Specially Small

First, let me apologize for not posting last week. I was forced to lie low as I succumbed to some bug. Not Covid or the ’flu but something that knocked me out nevertheless. Took a few days but I’ve recovered well and feeling immensely grateful. Thanks so much for all the concerned inquiries – honestly, it felt good that my silence was noted!

Although I started feeling well within four days, I decided to go quiet for another week. My mind and body needed that break. The 10 days of going off the grid felt like a cleansing of sorts. No doom scrolling the news or checking Instagram. It was easier than I thought it’d be. I didn’t miss any of it. Now, I’m ready to get back to putting up my one daily Instagram post and checking the accounts I follow but with a determination to only do so for a half hour a day. That’s it.

I can use my time more productively.

As soon as I felt sufficiently better, I went down to the PHS Flower Show. It had been some years since I’d visited Philly so the trip took on the feel of a real getaway.

The Flower Show was held outdoors and the day I went was blessed with lovely weather. It had all the elements of a fair – live music, lots of people, smells of food, vendors of all kinds of wares and of course the horticultural exhibits themselves. I enjoyed Wambui Ippolito’s Aer and AMP’s Nature Amplified very much. Sadly, neither of the dynamic women were present that day. In fact, AMP had already returned to the UK. Still, I’m so glad I got to see their work.

Beyond the obvious reasons to go to a flower show like this, it was particularly joyous to just have this show take place. We’ve all been through so much that events like this are life affirming and filled with hope and optimism. Nature heals.

What I appreciated the most at the show were the plant vendors. My inherent greed for plants aside, it was special to see small nurseries being represented. These nurseries, almost always family operated, are invaluable to the horticultural world. They do what they do for the love of it. Neither lucrative nor glamorous, running a nursery is very hard work. Small nurseries are the ones that grow the unusual, the special, the rare. They preserve important plants while big box stores push the popular/trendy. If you’re looking for plants no longer found easily or fallen out of fashion, go to a small nursery. I, for one, shop exclusively in such places. Shop local, think global.

Years ago, there were several family run nurseries in my county. Each a source of great plants, knowledgeable and helpful people and each had its own unique specialty or expertise. As big box stores popped up everywhere, many of the nurseries could not compete. Customers were lured by low prices and settled for the plantes du jour. Specialty nurseries got hit hard. Today, the remaining nurseries in my area can be counted in one hand and even some of those only do wholesale. The discerning home gardener has to search hard to locate the required less popular but horticulturally valuable plants.

Back to the flower show – although I had no list or pressing need for purchasing, the sight of healthy plants was enough to break all my resolve. One nursery in particular caught my eye. At Triple Oaks Nursery, I picked up several Indian Pink plants (Spigelia marilandica) to add to my meadow. It is an uncommon native wildflower. A small fig was also obtained. Joe Kiefer the nurseryman was most helpful and full of good information. He operates in Franklinville, NJ and I cannot wait to visit him there.

If I had one suggestion to make to the organizers of the PHS Flower Show, it’d be to have even more nurseries at the show. We need to support them fully or run the risk of losing them entirely. That would be doing a huge disservice to ourselves, our gardens and to the horticultural world at large.

Small is priceless and most beautiful.

Pictures taken at the PHS Show –

(c) 2022 Shobha Vanchiswar

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