The Maymont Flower and Garden Show is, without a doubt, one of the finest horticultural events anywhere. Modeled after the iconic Philadelphia Flower Show, which is now in its 175th year and draws 250,000 visitors each March, the MFGS brings together the area’s best gardening talents for one four day weekend in historic downtown Richmond. Until just a few years ago, the entire show was put together by Maymont staff and volunteers before finally hiring a professional show company, MAC Events.
In 1990, we were asked to participate in the 1st Annual Maymont Show. Back then, the event was highly speculative and it wasn’t known if this might also be the Last Annual. The format consisted of about a dozen landscape exhibitors, a hundred gardening vendors, and a slate of ‘expert’ lecturers. It took five days just to set everything up. By show time, lines of eager spectators had formed outside. When the doors finally opened, the crowds poured in. Where else can one see blooming cherry trees in February? The show was a success.
Below are some ‘memorable’ orchid exhibits over the past two decades of our participation. Memorable not just for their orchids but for the disasters that ensued…
Orchid Rainforest – It took 50 bales of peat moss stacked high to form the mountain on which an old tree stump covered with pink Phalaenopsis and Spanish moss sat. A large waterfall trickled down over rocks into a deep pool surrounded by orange and yellow Cymbidiums. Banana trees and ferns provided a lush canopy.
As the judges paced the exhibit and began scoring, one of the team members noticed a leak near the edge of the lake. Soon water was oozing out rapidly and the judges had to take one step backwards. Then another step. And another. A distress call was made to the show chairman who cut the electricity to the exhibit. We had to settle for Honorable Mention.
Ruins of a Future Garden – Inspired by legendary Mexican architect Luis Barragan, a pair of 20’ by 20’ stucco covered walls were constructed – one purple and one red and set at a 30 degree angle. A huge hand carved trough was mounted on top which poured water into a rectangular pool below. Plantings of vivid purple Cattleya and Phalaenopsis orchids covered the adjacent garden.
Upon returning from a lunch break, our construction crew noticed that there was no electricity in the Richmond Centre and a crowd had gathered around our exhibit. The entire pool had mistakenly siphoned out through a hose and onto the floor where it had poured into the electrical boxes. It was rumored that the show chairman, tore her shirt off in a frantic attempt to keep the water contained. Another Honorable Mention.
Key West Orchid Bar – using 6x6 timbers and an elaborate truss roof with a fully stocked bar beneath, this tropical paradise featured four way copper fountains with matching pedestals. Enormous palm trees provided the backdrop and dozens of pastel colored Phalaenopsis hung from the rafters.
As the crew was hoisting the final roof board in place, suddenly the ladders gave way and the entire structure came crashing down with a thunderous boom. There were bodies everywhere and all the other exhibitors came rushing over to help. Fortunately, only our pride was hurt. We employed a scissor lift truck to complete the job. Yet another Honorable Mention.
Will the 2009 Maymont Flower & Garden Show be memorable? Will we receive another Honorable Mention? Picture this - an ‘Australian Crocodile Infested Orchid Swamp’….