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Display gardens and much more at SF Flower Show

Clearwater Landscape Design of Folsom won top honors at the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show at Cal Expo.
(Photos: Debbie Arrington)

Big crowd on hand at Cal Expo for state’s largest garden show

A huge opening day crowd greeted the 34th annual San Francisco Flower and Garden Show, which made its Cal Expo debut Thursday.

Held for the first time in Sacramento, the show continues through Sunday with special events and seminars each day.

Uprooted from the Cow Palace after a scheduling snafu, California’s largest garden show settled into the Pavilion building normally inhabited by livestock at the State Fair. Scores of popular vendors such as Dan’s Dahlias and Hartley Botanic greeted returning customers who came from throughout Northern California to shop, listen and learn.

In three corners of the massive building, guest speakers entertained hundreds of patrons at a trio of presentation stages. Artistic floral arrangements, edible gardens and impressive bonsai trees – some a century old – emphasized the flower and garden aspects of this big show. So did the thousands of live exotic, unusual or rare plants offered for sale. Heirloom vegetable seedlings were in abundance.

Because of the late venue change, participants had less than three months to get ready for Cal Expo. Garden creators usually spend eight to 10 months preparing for the SF Flower Show’s competition.

Show producer Sherry Larsen said she had to scramble to get designers willing and able to create innovative display gardens, a hallmark of this venerable event. Instead of a dozen or more, seven mostly local designers took part.

The big winner was a SF Flower Show regular. Folsom’s Nathan Beeck and Clearwater Landscape Design earned Best in Show with an eye-catching “fire-resistant” display garden featuring a double waterfall, reflecting pond, steel siding and native plants. Beeck and Juan Chavez designed the garden, using plants by Site One Nursery.

Kent Gordon England's display garden
Runner-up was another show veteran: Kent Gordon England. Known for his restoration designs, the longtime designer created a flower- and citrus-filled English-style cottage garden, built around reclaimed Grecian columns and an enchanting greenhouse.

Sacramento’s Ahmed Hassan, well-known as HGTV’s “Yard Crasher,” was awarded third place for his contemporary display garden, built around twin 20-foot magnolia trees.

In the edible gardening section, Bill Maynard and his City of Sacramento community gardens crew “had fun with wattles,” straw-filled barriers. Maynard also demonstrated different ways to make an instant raised bed vegetable garden.

Several garden clubs were on hand to share their expertise. One in particular stood out: The Paradise Garden Club. President Ward Habriel was among thousands of Paradise residents who lost their homes during November’s deadly camp fire. The club’s signature project, “Daffodils Across the Ridge,” has become a symbol of hope for the community.

Before the fire, the club had planted more than 162,000 daffodils as part of its 10-year-old project. Rising from the charred streets of Paradise, many of those daffodils are now in bloom.

“There’s nothing left of our house, but we have daffodils everywhere,” Habriel said. His club is raising fire-safety awareness as well as donations to plant more daffodils.

The San Francisco Flower and Garden Show continues from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Details and tickets: .

One of many artistic floral arrangements on display


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Dig In: Garden Checklist for week of April 7

The warm wave coming this week will shift weeds into overdrive. Get to work!

* Weed, weed, weed! Whack them before they flower.

* Mulch around plants to conserve moisture and control weeds.

* Smell orange blossoms? Feed citrus trees with a low dose of balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) during bloom to help set fruit. Keep an eye out for ants.

* Apply slow-release fertilizer to the lawn.

* Thoroughly clean debris from the bottom of outdoor ponds or fountains.

* Spring brings a flush of rapid growth, and that means your garden is really hungry. Feed shrubs and trees with a slow-release fertilizer. Or mulch with a 1-inch layer of compost.

* Azaleas and camellias looking a little yellow? If leaves are turning yellow between the veins, give them a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim dead flowers but not leaves from spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. Those leaves gather energy to create next year's flowers. Also, give the bulbs a fertilizer boost after bloom.

* Pinch chrysanthemums back to 12 inches for fall flowers. Cut old stems to the ground.

* From seed, plant beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, corn, cucumbers, melons, radishes and squash. Plant onion sets.

* In the flower garden, plant seeds for asters, cosmos, celosia, marigolds, salvia, sunflowers and zinnias. Transplant petunias, zinnias, geraniums and other summer bloomers.

* Plant perennials and dahlia tubers for summer bloom. April is about the last chance to plant summer bulbs, such as gladiolus and tuberous begonias.

* Transplant lettuce and cabbage seedlings.

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