I went to my first CB in 2006, when it was held at the Metro Convention Centre. I remember taking the escalators down to the bunkered exhibition halls. (Someone described it as travelling to hell surrounded by pretty flowers!) As a "mature" (lol) student in Humber College's Landscape Technician program, I helped build the school's annual contribution to the show, a display garden showing off the students' construction skills as our design teachers intepreted the theme of the year. (CB always has a theme every year. For 2012, it's "CityCulture.") Looking at all the pretty flowers (mostly all were forced of course as you'd very unlikely see blooming rhodos outside here in March) many stories underground was always a surreal experience. You certainly had to suspend your disbelief for a few hours.
So for the past five years I would take the subway or streetcar down, usually with my kids in tow. This year, I'm undecided so far. There will certainly be more people under the same roof (which likely mean more contacts for the landscape contractors, renovators, and hot tub sales staff to prospect) and I can only imagine the horde on the weekend. My personal experience has usually been....well, meh. I appreciate the earthy smell and visually impact of tulips, daffodils, and rhodos blooming their heads off when we're starved for these things after a hard winter. But...
what's with the often stand-offish and aloof attitude I get when I walk through many of the exhibits. Do I look like a typical homeowner who may be looking for your landscaping services? You'll never know by not making eye contact while gabbing with your colleagues. A friendly "hello" goes a long way, and you don't even have to mean it!
Many display gardens are either highly conceptualized designs (I recall painted (dead) tree limbs suspended with upside down umbrellas one year) or gardens you'd likely see at your favourite local McMansion (you know, the ones with cubic yards and yards of interlocking pavers, concrete retaining walls and mega boulders finished off with a few Emerald cedars.) I'll leave it up to you to decide what's more aesthetically pleasing.
Usually the highlight was seeing my old instructors like Harry Chang (profiled in the Humber College video above), chatting and commiserating about how busy he is and seeing this year's garden design. It's good to see that Harry hasn't changed over the years, while I'm ambivalent about how CB has.
Anyway, say hello to Harry for me if I don't make it!
By Paul Jung, author of "garden muses: a Toronto gardening blog"