia you ask? Isn't it just as cold there as it is where you live? Probably. But not inside their Convention Center where the granddaddy of all flower shows is held.
This will be my fifth, and it's looking like it might be the best one yet (that's what I said before going to my fourth show). But there's a reason for the greater anticipation: I'll have a very special person traveling with me; my wife Maureen, and she'll get to see her very first Philadelphia Flower Show.
Maureen puts up with a lot from me during the winter months. I complain about the cold, and then I complain about it some more. I complain about plowing snow from the driveway, and then I complain about it some more.
I complain about no sunshine, and then I complain about that some more. If it weren't for the surety of spring's return, I'd complain about it not ever getting here.
My complaining starts after leaf drop in November, it's then that the sun decides there's no need to be hanging around as much; leaving me and my zone 5 garden alone, forlorn, and without its life-giving heat. You'd think I'd be used to winters here in the northeast after 16 years, but you'd be wrong. I'm not. And I never will be. So I complain. Knowing full well that my complaining is landing on deaf ear.
I think Maureen puts up with it because she knows it's my way of dealing with something I can't change. I do most of my complaining out of earshot of others anyway. I used to think that if I did enough complaining, Maureen would feel sorry for me and buy me a ticket to Hawaii (or at least Kentucky). I figured since she's been to that tropical island paradise, I should get a chance at tropical gardening too, if only on sightseeing tours. It didn't work. Complaining to her about these dreary northeast winters doesn't accomplish anything.
When I start getting tired of hearing myself complain, I know it's almost time for The Philly Flower Show. My whining starts to ease up a bit come mid-February because I know I'll be revitalized and rejuvenated by the magnificence of the Show when it opens in March. Plus, if you live in the northeast there's no better time to take leave of the snow-covered garden than in March.
It takes five hours to drive to Philadelphia, if the weather cooperates. We've had snow-covered highways in March numerous times in the past, but why jinx myself by mentioning that? Besides, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has a pretty good snow-removal program and they usually keep the major highways open and clean when the snow flies.
Once inside the Convention Center, Maureen and I will "journey to a legendary and beautiful land – Tir-Na-nOg – where the leaves are always green and the flowers bloom all year." That's a quote from the home page over at theflowershow.com where they also mention, "luxurious landscapes, floral arrangements, towering trees, and plant displays." It's a sight to behold. And it's all indoors.
You and I know that flower shows and the like aren't really gardening. Even if some have the name "Garden" or "Gardening" in the title. What they are really about is marketing. After all, you have to pay a fee to attend most flower and garden shows. But we don't seem to mind the marketing ploy, because most of us realize we're just there for the eye candy. Unless we come across that special plant, trowel, or garden troll we can't do without. I've gotten braver with each show, last year I actually picked up a $150 orchid, then set it back down.
After returning from The Flower Show, it'll be time to get the grow light shelving in order. And I go at it with renewed vigor. It's like I'm creating a mini-flower show, only with seeds. It's inevitable that one of the lights will flicker, dim, and burn out. Or I'll not be able to find the timer or extension cord, and I'll have to dig through last year's old seed packets to find this year's new ones. But I'm not complaining, spring is in the air.