Indoor shows, outdoor dreams

March 03, 2007|By Susan Reimer | Susan Reimer,sun reporter

At just the moment when we think we can't endure another day, let alone another month, of cold weather, it is home-and-garden-show season.

For the price of a ticket, we are drawn into warm, moist, sweet-smelling and cavernous buildings where, surrounded by blooming gardens, we can pretend summer has arrived.

Double your pleasure this weekend with the opening of both the Philadelphia Flower Show - the granddaddy of them all - at the Philadelphia Convention Center and the Maryland Home & Garden Show at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium.

Between the two, homeowners will find more than enough to keep them daydreaming until it is time to move life outside again.

"It is just incredible what is going on outdoors this season," said Deidra Darsa, spokeswoman for the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association in Virginia. "It's as if you don't need a house anymore."

Here are five inspirational outdoor-living ideas you will see at one or the other of these shows.

Keen on green

This year, the Philadelphia Flower Show, the oldest flower show in the country, pays tribute to Ireland with more than 10 acres of gardens, flowers and entertainment, so look for lots of green - literally.

"Monochrome is one of the trends that is picking up," said Jessica Story, head grower for Meadowbrook Farm, one of the featured exhibitors. The walled garden Meadowbrook designed for the show includes a misty, green glen devoted completely to ferns.

"There will be lots of ferns and swaths of shrubbery. Large amounts of one thing, one color, with small masses of color," Story said.

If you go to the shows, focus on how the professionals use a single color - whether green, red or yellow - in the garden and the variety of hues and leaf textures that give the displays both depth and interest.

Gold galore

The show's Irish theme, of course, brings to mind the Irish myths about gold.

Jack Blandy of Stoney Bank Nurseries of Glen Mills, Pa., took that gold and ran with it. There will be more than 250 varieties of gold plants in his featured exhibit in Philadelphia.

"There will be an old mill and pond where gold was discovered. But the Irish owners will find the real gold in the ground in the form of plants in the exhibit," said Blandy.

"Gold in flowers, foliage, leaves, needles and in evergreens. Just about anything you can think of that is gold."

Gold, said Blandy, is perfect for gardeners who want something to pick up the dark spots in shade gardens.

"Gold is important for that. Gold hostas are a good way to accentuate the dark corners of a garden."

Set in stone

"The outdoors is just another room in the house," declared Jeff Kroh, of Kroh's Nursery, winner of last year's Best in Show at the Maryland Home & Garden Show.

And "hardscaping," as stonework is called, has become the most popular way to set off that outdoor room.

Homeowners and gardeners are finding any excuse to add a patio, a driveway, a wall, a terrace, a walkway or a garden path from the huge variety of stone products now available.

This year, Kroh said, the common square pavers have given way to new, irregular cement pavers that resemble flagstone, complete with clefts.

"The stones are random and irregularly shaped," said Kroh. "Instead of a 2-year-old's puzzle of square blocks, you are putting together a high-schooler's puzzle of of all these unusual shapes."

Heating up

Fire is hot. That will be the bottom line on outdoor living this year: Fire pits, stone fireplaces, chimeras and decorative propane heaters.

From early spring until late fall, cool weather is no hindrance to outdoor living as long as there is a heat source.

"[Outdoor heating] started in California cafes," said Tony Ramondi of Barbeques Galore in White Marsh. "It has now found its way into the residential market."

From a heating lamp that costs a few hundred dollars and warms a 20-square-foot area to a free-standing outdoor fireplace that might cost $4,000, there is a range of options for homeowners who want to extend their outdoor season.

Idyllic islands

Outdoor living means being able to entertain outdoors as if you were indoors.

"What people want is an area to sit around, a gathering place, a standing bar area. A meeting place," said Ramondi.

But it goes beyond a place to put your elbow and your drink. Ramondi builds outdoor islands that include more than just a mega-grill from Viking or Lynx.

These outdoor kitchens include refrigerators, wine coolers, ice makers, storage drawers, rotisserie grills and stove tops.

"They are like Lego sets. We can fit them together to satisfy the customer," Ramondi said.

Ranging in price from a couple of thousand dollars to as much as $25,000, these outdoor kitchen islands can be customized with stone, tile or stucco.

"People want more out of outdoor living than just having a swing set to send the kids out to play on," Ramondi said.

Maryland Home & Garden Show

"Spring Around the World"

Dates: Continues today, tomorrow and March 9-11

Place: Maryland State Fairgrounds, 2200 York Road, Timonium

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