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Flower Show is Cure for Cabin Fever

The flower garland was cut Thursday marking the beginning of the
Connecticut Flower and Garden Show in Hartford.
HARTFORD, Conn. - Spring arrived early for winter-weary Connecticut residents.

At 10 a.m. Thursday, a larger than usual line of people stretched across the Convention Center lobby awaiting access to the 34th Annual Connecticut Flower and Garden Show. This year's seminar slate includes gardening notables Roger Swain (pictured above), Mar Jennings, Ken Druse and Karen Bussolini.

On the display garden floor, landscape designers ran with the "Spirit of Spring" theme. "We all have cabin fever by this point," said Kevin Rescildo of Pondering CreationsSpring inspiration took the form of green roofs, copper tree water features, tag sale finds and reclaimed gates from an asylum.

Hellebores, air plants, pussy willow bouquets and fairy gardening accessories were popular items for sale in many garden exhibit booths. (For more photos of the show, click here.)

Designers Embrace Spring
Meet the major design contributors to this year's 34th Annual Connecticut Flower and Garden Show:

Creative Contour's green roof caused a lot of buzz. Click to enlarge.
Creative Contour Landscape Design of Middletown, Conn., won Best of Show in the landscape competition. The display included a dining table that was incorporated into the water feature.

Jennifer Noyes
"That table was a blast to make," said Steve Frank, who accompanied owner Jennifer Noyes at the show Thursday. Frank assembled a pump to run water through a table leg, creating the water table.

Noyes said the design process comes naturally to her. "I like everything that looks visually stimulating," she said.

What caught the most attention in the display was the living roof. "It's awesome and it will last 100 years," said Noyes. "Shingles only last for 20." The back portion of the display showed how the roof would appear in the winter.

The logs surrounding the display didn't come easily though. "I threw out my back cutting the logs in the snow," she said. "I was freezing."

Pondering Creations' display included more color this year. Click to enlarge.
Kevin Rescildo
Pondering Creations of Terryville, Conn., took home second place in the competition. Owner Kevin Rescildo not only incorporated a kaleidoscope of colors, but also an artifact from the past. The gate on display is from reclaimed fencing from the Bellevue Insane Asylum in New York, he said. And it blends nicely with the signs of spring.

"There's a lot more flowers in this year's display than last year's," he said. "We were trying to go for a lot of color this year, including different colored witch hazels. We brought in some interesting stuff."

All the plants featured in the display garden will grow in Connecticut and gives a glimpse of what spring will look like in a month and a half to two months. In nature, "everything will bloom within three weeks of each other," he said, "but everything [here] was timed to bloom for this week. It took a lot of planning and a lot of work."

This copper tree fountain in the foreground of an azumaya caught lots of attention.
Robert Townsend
Aqua Scapes LLC of Portland, Conn., surprised attendees with a copper tree water fountain.

Owner Robert Townsend said the prop was originally ordered for a client overseas but he was so impressed with the concept that he ordered an additional one for himself.

"I decided to make it a part of the show. I was so blown away with it ... I saw the quality and the beauty of it," he said. "I shipped it in from overseas to make it a highlight of the display."

A new aspect of water features is fountain-scaping," Townsend said, which he incorporated into his display. Inside the pond were koi fish and aquatic plants.

The display garden also included an azumaya, a large wooden Japanese building. "I never built one before," he said. "In the future I would make one out of eastern redwood or cedar" so it lasts longer.

Three collaborators made this display extraordinary. Click to enlarge.
Nancy DuBrule and David Barvenik
Comets to Koi of Branford, Conn., collaborated with Natureworks of Northford, Conn., and Plantsman & Co. of Shelton, Conn., to create a relaxing backyard habitat.

In late October, Steve Stone of Comets to Koi contacted Nancy DuBrule of Natureworks for help in choosing plants for the display. The plants were originally chosen while dormant, but after deciding on a last-minute color palette change, she returned to the greenhouses before Connecticut's first major snowstorm in January. 

"It was the hardest year to force plants because we did not have sunshine," she said.

Stone dug up four huge shrubs in the snow to be used in the display. Stone, who DuBrule called "the fish whisperer," made sure the pond, water wheel and display were waterproof.

"We had somewhat of a plan," she said. For the children visiting the show, DuBrule made sure to include a fairy corner in the display. "I knew the kids would appreciate it," she said. "It was a wonderful collaboration. We finished at 6 p.m. last night," she said.

David Barvenik of Plantsman & Co. cut and constructed the carved birdbath and the rocks surrounding the pond. "I like working with rocks," he said. "Once you start playing with rocks, it breaks you, or you break it."

For the display, pink granite was chosen, a coarse grain rock. "I picked up all the rocks in January and sculpted them," he said. Everything was assembled in his backyard before it was brought to the Convention Center.

"It all has to be gone by Monday," DuBrule said of the backyard habitat.

A rustic hideaway greeted attendees as they entered the exhibit floor. Click to enlarge.
Allison Kaminski
Supreme Landscapes, LLC of Bristol, Conn., featured a rustic hideaway that greeted attendees when they entered the show. 

"We wanted to bring spring to us. The display starts right on the cusp of winter and we wanted to make it as realistic as possible," said Allison Kaminski, gardening consultant. "We wanted to choose a lot of plants that would resemble a northeast landscape."

Kaminski's husband, Matt, drew up the plan and assembled all the stone work by hand. "He built the stairs going up. It's all one of a kind and made right here," she said. 

The plants chosen in the display were selected due to their availability at local nurseries. "They are all reliable, hardy common plants," she said. 

There's plenty to look at in this display from Encore Landscaping. Click to enlarge.
Diane Tapp
Encore Landscaping of Enfield, Conn., participated in the display garden section for the first time this year. 

"I had a sense I was going to try to do a Victorian garden," said owner Diane Tapp. "I've been thinking about it for year," she said. "It's been percolating." She created a garden room viewed through windows and pillars, the main structural elements that were acquired through tag sales. ("I'm a big tag saler," she admitted.) "I like the flow," she said. "I was happy that I was able to get so many things into a small space."

Tapp's plant choices concentrated on those that would look good into early spring, she said. "I tried to find things that would be a little different," she said. Her display gave a sneak peek into her design process. "For my client, I want my end product to be their garden, their design. We talk and I look out their windows and look at their decor."

A huge waterfall made by Landscapes Unlimited.

Landscapes Unlimited of Plantsville, Conn., created a massive waterfall using hollow high-density-fiber reinforced concrete.

Jeff Krupinski, owner, said it took about four days to assemble the piece. The company primarily concentrates on hardscaping. "We like messing around with big machinery," he joked. His inspiration reaches way back to his childhood.

"As a kid, I always thought of the pirate treasure hidden behind the waterfall."

In the past two years, Landscapes Unlimited has installed six similar features in Connecticut. "The results have been flawless. They remain unscathed by the weather."

The Connecticut Flower and Garden Show runs through Sunday, Feb. 22. For more information, visit the website at

For last year's coverage, click here.

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